- There will be a Star Wars comic book based on the original, original screenplay (not the one you know)
- Sax battle in NYC subway, part 1 then part 2
- Oddly interesting: 17 things you may not have known about the Lion King
- In defense of graduate field work
- Not your average letter from John Stuart Mill to Jeremy Bentham
I’ve forgotten to post the slides for a few weeks. Sorry. thanks to a few readers who reminded me.
Week 7 – Crisis, Reform and Structural Adjustment: The political and economic roots of global economic crisis in the 1980s, and the drivers of reform
Week 9: The political economy of aid and humanitarianism: Why ought aid to work, what it does and doesn’t do, the political repercussions, and the remaining case for aid
Week 10: State failure and conflict: The causes and consequences of war, with a focus on some major economic and political theories.
These are large files, which I’m having difficulty uploading to the site, so they may only be up for a few weeks.
- “Nate Silver offers up a statistical analysis of your failing relationship”
- Google maps, treasure map mode!
- Another reason I love NYC: Impromptu sax battle in the subway
- A Twitter and Facebook bleg for good novels yielded many excellent suggestions, including The Indian Wife and Snow Country. Will report back soon.
- Some ergonomic desk advice I stumbled upon. They have an interesting blog as well.
Top academic journals curate the field, and naturally select papers with significant results. Anticipating this, do researchers inflate the significance of their tests by keeping just the empirical tests with the highest statistics?
A new paper from Brodeur, Lé, Sangnier and Zylberberg:
Using 50,000 tests published between 2005 and 2011 in the AER, JPE, and QJE, we identify a residual in the distribution of tests that cannot be explained by selection. The distribution of p-values exhibits a camel shape with abundant p-values above 0.25, a valley between 0.25 and 0.10 and a bump slightly below 0.05. The missing tests (with p-values between 0.25 and 0.10) can be retrieved just after the 0.05 threshold and represent 10% to 20% of marginally rejected tests. Our interpretation is that researchers might be tempted to inflate the value of those almost-rejected tests by choosing a “significant” specification. We propose a method to measure inflation and decompose it along articles’ and authors’ characteristics.
…we find evidence that inflation is less present in articles where stars are not used as eye-catchers. To make a parallel with central banks, the choice not to use eye-catchers might be considered as a commitment to keep inflation low. Inflation is also smaller in articles with theoretical models, or in articles using data from randomized control trials or laboratory experiments.
We also present evidence that papers published by tenured and older researchers are less prone to inflation.
WHEN FACTS CHANGE, HULK SMASH FACTS UNTIL THEY FIT HIS PRE-CONCEIVED THEORY. HULK CALL THIS ‘ECONOMETRICS’
From @ECONOMISTHULK, whom I now follow on Twitter.
This study exploits within-state variation in drought severity to identify how insurgency during the Mexican Revolution, a major early 20th century armed con ict, impacted subsequent government policies and long-run economic development.
…the study documents that municipalities experiencing severe drought just prior to the Revolution were substantially more likely to have insurgent activity than municipalities where drought was less severe.
Many insurgents demanded land reform, and following the Revolution, Mexico redistributed over half of its surface area in the form of ejidos: farms comprised of individual and communal plots that were granted to a group of petitioners. Rights to ejido plots were non-transferable, renting plots was prohibited, and many decisions about the use of ejido lands had to be countersigned by politicians.
Instrumental variables estimates show that municipalities with revolutionary insurgency had 22 percentage points more of their surface area redistributed as ejidos. Today, insurgent municipalities are 20 percentage points more agricultural and 6 percentage points less industrial.
Incomes in insurgent municipalities are lower and alternations between political parties for the mayorship have been substantially less common. Overall, the results support a view of history in which relatively modest events can have highly nonlinear and persistent in uences, depending on the broader societal circumstances.
A new paper by Melissa Dell.
From the standpoint of the economics of conflict literature, what makes this paper creative is that Dell doesn’t stop at the “shocks lead to conflict” finding, which is commonplace, but uses the variation in conflict created by shocks to understand something bigger.
It’s so well done that you can lose sight of the fact that, on some level, this is a paper about a very peculiar policy response to a peculiar insurgency. The analysis will be extremely important to someone interested in Mexican development patterns, but it’s not clear that we can learn anything about the world outside Mexico.
There’s the genius of the paper, though. Most papers that show “history matters” try to convince us of some general theory of development from their very specific case study. We like our papers to tell us that the world is systematic and the forces of development are deterministic.
Judging by the paucity of papers that say so, however, we don’t like to hear that the world is complex and (sometimes) behaves in ways almost impossible to predict. Historians are more comfortable with the idea of “critical junctures”, and events that spin societies off in one direction or another.
When you’re dealing with highly persistent things like the organization of land, or institutions, these junctures and random events can have far reaching consequences. Economists don’t often read Berkeley’s Paul Pierson on Politics in Time, but this is the standard political science source. Highly recommended.
