Weekly links February 9: job search, taxation in developing countries, motherhood penalties around the world, post-doc advice, and more…


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·       A new VoxDevLit is out on barriers to job search and hiring in urban labor markets in developing countries, edited by Stefano Caria and Kate Orkin. They note also the limits of current research “it would be important to collect more systematic evidence on whether these interventions generate productivity gains for firms (e.g. gains arising from a better allocation of talent). These gains are at the core of the economic argument for having search interventions, but the evidence on their magnitude is unfortunately limited…we also have close to no evidence to assess the general equilibrium (GE) impacts of these interventions when they are offered at scale”. A nice compliment to my paper with Eliana Carranza on job search assistance and job training in developing countries which just came out in the latest Journal of Economic Perspectives.

·       The latest issue of the JEP also has a nice symposium on taxation in developing countries, with Pierre Bachas and co-authors on tax equity in developing countries; Oyebola Okunogbe and Gabriel Tourek on the role of technology , tax agents and politics in tax collection; and Anne Brockmeyer and co-authors on using admin data to look at VAT.

·       The Economist has a nice graphic feature on the motherhood penalty, summarizing work by Kleven, Landais and Leite-Mariante which looks at how this differs across 134 countries. “Mothers’ labour-market participation falls after childbirth in almost every country in the study… The authors define the “motherhood penalty” as the average amount by which a woman’s probability of being employed declines during the ten years after the birth of her first child. On average 24% of women leave the labour force in the first year. Five years later, 17% are still absent. After ten years, 15% are… The effect of motherhood on employment varies widely between countries. In the rich world, 80% of the gap between male and female labour-force participation is explained by women dropping out after the birth of their first child. By contrast, in the poorest countries motherhood explains only about 10% of the gap. There, women tend to leave the labour market upon marrying, usually well before their first child is born. In Mauritius and Zambia, for example, marriage explains nearly half of the participation gap….In middle-income countries women are more likely to work after they wed, but many quit permanently after becoming mothers. For example, in Latin America, 38% of working women leave the labour force after having a child, and 37% are still out a decade later. As a result, the overall employment gap in these countries is little different from that in low-income ones.”.

·       In Nature, Chris Woolston summarizes recent work by Kyle Myers and co-authors on risk in research – which finds that researchers who view their work as more risky spend more time seeking funding, and also are more likely to say they take risk in their personal lives – leading the lead author to joke that you should look to bungy-jumpers to find the risky innovators.

·       Tim Ogden brings his FAIV financial inclusion newsletter out of hibernation and discusses the small firm diaries project, some recent microfinance research, and a link to this CDC report on how and why they finance SMEs.

·       The report is summarized more by Paddy Carter of BII on what policymakers working on SME financing want to know about job impacts that research currently does not tell them: “We need to know whether SMEs contribute to job creation in a way that is positive for development, as opposed to creating a large number of unstable low-quality jobs. There are two versions of that question: whether SMEs do that, and whether SME financing interventions get us more of it. Unfortunately, the empirical evidence we found does not put us in a position to answer those questions with much confidence…. We would like more empirical evidence about the overall economy-wide effects, telling us how the impact is shared between proprietors, workers, and customers; how large those impacts are in comparison to other interventions, such as financing larger firms; and what contextual factors predict when better access to credit for SMEs is likely to have a larger effect on job quality across society.”

·       Since it’s the time of the job market where people are considering post-docs, here is a blogpost I put together a couple of years ago with the help of recent post-docs, on how to make the most of your post-doc and what to do if you are hosting one.

·       On the Econ that matters blog, Muhammad Zia Mehmood summarizes his job market paper on the (lack of) effectiveness of text message-based business trainings in Kenya.

·       Call for papers: Trade and uneven development conference, jointly sponsored by the World Bank and Journal of International Economics – Sept 12-13 in DC, with submissions due April 15. Papers selected for the conference will be considered for a JIE special issue.


David McKenzie

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

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