Weekly links June 12: Analyzing racial disparities as economists, tracking Covid impacts, better nightlights, and more…


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·       Video and slides of Lisa Cook’s Princeton seminar this week on “The economic and social implications of racial disparities”. The majority of the talk covers her work on how innovation by African-Americans was historically hampered by racial violence, and also on how these disparities inhibit innovation today. One thing the seminar organizers did which I haven’t seen on other virtual seminars was a pop-up 2-question survey as soon as you entered the seminar to let them know a bit about who is joining, and then pop-up audience polls at the start to get at what the audience beliefs were on some of the topics to be covered.

·       Race is not an exogenous variable – an open letter to economists from Bill Spriggs of Howard University on how economists should change how they conceptualize and analyze racial disparities.

·       A new webinar series on firms, markets and development starts next Friday (June 19) with Chris Woodruff as the first speaker.

·       Kenyacovidtracker.org is a nice umbrella website with real time data presented in simple summary graphs from several panel surveys on how households and firms are being affected by Covid

·       John Gibson has a blogpost on using nightlights data on the World Bank’s Data blog, pointing out some issues with the widely used DMSP data and why you should use (and still be cautious using) VIIRS data instead if you are going to use nightlights.

·       The most recent episode of the TradeTalks podcast talks with Meredith Startz about her work on why relatively small traders in Nigeria travel so frequently to China and what they do while they are there – and how these businesses are coping with Covid-19. See also this new research brief Meredith has on how Covid-19 has affected Lagos traders: “Traders are experiencing major problems with low demand, difficulty restocking, lack of cash on hand, and transportation… Supply chain failures are likely to be an ongoing problem. Almost half of traders report that they have not yet restocked at all in 2020, and very few have succeeded in importing.”

·       On the Promarket blog, Francesco Loiacono, Mariajose Silva Vargas and Apollo Tumusiime offer thoughts on how to make experiments more respectful and inclusive in the Global South: Among other recommendations, this includes suggestions to i) present at local universities/institutions when doing exploratory work to get feedback and build networks during the design phase; ii) ask how the research project affects local politics, avoid doing research where you give out stuff during election season and make clear to participants that this is purely research and disclaiming political propaganda; iii) researchers need good training on how to be aware of and be careful about power imbalances both between PIs and field teams, as well as with participants.


David McKenzie

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

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