Syndicate content


Can incentives lead to sustained impacts? The case of rewarding safe sex.

Damien de Walque's picture
Economists believe that incentives matter and that they can be used for changing people’s behaviors. Incentives are used for encouraging school attendance and performance or for increasing the coverage and quality of health care delivery. But a recurrent question is what happens once the incentives are discontinued? Are the incentives’ effects going to be sustained even after their payment is stopped because individuals would have been nudged towards a different behavior? Or are those effects going to die down and disappear once incentives are removed?

How standard is a standard deviation? A cautionary note on using SDs to compare across impact evaluations in education

Guest post by Abhijeet Singh
Last week on this blog, David wondered whether we should give up on using SDs for comparing effect sizes across impact evaluations. I wish that question was asked more often in the field of impact evaluations in education, where such comparisons are most rife. In this post, I explore some of the reasons why such comparisons might be flawed and what we might do to move towards less fragile metrics.

Blog links Jan 9 2015: Angrist and Niederle on pre-analysis, problems of phase-ins, French-speaking field coordinators needed, and more…

David McKenzie's picture
  • Field coordinator position: we are looking for a French speaker to help oversee surveys of informal firms in Benin. TOR and details.
  • Field coordinator position: three positions for French speakers to work with the Africa Gender Innovation Lab on Youth Employment projects.
  • Call for papers: the annual bank conference on Africa, to be held June 8-9 at Berkeley – submissions due Jan 31.

Impact as Narrative: Guest post by Bruce Wydick

There is arguably little that makes development economists sharpen their fangs as the use of tear-jerking, heart-warming, credit-card-mobilizing anecdotes by development NGOs to support impact claims.   Recently in an informal conversation about NGO websites at a recent conference, Paul Niehaus half-jokingly suggested that a good use of graduate research assistant time might be a compilation of the top 25 most egregious “impact” webpages, based purely on narratives of outliers by (well-meaning) non-profits.  If nothing else, it would serve as an excellent tool for teaching undergraduates about

Notes from the AEAs: Present bias 20 years on + Should we give up on S.D.s for Effect Size?

David McKenzie's picture
I just got back from the annual meetings of the American Economic Association (AEAs) in Boston. It’s been a couple of years since I last went, and after usually going to just development conferences, it was interesting to see some of the work going on in other fields. Here are a few notes:

Weekly links December 19: Savings, basic incomes, skill gaps & M&Ms, and more…

David McKenzie's picture
  • On the FAI blog Tim Ogden discusses what we mean by savings when we talk about it as an outcome.
  • A snapshot of the job market this year from 538 – what the next generation of economists is working on? Development is pretty popular, corporate finance and international economics not so much.
  • Testing basic incomes: the Guardian reports on an experiment in India, where Unicef funded an unconditional basic income scheme. A “modified randomized control trial” (whatever that is) assigned everyone in 8 treatment villages to receive a monthly income for 18 months, with 12 control villages: “the basic incomes resulted in more economic activity and work. Conventional labour statistics would have picked that up inadequately. There was a big increase in secondary economic activities, as well as a shift from casual wage labour to own-account farming and small-scale business” Haven’t come across an academic paper with the results or more details.

Resilience and recovery ten years after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami: A summary of results from the STAR project

Jed Friedman's picture

Authored by Elizabeth Frankenberg, Duncan Thomas, and Jed Friedman

Ten years after the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, Aceh provides an example of remarkable resilience and recovery that reflects the combination of individual ingenuity, family and community engagement and the impact of domestic and international aid. The tsunami devastated thousands of communities in countries bordering the Indian Ocean. Destruction was greatest in the Indonesian provinces of Aceh and North Sumatra, where an estimated 170,000 people perished and the built and natural environment was damaged along hundreds of kilometers of coastline. In response, the Indonesian government, donors, NGOs and individuals contributed roughly $7 billion in aid and the government established a high-level bureau based in Aceh to organize recovery work. 

To shed light on how individuals, communities, and families were affected by and responded to the disaster in the short and medium term, we established the Study of the Tsunami Aftermath and Recovery (STAR). Beginning in 2005, STAR has followed over 30,000 people who were first enumerated in 2004 (pre-tsunami) in 487 communities (community location depicted in the figure below), as part of a population-representative household survey conducted by Statistics Indonesia. Interviews were conducted annually for 5 years after the tsunami; the ten-year follow-up is currently in the field. We ascertained survival status for 98% of the original pre-tsunami respondents and have interviewed 96% of survivors. The study is designed to provide information on the short-term costs and longer-term recovery for people in very badly damaged communities and in comparison communities where the disaster had little direct impact.

The Mission: Human Capital and the Persistence of Fortune: Guest Post by Felipe Valencia

This is the sixteenth in our series of posts by students on the job market this year.

The importance of history in economic development is well-established (Nunn 2009; Spolaore and Wacziarg 2013), but less is known about the specific channels of transmission which drive this persistence in outcomes. Dell (2010) stresses the negative effect of the mita (mining labor system) in Latin America, and Nunn and Wantchekon (2011) document the adverse impact of African slavery through decreased trust. But might other colonial arrangements lead to positive outcomes in the long run?

I address this question in my Job Market Paper by analyzing the long-term economic consequences of European missionary activity in South America. I focus on missions founded by the Jesuit Order in the Guarani lands, in modern-day Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. This case is unique in that Jesuits were expelled from the Americas in 1767 and never returned to the Guarani area, thus precluding any direct continuation effect. While religious conversion was the official aim of the missions, they also increased human capital formation by schooling children and training adults in various crafts. My research question is whether such a one-off historical human capital intervention can have long-lasting effects.