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Randomizing Competition: allowing CCT recipients to get more goods for their money

David McKenzie's picture
The Dominican Republic’s Solidaridad conditional cash transfer program provides its monetary transfers to poor families in the form of a debit card that can only be used at a network of grocery stores affiliated with the program (it does this in part to ensure they spend the money on food). The typical monthly transfer is about $36, which is 17% of median monthly food expenditure.

Weekly links June 5: what to read, enhancing trust in your data, what to call those skills, and more…

David McKenzie's picture

Pitch Perfect? An Update on the SME Ideas Competition

David McKenzie's picture
One of the benefits of impact evaluation has been fostering more collaboration between researchers and operational staff implementing projects. However, at present this collaboration largely happens once the project itself has been decided upon. To try and get more researcher ideas influencing what projects get done in the first place, I partnered with the World Bank’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship unit to hold a competition for new ideas for SME projects, financed by DFID under part of a Strategic Research Program (SRP) program grant (I previously blogged about the launch).
As a pilot initiative, our key questions were:
  • Is there a supply of new ideas that researchers have that are not currently being tried? Will researchers take the time to put these ideas forward?
  • Is there a demand from operational teams and governments working on SME projects for new ideas in this space?
  • Can we form matches between this supply and demand?

Starting antiretroviral treatment early: an update

Berk Ozler's picture

Almost four years ago I wrote a blog post titled “Advocating a treatment that may not help the treated?”, which was in response to the news that starting treatment with antiretroviral drugs immediately rather than waiting until the then standard of falling below a CD4+ count of 250 significantly reduced transmission of HIV among HIV-discordant couples. The study also reported effects on the health of the HIV-infected partner and found that the evidence for any beneficial effects for the person being treated were weak at best.

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.