Published on Development Impact

Weekly links October 28: using data visuals well, the impact of trade on developing countries, changing gender norms in rural India, and more…

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·       Essential reading via Ethan Mollick, a paper by Franconeri et al. on the Science of Visual Data Communication – “We review evidence for a ranking of some visual channels (e.g., position) as more precise than others (e.g., color intensity) for at least one common task but also discuss how new work has begun to dismantle that ranking for a broader array of tasks. We list a set of common errors and illusions that cause viewers to extract the underlying values from visual channels incorrectly—for example, y-axis manipulations that exaggerate differences among values, confusion about whether circles depict values with their size or diameter (which can change the extracted value by an order of magnitude), a common illusion produced by line graphs, and other illusions and categorical distortions that can arise when depicting value with color intensity. …Next, we discuss an important dissociation in visual processing power: Whereas computing statistics across an image is broad and instantaneous, making comparisons among subsets of values is slow and limited to two or three comparisons per second. We review the types of grouping cues that loosely control what information is compared by a typical viewer and further techniques for precisely guiding a viewer to the right comparison.” – look at the paper for some great figures illustrating these points.

·       An excellent new VoxDevLit, on International Trade, is now out. Edited by David Atkin and Amit Khandelwal “This survey summarises a broad set of empirical work that explores the impact of international trade in developing countries characterised by weak institutions, market failures and firm distortions. For each of these categories we ask how the effects of trade policy may differ in the presence of such frictions, how trade may moderate or exacerbate the friction itself, and how policies should respond in the light of the answers to the first two questions.”

·       Beatrice Cherrier (aka @undercoverhist) has a new Substack, with the first post discussing the history of how the economics profession ended up so hierarchical and dominated in many ways by just a few schools. She ties this to consequences in terms of power imbalances and the #metoo movement.

·       SIEF’s latest Evidence to Policy note covers the impact of scripted schooling lessons in Kenya: “Preprimary and primary students induced to enroll in a Bridge school by the scholarship learned much more compared to students who did not get scholarships, with test score impacts among the highest observed in the international education literature; they also made more timely grade progression, performed better on the primary school leaving exam, and exhibited gains in cognitive development not captured by subject-matter tests. Low-achieving students benefited more from the program, and impacts were uniform across schools….Average test score gains were 1.35 standard deviations for the preschool cohorts and 0.81 standard deviations for the primary school cohorts…To get a sense of the magnitude of these effects, the authors translate them into “equivalent years of schooling” or the years of schooling it would take the control group to make the same learning gains. When students attended Bridge because of the scholarship, preprimary students learned the equivalent of an additional 1.48 years of schooling over and above the control group, and primary school students learned the equivalent of an additional 0.89 years.”

·       On VoxDev, Andrew, Krutikova, Smarrelli and Verma summarize their field experiment in rural Rajasthan that compares two programs designed to change the attitudes and behaviors of adolescent girls to overcome restrictive social norms. Group education and sports sessions for girls aged 12-19 which aimed to help them recognize restrictive gender norms and consider more gender-equitable ideas resulted in an increase in schooling and reduction in early marriage. Adding community engagement did not change these outcomes, but improved mental health, which the authors argue may be from reducing the penalties girls face from departing from norms.

·       Reminder: The World Bank’s Development Research Group is recruiting on the PhD market again this year. Here is our JOE ad, with applications due by November 15.

·       Reminder: our blog your job market paper series is now open for submissions, due noon November 9.


David McKenzie

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

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