I’ve been reading a good bit on psychological responses to conflict and disaster for on-going work and am struck by the tone of discussion in the popular press soon after a potentially traumatic event. In these reports, trauma among the survivors is often presumed widespread and the focus is on its expected costs and consequences. However more recent academic work on this topic argues that an exclusive focus on the traumatized misses most of the story.
Despite the large and growing literatures on migration in economics, sociology, and other social sciences, there is surprisingly little work which actually evaluates the impact of particular migration policies (most of the literature concerns the determinants of migrating, and the consequences of doing so for the migrants, their families, and for native workers). I am therefore always interested to see new work in this area, particularly work which manages to obtain experimental variation in policy implementation.
· The IDB Development that Works blog covers a randomized trial of the one laptop per child program in Peru – no impact on learning, but some increase in cognitive skills.
A “hearts and minds” model of conflict posits that development aid, by bringing tangible benefits, will increase population support for the government. This increased support in turn can lead to a decrease in violence, partly through a rise in population cooperation and information sharing with the government. At least one previous observational study in Iraq found that development aid is indeed associated with a decrease in conflict.
There is much demand from practitioners for “shoestring methods” of impact evaluation—sometimes called “quick and dirty methods.” These methods try to bypass some costly element in the typical impact evaluation. Probably the thing that practitioners would most like to avoid is the need for baseline data collected prior to the intervention. Imagine how much more we could learn about development impact if we did not need baseline data!
So what makes people do socially oriented tasks better? An interesting new paper by Nava Ashraf, Oriana Bandiera, and Kelsey Jack shows that money doesn’t matter and recognition makes a big difference.
One of my favorite papers to present is my paper on improving management in India, in part because we have wonderful photos to illustrate what bad management looks like and what improved practices look like (see the appendix to the paper for some of these). Photographing impact isn’t only useful for presentations and glossy summaries, but may potentially offer a new form of data. However, this is easier said than done, and today I thought I’d share some misadventures in trying to photograph impacts on small firms.