With a global email field experiment using 1,419 micro-finance institutions (MFI) as subjects, we test the effects of scientific findings about microfinance on organizations’ willingness to learn more about MFI effectiveness and pursue an offered partnership to randomly evaluate their programs.
In the positive treatment subjects were randomly assigned to receive a summary of a study by prominent authors finding that microcredit is effective. The negative treatment provided information on research – by the same authors using a very similar design – reporting the ineffectiveness of microcredit. We compare both conditions to a control in which no studies were cited.
The positive treatment elicited twice as many responses as the negative treatment – and significantly more acceptances of our invitation to consider partnering on an evaluation of their program – thus suggesting significant confirmation bias among microfinance institutions. The randomization revolution thus faces real challenges in overcoming development organizations’ apparent aversion to learning.
A new paper by Brigham, Findley, Matthias, Petrey and Nielson.
To get a general sense of magnitude: Take up of positive messages is about 10%, and 5% for negative ones. (This is actually higher than I would have expected, for both treatments.)
I wouldn’t have singled out randomized trials. One thing I have noticed in many NGOs: bad news is buried. The number of consultant evaluations that get toned down or shelved when the news is bad is atrocious. Rigorous trials have a big advantage: they are big and expensive and external enough that they can’t be buried. Does this mean that the evidence from trials is the hardest to bury? I would think so.
- Easily my new favorite blog, after Marginal Revolution
- The best Chinua Achebe memoriam I’ve read in a week of many, many memoria
- Owen Barder scores an interview with bob Geldof
- There will be a rigorous evaluation of the Ghana Millennium VIllages, using a reasonably solid diff-in-diff design. The project design docs are supposed to be posted here today.
- There have been many conversations on this blog about a Millennium VIllage evaluation. Here is my post on why I find one uninteresting and not terribly useful.
I suffered two years of upper back pain, brought on primarily by (a) stress, (b) carrying a child, and (c) sitting hunched over a computer. There wasn’t not a lot I could do about a and b, but c could be fixed.
That eminent scientific outlet, LifeHacker, informs us that sitting is killing us. My ridiculously good back doctor and the Columbia ergonomics office assured me this is not all hype, and that a standing desk would probably be a good move.
It has been. I enjoy the standing more than I expected. I do not get tired. My back has never been better, though weaknesses with my home desk option do bother it a little. Crucially, I discovered a trick for ensuring my feet never hurt (see below).
Below the fold: My experience with high-end desks (for the office) and cheaper options (for home).
The Israeli version of Oscar the Grouch is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew. The biggest difference between the two is that when Moishe started on the Israeli show, he lived in a broken-down car instead of a garbage can. The reason? Israeli kids are taught not to play in trash receptacles because they might contain bombs. Moishe also happens to be an observant Jew; he celebrates Rosh Hashanah by dipping apples into sardine grease for a slimy New Year.
…In Africa, Sesame Street doesn’t shy away from the big issues. The Nigerian adaptation of the show stars Kami, the world’s first HIV-positive Muppet (introduced by South Africa’s Takalani Sesame), and Zobi, a fluffy, blue cab driver who educates children about malaria. The production has its lighter side, too. Zobi is also the Nigerian version of Cookie Monster, though he’s more of a Yam Monster. Since not many Nigerian children have access to cookies, the producers decided to give Zobi an insatiable craving for one of the country’s staple foods. He often shouts out, “Me eat yam!”
A new APSR paper by Lisa Blaydes and Eric Chaney.
what was it about feudalism that promoted both ruler stability and economic growth? And how did feudal institutions compare to methods of social control and organization in the Islamic world?
European monarchs lacked the ï¬nancial resources to outsource their military needs to foreign mercenaries following the fall of the Roman Empire. The feudal relationships which evolved served as the foundation
for military human resources as the landed nobility of Europe emerged as a “warrior class.” When monarchical abuses took place, barons were able to impose forms of executive constraint on European kings that formed the basis for more secure property rights.
Sultans in the Muslim world, by contrast, inherited more capable bureaucracies from conquered Byzantine and Sassanid lands and introduced mamlukism—or the use of slave soldiers imported from non-Muslim lands—as the primary means of elite military recruitment. Mamluks—segregated from the local population—swore their allegiance to the sultan. Local elites in the Muslim world did not serve as the source of elite military recruitment and, thus, were poorly positioned to impose the types of constraints on the executive that became evident in Europe.
The important, counterintuitive bit is actually in a footnote:
This pattern suggests a “reversal of fortune”… where ï¬scal and administrative capacity actually hindered long-term economic prosperity by providing Islamic dynasties with the means to avoid bargaining with their own elite populations.
I would have expected that to be the punchline of the paper. In line with this autocracy article.
