Published on Development Impact

Weekly links October 8: green skills, defending the status quo, generating good jobs, agents vs humans, and more…

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·       On the Oxfam blog, the last in a series of posts on life for local researchers in the DRC has  Élisée Cirhuza Balolage and Esther Kadetwa Kayanga discuss how the presence of a light-skinned researcher from the North changes the ways they are welcomed in the field – for good and bad.

·       Also on the Oxfam blog, Duncan Green talks about how to design research to defend the status quo and stop bad stuff from happening. However, it is really about how to do advocacy for the status quo, and around the politics of making change not happen, rather than research. It does, however, remind me of one of a great quote by Austin Goolsbee (on NPR’s Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell me): “I have a friend who was on the Council of Economic Advisers a long time ago. And when I took the job, he said the job of the Council of Economic Advisers, like a good gardener, is 10 percent planting seeds and 90 percent pulling weeds….And so the fear always, as the economists leave - nobody likes them. Nobody wants to talk to them. But they prevent some of the dumbest things from happening.”

·       On the World Bank’s Jobs and Development blog, Dani Rodrik discusses how to generate more good jobs in developing countries: “We should consider, instead, customized business incentives, explicitly designed to create jobs, e.g. by using soft conditionalities, and not necessarily focused on export champions.”

·       On Project Syndicate, Ori Heffetz and John List discuss why governments around the world routinely oppose randomized trials of public policies: “Our own attempts to convince policymakers to conduct large-scale social experiments have so far been disappointing. The main objections we hear are based on “fairness” arguments that are inherently at odds with the scientific concept of a control group. Ironically, this resistance to experimentation could eventually lead to less progress and even less fairness.”

·       On VoxEU, Francesco Caselli, Alexander Ludwig and Rick van der Ploeg summarize some no-brainers and low-hanging fruit in national climate policies: reforming carbon taxation, eliminating energy subsidies while building up accompanying social welfare programs, retraining in “green skills” (skills demanded in zero-carbon jobs), and more…

·       Tyler Cowen interviews Claudia Goldin. Here is her on one reason economics does not attract as many women as men: “the problem is, we do very, very poorly in our PR ourselves. So if you read the textbooks — and they are changing, and there are a number of recent textbooks that understood these problems — that economics is X and Y; it’s agents. Most young people don’t want to deal with agents. They want to deal with humans, and particularly, it seems as if women, more than men, would like to deal with humans. And so women will tend to go into this field called psychology or sociology, which indicates in their writings that it’s about people. We indicate in our writings that it is about agents or Greek letters, and so we just have to do a lot better.” And on experiments “….and on the importance of looking inside the black box of interventions – when asked about why for-profit education has failed so badly, she answers “When I was studying for-profit education, I really wanted to be able to look at the materials that were given to people. What were they studying? I was never able to break into that.”…..and finally on building skills “The question is how do you up social skills? It seems as if we know a lot about the demand for social skills; we know a lot less about the supply of social skills.”


David McKenzie

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

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