Weekly links January 14: language frictions, the selfish rich and inequality, why you might not want to share results with participants, and more…


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·       It’s great to see Chris Blattman having a go at blogging again. Here he offers advice to students applying for PhD programs on writing their statement of purpose.

·       On VoxDev, Sandra Rozo summarizes some of her work on how the regularization of Venezuelan migrants has affected the Colombian economy. “The amnesty was offered by the Colombian government to regularise approximately half a million undocumented Venezuelan migrants in August of 2018….For Colombia, the large-scale regularisation programme has not prompted negative effects for Colombian workers while allowing migrants to improve their economic conditions, integration within society, and general welfare.”

·       On VoxEU, Michela Giorcelli and Bo Li look at lessons from early industrial development, focused on the transfer of know-how and technology from the Soviet Union to China in the 1950s. “The authors find that simultaneously receiving technologically advanced capital goods and know-how transfer had large, persistent effects on plant performance, while the effects of receiving capital only were short-lived. “

·       Also on VoxEU, Louise Guillouet and co-authors look at the role of language frictions in impeding transfers of management knowledge in multinationals in Myanmar. They do a RCT that offers a 48-hour English language training to domestic managers, with treatment improving their communication with foreign managers and involvement in management of personnel.

·       A new paper in PNAS looks at the “selfish rich hypothesis” – the idea that “one of the main reasons for the rich being richer than the poor is that the rich have been more selfish in life than the poor”- and attitudes towards whether inequality is unfair, using survey data from the Gallup World Poll. The hypothesis has the most support in India and Pakistan, with about 60% of the respondents strongly agreeing with it, and the least support in the United States and Canada, with the majority disagreeing with it….we observe a highly significant positive relationship between belief in the selfish rich inequality hypothesis and attitudes on inequality for almost all the countries in the study, with the associations being particularly strong in the United States. Thus, the data provide strong evidence of selfishness among the rich being perceived as creating unfair inequality and justifying equalizing policies.”

·       Amazon Science interview with David Card and Guido Imbens. I liked Guido Imben’s description of how he ensures his econometrics research is useful “Most of my work has come from listening to people like David and Josh and seeing what type of problems they're working on, what type of methods they're using, and seeing if there's something to be added there — if there’s some way of improving the methods or places where maybe they're stuck, but listening to the people actually doing the empirical work rather than starting with the substantive questions.” And David Card’s humble description of his famous Mariel boatlift paper “I did this paper on the Mariel boatlift, which was cited by the committee. But to tell you the truth, that was a very modest paper. I never presented it anywhere, and it's in a very modest journal. So I never thought of that paper as going anywhere [laughs].”

·       After listening to the most recent episodes of the Scope Conditions podcast (discussed in last week’s links), this week I listened to the very first episode, which interviews Salma Mousa about her work on the contact hypothesis-  whether meaningful social interaction between groups can reduce prejudice and conflict. A couple of tidbits during the discussion. The first was that she discusses how she ended up doing an experiment which randomized Christian soccer teams in Iraq to have extra Christian or Muslim players, and the alternative ways of interaction she thought about first – including an idea for theatre that nobody took up. It’s always interesting to hear about the failures and iterations that took place before what we see as the polished experiment. The second was discussion of whether to disseminate results back to participants – and how the local partners felt that it would be possibly negative to do so: e.g. because it might devalue friendships that they have developed with other-group members if they learned that this was something an external experimenter was trying to make happen.

·       This episode of the Uncharted Ground with SSIR podcast on Healing from Trauma looks at the work of the NGO Glasswing International on trying to break the cycle of violence in Central America. It discusses an evaluation of one of their programs (an afterschool program in El Salvador) by our colleague Lelys Dinarte.


David McKenzie

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

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