IPA’s weekly links

Guest post by Jeff Mosenkis of Innovations for Poverty Action.


  • The Kenyan government is threatening to close all refugee camps in the country, including Dadaab, the world’s largest, with 300,000 people.
  • Meanwhile, Der Spiegel uncovered a secret deal led by Germany with other EU states to pay Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted on genocide charges, and other governments, to set up detention camps to keep refugees from reaching Europe. The program would be coordinated by GIZ, the German aid agency. (h/t Lee Crawfurd)
  • Congratulations to Chris Blattman on being named one of the top 100 bloggers in economics.
  • Uganda’s cities are growing rapidly, but they don’t have many urban planners to figure out how to lay out the sprawl well. (h/t Laura Seay)
  • SurveyCTO, the survey software that IPA and J-PAL use heavily, is introducing a free version for small non-profit M&E. (IPA also produced a whole series of case  studies, how-to’s, and resources for M&E here)
  • The Kenneth Arrow award for best health economics paper was awarded to Budish, Roin, & Williams’ AER paper which found that incentives in the research process are costing a lot of lives. Cancer trials favor testing treatments for patients with late stage cancer near the end of their lives, because outcomes (lengthening life) can be measured quickly, compared to early stage cancers. The authors estimate these incentives have led to 890,000 years of life lost just to patients diagnosed in one year. (Austin Frakt summarizes it in the Upshot.)
  • Nigerians have been dominating Scrabble championships by practicing a contrarian strategy developed by a mathematician. After millions of simulations, he figured out that while most players memorize long dictionary words with lots of letters to rack up points, a defensive strategy using short words with unusual letters like “Yow” would make life very difficult for their opponents.
  • If you’re writing a letter of recommendation, this tool will help you check for gender bias in your adjectives.

And this is from a while ago, but residents of Evanston, IL, the upscale home of Northwestern, opposed a long-term hotel, fearing an influx of “transient academics.” (Some nice comments.)