I don’t use it myself, but clearly many do. You can access all my blog content and tweets through this blog’s Facebook page. I have a personal page as well, but I limit this to friends, colleagues and acquaintances rather than the wide world.
The CEGA development blog has a series on transparency in experiments from some academic greats.
The general theme is “we need to have more pre-analysis plans to stop people from drawing wrong conclusions”.
Here, for example, is Don Green:
Not long ago, I attended a talk at which the presenter described the results of a large, well-crafted experiment. His results indicated that the average treatment effect was close to zero, with a small standard error. Later in the talk, however, the speaker revealed that when he partitioned the data into subgroups (men and women), the findings became “more interesting.” Evidently, the treatment interacts significantly with gender. The treatment has positive effects on men and negative effects on women.
A bit skeptical, I raised my hand to ask whether this treatment-by-covariate interaction had been anticipated by a planning document prior to the launch of the experiment. The author said that it had. The reported interaction now seemed quite convincing. Impressed both by the results and the prescient planning document, I exclaimed “Really?” The author replied, “No, not really.” The audience chuckled, and the speaker moved on. The reported interaction again struck me as rather unconvincing.
…[The] application of Bayes’ Rule suggests that planned comparisons may substantially increase the credibility of experimental results. The paradox is that journal reviewers and editors do not seem to accord much weight to planning documents. On the contrary, they often ask for precisely the sort of post hoc subgroup analyses that creates uncertainty about fishing.
There are few naysayers in their series, so allow me to play one.
I agree because of course they are right. Experimental results are more credible if they are pre-specified. And it is easy to pre-specify basic results.
I disagree because I believe: (1) most of the large and unexpected findings from experiments will continue to come from unplanned analysis, and (2) these will lead to the most novel theoretical speculations and exciting future empirical work.
I take a dynamic view: too much emphasis on pre-analysis is not only boring, it slows down advance in the field. We need to think about the long term enterprise, not single experiments. I think economists and political scientists do too little, not too much inductive work.
You might say, “oh but we can do both”. You can have a pre-analysis plan, and you can analyze the dickens out of the data afterwards, so long as you disclose it. This is basically what I do in my papers, and I agree it’s better than the current norm. I wish more authors were as explicit.
What worries me is that some fields, such as psychology and medicine, have gone zonkers and (especially in leading journals) deeply penalize unplanned analysis, even alongside planned analysis. I think this is one reason the field is deadening, boring, and slow to advance. (David Laitin makes a related argument here.)
The current state of social science is also bad: Basically, you can’t really believe anyone’s results because they probably fished for it. Then again, I don’t really believe the pre-analysis results either, because pre-analysis plans so seldom yield what they expect that, when someone says “hey look I am finding results!” I just assume that they were published and 12 less successful pre-analysis plans were not.
The morals of the story: first, believe nothing, and second, make marginal improvements to rigor but don’t let them rule you or lull you into complacency.
Actually, I am not sure this is a disagreement, because it’s entirely possible the full panel would agree with this sentiment. I would be interested to hear.
This paper is an oldie but goodie.
Three experiments examined how norms characteristic of a “culture of honor” manifest themselves in the cognitions, emotions, behaviors, and physiological reactions of southern White males.
Participants were University of Michigan students who grew up in the North or South. In 3 experiments, they were insulted by aconfederate who bumped into the participant and called him an “asshole.” Compared with northerners—who were relatively unaffected by the insult—southerners were (a) more likely to think their masculine reputation was threatened, (b) more upset (as shown by a rise in cortisol levels), (c) more physiologically primed for aggression (as shown by a rise in testosterone levels), (d) more cognitively primed for aggression, and (e) more likely to engage in aggressive and dominant behavior.
Findings highlight the insult–aggression cycle in cultures of honor, in which insults diminish a man’s reputation and he tries to restore.
Somewhat coincidentally, I have just finished reading the first book of North and South, the famed Civil War trilogy. I consume fiction voraciously with a new baby, because I have to do something while bouncing the little stinker on a yoga ball for three hours a night to get him to sleep.
It was fun to read, but a touch cartoonish for my taste. So I will not pick up books two and three. Recommended reads welcome.
Where is it moving? Are people converging on a new standard?
I am interested in the general answer, but I am especially interested in hearing my readers’ experiences and preferences.
I am open to helping people coordinate on a particular service.
One of the things I loved most about Google Reader was the ability to “share” with other people. Once upon a time there were about 1000 blog readers who followed my shares, and I in turn followed theirs. The content was much higher quality than the aggregate of my blog feeds, and I enjoyed it far more than Twitter for a number of reasons — easy to scan by eye, for one, and I could see if multiple friends shared the same piece, for another.
Sadly they discontinued this service more than a year ago. It was (very seriously) one of my greatest sources of social and intellectual capital.
If the new RSS reader of choice has such a share function, and I can help the sharers share with one another, I am also happy to facilitate such a network.
From an excellent new blog, nsnippets: