IPA’s weekly links

Guest post by Jeff Mosenkis of Innovations for Poverty Action.

  • Alicia Munnell, a Harvard-trained economist who studies retirement policy, worked for the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury and served on the president’s Council of Economic Advisors realized she hadn’t saved sufficiently for retirement. Harvard behavioral economist Sendhil Mullainathan recently confessed to similar economic sins. (h/t Jason Zweig)
  • Somebody put a compendium of Trump speech text content on GitHub for your analysis pleasure.
  • Gosnell, List, & Metcalfe experimented on 335 pilots of 40,000 Virgin Atlantic flights and saved a lot of fuel and pollution by encouraging them to adopt more efficient practices. Experimental treatments included providing feedback on their fuel efficiency, setting personalized targets with “Well Done” messages for achieving them, and having money donated to charity for achieving the goals:

We estimate that our treatments saved between 266,000-704,000 kg of fuel for the airline over the eight-month experimental period. These savings led to between 838,000-2.22 million kg of CO2 abated at a marginal abatement cost of negative $250 per ton of CO2 (i.e. a $250 savings per ton abated) over the eight-month experimental period.


Which is great, but if I’m reading it right, just the Hawthorne effect of the pilots knowing they were being observed was much stronger, saving 6.8 million kg of fuel ($5.3 million) over the eight-month study period. (h/t Alexander Berger)

  • Summaries of 18 papers on improving education systems from the RISE conference.
  • A new report questions the Broken Windows theory of policing, the idea that cracking down on minor crimes (like graffiti and littering), also reduces major crime. The idea started with speculation by two sociologists in a 1982 Atlantic article. Supported by a probably spurious correlation (many things got better in the 90s), and popularized in Gladwell’s The Tipping Point and elsewhere, it became pop-sociology, then eventually police policy. The New York Police Department Inspector General report (PDF) concludes that while the 2010-2015 NYPD crackdown on these types of crimes led to many more arrests in minority neighborhoods with no impact on major crime.
  • On a related note, J-PAL North America announced they will be working with five U.S. state and city governments to actually test policies before implementing them.

And if you want to give a TED Talk here’s how to be a thought leader (h/t Lindsey Shaughnessy).