Published on Development Impact

Weekly links September 1: AI, US poverty, blog entries as dim sum, cognitive endurance, and more…

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·       Graeme Blair, Alexander Coppock and Macartan Humphreys have released their new book “Research Design in the Social Sciences: Declaration, Diagnosis and Redesign”, and also have a free online copy up: “At the heart of our approach is the MIDA framework, in which a research design is characterized by four elements: a model, an inquiry, a data strategy, and an answer strategy…We think of designs as objects that can be interrogated. Each of the four design elements can be “declared” in computer code and – if done right – the information provided is enough to “diagnose” the quality of the design through computer simulation. Researchers can then select the best design for their purposes by “redesigning” over alternative, feasible designs.” Comes with code and examples using their DeclareDesign software in R.

·       In Foreign Affairs, Dan Björkegren discusses how to harness the power of AI in developing countries: “The most transformative applications in the developing world will probably not be those that replace humans; they will be those that open new possibilities for humans”

·       Very nice Kennedy School profile of Asim Khwaja, his research, and how his childhood experiences have helped shape the work he does.

·       David Deming discusses grit, growth mindset, and the importance of cognitive endurance in reviewing several studies about soft skills and when efforts to boost these have worked well and not so well. He also provides a nice summary of Larry Katz’s work on Moving to Opportunity.

·       With the new school year starting, Jonathan Dingel reminds those studying trade of his series of posts  explaining commonly used trade terms like what is hat algebra, what is an iceberg commuting cost, and other such topics on his Trade Diversion blog.

·       David Perell’s How I write channel has a Video interview of Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok discussing 20 years of the Marginal Revolution blog. They describe the blog as “Dim Sum for the mind”, and the importance of getting to the point quickly. They talk about their writing process, how they work together, how they get new ideas, etc. One thing that Alex notes that is a disappointment to him is that posts are treated like a newspaper, where people read them and then they disappear and hardly ever get read again or seen – and so he recommends using the blog search a lot more – this is something we try to deal with through our curated links, but likewise there are many old posts that it would be good if people could more easily relocate.

·       Why does the U.S. have such systematically high poverty rates? In a Science Advances review, David Brady gives an overview of different approaches in the literature, argues that one cannot learn the causes from looking at variation within the U.S. alone (“poverty scholars who only know one country, know no country”) and argues for political explanations “The United States has systemically high poverty because it has low social welfare spending” which moderate how risk factors are penalized “the United States does not stand out for having a high prevalence of single motherhood. Rather what makes the United States stand out is having the highest penalty for single motherhood”.

·       Conference calls for papers:

o   BREAD/NBER December meeting has submissions due September 15.

o   Y-RISE has a call out for its annual meeting to be held in December in the Cayman Islands. They are looking for papers related to the complexities of scaling up effective policies, with submissions due September 10.

·       Job openings for people interesting in impact evaluation:

o   Chicago’s Development Innovation Lab is seeking to recruit a government innovation policy manager to work on the design and implementation of government innovation units. Position to be based in Fortaleza, Lima or Santo Domingo.

o   BRAC has a position for a senior associate to support scale up of its ultra-poor program through government systems.


David McKenzie

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

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