Published on Development Impact

Weekly links September 10: the costs of climate inaction, should I be worried about RCT issue X, remote work and weakening weak ties, and more…

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·       I saw your RCT and I have some worries! FAQs answered by Macartan Humphreys that deal with many common questions people might have when seeing the results or popular discussion of a RCT. E.g. “you didn’t control for this thing, should I be worried?”, “I saw you did not take any baseline measurements, should I be worried?”,  “The outcome is a binary outcome but you are using a linear estimator! Should I be worried?” and “I see that there is a significant effect for treatment A but not for treatment B, does that mean that treatment A is more effective than treatment B?”

·       Perverse outcomes from criminalizing sex work – The Economist covers a recent QJE paper by Lisa Cameron Jennifer Seager and Manisha Shah that looked at a localized crackdown on prostitution in one part of Indonesia, comparing outcomes to those in nearby districts where this change wasn’t made “within six months of criminalisation, sexually transmitted infections among sex workers in Malang had risen by 58%, even as they remained stable in the control group. Nor was the policy effective at reducing prostitution: though the sex market initially shrank, it grew back to its original size after five years.”

·       A famous CCT becomes a UCT: The Wall Street Journal discusses the dismantling of Progresa/Prospera: the “administration said it wanted to broaden welfare beyond families in extreme poverty and give the money with no strings attached”…with the result that “the government is distributing less money to households in extreme poverty…the new handouts go almost exclusively to voting-age Mexicans of all classes, regardless of income”.

·       Just out in Food Policy, an overview of options for the design and implementation of phone surveys to collect representative data from households and individuals based on experiences by the LSMS team during COVID. Includes discussion of representativeness, response rates, and cost: “The cost per completed interview in the LSMS-supported HFPS ranges from $7.84 in Burkina Faso to $13.11 in Nigeria… These costs are very low relative to the face-to-face LSMS-ISA surveys that underpin the HFPS series, which range from $199.48 per household (Malawi 2010/11) to $406.03 per household Nigeria 2010/11), though the extent of data collected through the face-to-face and phone surveys ought to be considered when comparing per interview costs”

·       What has remote work during the pandemic done to collaboration within organizations? A new paper in Nature Human Behavior by Longqi Yang et al. does a difference-in-difference analysis, comparing changes in outcomes for Microsoft employees who were already remote working pre-pandemic to those who switched to remote work. “we use rich data on the emails, calendars, instant messages, video/audio calls and workweek hours of 61,182 US Microsoft employees over the first six months of 2020 to estimate the causal effects of firm-wide remote work on collaboration and communication. Our results show that firm-wide remote work caused the collaboration network of workers to become more static and siloed, with fewer bridges between disparate parts…. the shift to firm-wide remote work caused employees to spend a greater share of their collaboration time with their stronger ties, which are better suited to information transfer, and a smaller share of their time with weak ties, which are more likely to provide access to new information.”.

·       What is the monetary cost of failing to act on climate change, expressed in units of Jeff Bezos? The Daily Show interviews climate economist Marshall Burke.

·       Reminder WBRO fall deadline: The World Bank Research Observer (WBRO) seeks to publish policy relevant surveys of development issues, aimed at a non-specialist audience. Papers for consideration at the Fall 2021 meeting of the WBRO Editorial Board should be submitted to the Editor ( no later than Thursday, September 30, 2021.


David McKenzie

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

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