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placebo effect

Weekly links May 6: expensive African cities, lotteries for housing, placebo effects, and more…

David McKenzie's picture
  • I liked the recent Planet Money podcast #698 (a long way home) – there is an interesting discussion of why a lottery is held for access to a housing assistance program in Connecticut, and how they ended up with a lottery rather than other systems of allocating resources – and a great quote about the mishmash of anti-poverty programs in the U.S. which, paraphrasing, is basically “it is not like Congress ever sat down and said what is the best use of the money we set aside to fight poverty” but rather how many different programs have come up over time, all with their own rules and constituencies.
  • The latest Journal of Economic Perspectives has a symposium on inequality beyond income (US focused) and a paper on the billion prices project that I linked to a blog post on last week
  • Should policy seek to promote small firms or large ones in Africa? Frances Teal on the CSAE blog: “Policy rhetoric focuses on the problems faced by small firms. Data from Ghana over the period for which we have it suggests that it is large firms that face the problems. Unloved possibly because they are not seen as beautiful they are vital for the output of the sector. Policy, not for the first time in Africa, seems to be focused on completely the wrong problem.”
  • The Los Angeles Review of Books has a longish discussion on placebo effects in reviewing an anthology on placebos, and how they really don’t work as much of the time in medicine as many people think, and how the term might be over-used in social sciences.
  • New in the working paper series: Is living in African cities expensive? Using data from the “2011 round of the International Comparison Program. Readjusting the calculated price levels from national to urban levels, the analysis indicates that African cities are relatively more expensive, despite having lower income levels. The price levels of goods and services consumed by households are up to 31percent higher in Sub-Saharan Africa than in other low- and middle-income countries, relative to their income levels. Food and non-alcoholic beverages are especially expensive, with price levels around 35 percent higher than in other countries.”

The Hawthorne Effect: What Do We Really Learn from Watching Teachers (and Others)?

David Evans's picture
We are delighted that Dave Evans has agreed to be a semi-regular contributor to this blog, agreeing to post about once a month. David is a Senior Economist in the Chief Economist's Office for the Africa region of the World Bank, and coordinates impact evaluation work across sectors in the Africa region.

Is it the program or is it participation? Randomization and placebos

Markus Goldstein's picture

So recently one of the government agencies I am working with was telling me that they were getting a lot of pressure from communities who had been randomized out of the first phase of a program. The second phase is indeed coming (when they will get the funding for their phase of the project) but the second round of the survey has been delayed – as was implementation of the first round of the program.   But that doesn’t make the pressure any less understandable.