Published on Development Impact

Weekly links October 29: real time economics, engaging with local communities, growth convergence may not be enough, and more…

This page in:

·       The Economist on the real-time revolution in economics research and the rise of industrial lab models of research: “The analysis of these giant data sets requires the creation of what are in effect industrial labs, teams of economists who clean and probe the numbers. Susan Athey, a trailblazer in applying modern computational methods in economics, has 20 or so non-faculty researchers at her Stanford lab (Mr Chetty’s team boasts similar numbers). Of the 20 economists with the most cited new work during the pandemic, three run industrial labs”.

·       The journal PS: Political Science and Politics has a forthcoming special issue on RCTs. Among the entries, a paper by Corduneanu Huci et al. looks at all the field experiments by political scientists pre-registered between 2014 and 2019. It finds experiments taking place in many countries, but that only 5 countries account for 50% of all pre-registered field experiments (U.S., U.K., Uganda, Mexico, Kenya), and that “Political scientists rely more on partnerships with non-state partners than with governments, with the share of experiments with private partners increasing over the period of our sample. We suspect this is because of both practicality and topic-related circumspection. On a practical level, private or non-governmental organizations are often preferred as main implementing partners because they are more nimble and able to randomize whereas many governments cannot use control groups and eliminate recipients from treatment, for constitutional or real political reasons. Moreover, governments have traditionally been more reluctant to engage with academic researchers.” A paper by a large group of researchers (Herman et al) shares experiences and recommendations for engaging with local communities, researchers and staff when doing RCTs in the global south. I like the line at the end of this recommendation “Finally, sharing what can be learned from a project that “fails” at the implementation stage is imperative. This can be done by sharing protocols, survey instruments, and/or a short report on the failure itself to provide future recommendations. Silent failures beget repeats”.

·       On the IGC blog, Rohini Pande and Nils Enevoldsen comment on whether growth convergence is enough for poverty eradication, noting that “The period since 1980 has seen a weakening correlation between country income and the share of the world’s poor in that country. While country convergence remains unequivocally beneficial for poor individuals, its relative importance diminishes as within-country inequality has begun to dominate between-country inequality” – and in particular, that “Just five high poverty middle income countries are home to nearly half of the world’s poorest – India, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Kenya” – this also serves as a further comment on the Lant Pritchett post noted in last week’s links.

·       Asjad Naqvi on how to program Sankey diagrams in Stata. This approach allows a lot of customization, but looks a bit fiddly. I see Michael Crowther has also written a package sankey that uses python from Stata (requires Stata 16 and above). If like me, you only know Sankey diagrams when you see them, but not their name, they are those graphs that are used to show flows across categories or stages – e.g. migration flows across regions. Here is a post with an circular example and R code.

·       The Immigration Policy Lab guide and demos to conducting automated surveys of migrants using Whatsapp

·       Reminder: our blog your job market paper call is now taking submissions and they close next Friday  (Nov 5) at NOON Eastern Time.


David McKenzie

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

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