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Improving the Granularity of Nighttime Lights Satellite Imagery: Guest Post by Alexei Abrahams

Popular data
Nighttime lights satellite imagery (DMSP-NTL) are now a popular data source among economists. In a sentence, these imagery encompass almost all inhabited areas of the globe, and record the average quantity of light observed at each pixel (nominal size ~1km2) across cloud-free nights for every year, 1992-2012. In under-developed or conflicted regions, where survey or census data at a fine level of spatial and temporal disaggregation are seldom available or reliable or comparable over space or time, NTL and other satellite imagery can be an excellent resource. Recent economics papers have used NTL to study growth of cities in sub-Saharan Africa (Storeygard (2015)), production activity in blockaded Palestinian towns of the West Bank (Abrahams (2015), van der Weide et al (2015)), and urban form in China (Baum-Snow & Turner (2015)) and India (Harari (2015)).

Getting beyond the mirage of external validity

Markus Goldstein's picture
This post is coauthored with Eliana Carranza
 
No thoughtful technocrat would copy a program in every detail for a given context in her or his country.    That's because they know (among other things) that economics is not a science but a social (or dismal even) science, and so replication in the fashion of chemistry isn't an option.  For economics, external validity in the strict scientific sense is a mirage.
 

Poverty Reduction: Sorting Through the Hype

Berk Ozler's picture
After seeing PowerPoint slides of the preliminary findings over the course of more than a year, it’s nice to be able to report that the six-country study that is evaluating the “ultra-poor graduation” approach (originally associated with BRAC) is finally out.

Economics has an Africa problem: take 3

Markus Goldstein's picture
A couple of months ago, Grieve Chelwa had a nice post on Africa is a country where he pointed out how few (or none) of the big name international academic development conferences are held in Africa and how few Africans there were on the editorial boards of the major economics journals.   He is right.
 

Is optimization just re-randomization redux? Thoughts on the recent ‘don’t randomize, optimize’ papers.

David McKenzie's picture
A couple of weeks ago, Berk blogged about a new paper by Bertsimas, Johnson and Kallus which argues that instead of randomization, it can be superior for power to choose the best of all possible allocations of subjects to treatment and control, where best is defined in terms of minimizing discrepancies in the mean and variance of the two groups.

Weekly links May 8: rainfall revisited, rethinking key results with long-term data, son preference, and more…

David McKenzie's picture

Getting Beyond Intrinsic Motivation in Service Provision: Let’s Talk Incentives

The guest post is authored by Ken Leonard
 
Intrinsic motivation is regularly promoted both as nostrum and portent in conversations about workers in service industries like education and health care. On the one hand, why do we have to focus so much on incentives: aren’t people in the service industry intrinsically motivated to do their job? And on the other, if we focus so much on incentives, aren’t we going demotivate those who are intrinsically motivated?

However, economists and policy makers in the health and education fields are often relying on imperfect definitions of intrinsic motivation.

Weekly Links May 1: Trends in Impact Evaluation, JHR Symposium on Empirical Methods, Superstar Inventors and more...

David McKenzie's picture
  • The Growth Economics blog hits hard with “there’s more to life to manufacturing”, among other things, making the point that even the way we code industries and occupations is heavily biased towards manufacturing and misses most of the action taking part in services growth.

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