Weekly links February 5: Poverty and productivity, Mobile money explained, who wants to migrate, and more…

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·       The second VoxDevLit is out, this one is on mobile money, edited by Tavneet Suri and with a great group of co-editors – a great summary of what we have learned so far, and a call for more research “By the end of 2019, a total of 290 mobile money services were being offered in 95 countries; there were more than 1 billion mobile money accounts globally, including 372 million actively used for a transaction in the previous 90 days” “its use remains mostly limited to very specific P2P transactions: those that take place over long distances and those that are in places where holding cash is risky. Outside these applications, there has been less success” “Given that mobile money and, more broadly, a digital payments system has been so widely adopted in the developing world, and seeing that there are so few value-added services layered over it, there is a lot left to do and learn.”

·       On VoxDev, a wide-ranging audio interview with Leora Klapper about the global landscape of financial inclusion, policies to improve the take-up and use of mobile money, and her recent work with Emily Breza and Martin Kanz on the effects of payroll accounts for Bangladeshi factory workers.

·       NPR’s Planet Money newsletter looks at how poverty makes workers less productive, discussing an experiment by Supreet Kaur, Sendhil Mullainathan, Suanna Oh, and Frank Schilbach. The experiment is with 408 workers over a couple weeks at a factory in Odisha, India, who make disposable plates. “Their main experiment was pretty simple: they randomly gave a group of workers a large portion of their compensation earlier in their work period rather than at the very end…The researchers find that the workers who were paid upfront were significantly more productive, making 6.2% more plates per hour. The biggest effect was seen with the poorest workers…The authors conclude that giving workers cash upfront helped alleviate the mental burden of their financial problems and freed them to be more productive.”

·       I listened this week to the CSWEP fireside chat with editor Tage Rai about publishing in the journal Science. The video will be put up here, alongside the earlier chats with journal editors. A couple of key points that came up were that they desk reject about 90% of social science submissions sent, and given this, there is no need to try and format the paper into their length/style before submitting, since if they like the idea, they will then work with you to get it into the right format; and that the best fits are likely to be papers that are interdisciplinary – e.g. papers in behavioral economics, economic history, health economics, computational economics work where they are of interest to reviewers in multiple disciplines

·       In the latest JEP, Daron Acemoglu summarizes Melissa Dell’s research contributions that led to her being awarded the 2020 John Bates Clark medal.

·       Jørgen Carling summarizes the results of a systematic review of what factors are associated with migration aspirations, all summarized in a very nice graph.

·       On the CGD Blog, Dave Evans gives practical suggestions for more ethical social science RCTs.

On the IDinsight blog, Dan Stein writes on informing specific decisions with rigorous evidence, introducing a new methodological guide for how to design impact evaluations when the audience is a specific decision-maker, as opposed to the general public – and how this might include Bayesian analysis – for example, the decision-maker wants to take an action only if the effect size of a tested intervention is above/below a certain threshold; or head to head comparisons, where the decision-maker is testing multiple options out of which she has to choose, but there is no “status quo.”

 

Authors

David McKenzie

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

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