“How Half Of America Lost Its F**king Mind”

That is David Wong’s title, not mine, and he offers the most vivid, relatable account of the Trump phenomenon I’ve seen. It is hard to pick excerpts and should be read in full. But here are bits:

If you don’t live in one of these small towns, you can’t understand the hopelessness. The vast majority of possible careers involve moving to the city, and around every city is now a hundred-foot wall called “Cost of Living.” Let’s say you’re a smart kid making $8 an hour at Walgreen’s and aspire to greater things. Fine, get ready to move yourself and your new baby into a 700-square-foot apartment for $1,200 a month, and to then pay double what you’re paying now for utilities, groceries, and babysitters. Unless, of course, you’re planning to move to one of “those” neighborhoods (hope you like being set on fire!).

In a city, you can plausibly aspire to start a band, or become an actor, or get a medical degree. You can actually have dreams. In a small town, there may be no venues for performing arts aside from country music bars and churches. There may only be two doctors in town — aspiring to that job means waiting for one of them to retire or die. You open the classifieds and all of the job listings will be for fast food or convenience stores. The “downtown” is just the corpses of mom and pop stores left shattered in Walmart’s blast crater, the “suburbs” are trailer parks. There are parts of these towns that look post-apocalyptic.

I’m telling you, the hopelessness eats you alive.

…”But Trump is objectively a piece of shit!” you say. “He insults people, he objectifies women, and cheats whenever possible! And he’s not an everyman; he’s a smarmy, arrogant billionaire!”

Wait, are you talking about Donald Trump, or this guy:


You’ve never rooted for somebody like that? Someone powerful who gives your enemies the insults they deserve? Somebody with big fun appetites who screws up just enough to make them relatable? Like Dr. House or Walter White? Or any of the several million renegade cop characters who can break all the rules because they get shit done? Who only get shit done because they don’t care about the rules?

Links I liked

  1. A list of some of the most spectacular Reddit posts of all time (with emphasis on the word spectacle)
  2. The New York Times giving us the naked truth on our Germanic friends: “Germans, known to credit oddly specific activities with salubrious effects (e.g. walking barefoot through damp grass), retain an atavistic faith in the advantages of full-body sun exposure, which was prescribed to tuberculosis patients in the late 19th century.”
  3. If you ever drink bottled water, read this (yes it will make you feel bad about yourself)
  4. An adjunct professor uses the occasion of his award speech to lambast the profession for exploiting adjuncts. As someone who studies sweatshop workers in Africa, I am hesitant to toss the word exploited around lightly, especially when it comes to some of the most highly educated people in the world. I am inclined to think and write more about this. It seems to me that simple supply and demand can get us pretty far towards an explanation, but not all the way. Is there any systematic economic analysis people have seen of the adjunct market and why the price/quantity relationship stands where it is?

At least a little good news this election season

Political scientists have worried that fewer women enter politics because they are subtly or overtly discouraged. One study suggests this might not be the problem.

Do electoral gatekeepers routinely discourage women from running for office? Through an audit experiment with 8,189 public officials, we examine whether (hypothetical) male and female students who express interest in political careers receive differential encouragement from electoral gatekeepers. We report three striking findings. First, emails sent by female students were more likely to receive a response than those sent by male students, especially when the official was male. Second, the responses women received were as likely to be long, thoughtful, and contain an offer of help as those to men. Third, there were no partisan differences in responsiveness to male or female senders. Examining senders with Hispanic last names bolsters the credibility of the results: Hispanic senders, especially men, were less likely to receive a quality response than non-Hispanic senders. These findings suggest that unequal encouragement by public officials is not a likely culprit of women’s under-representation in politics.

Joshua Kalla, Frances Rosenbluth, and Dawn Teele

If you’re a glass is half empty person, I guess you could say “so basically we still have a major gender imbalnce except now we don;t even have a good explanation and are back to square one”.

A former Wikileaks insider on Julian Assange

Fascinating article by James Ball, who used to work for Assange at Wikileaks:

There are few limits to how far Assange will go to try to control those around him. Those working at WikiLeaks – a radical transparency organisation based on the idea that all power must be accountable – were asked to sign a sweeping nondisclosure agreement covering all conversations, conduct, and material, with Assange having sole power over disclosure. The penalty for noncompliance was £12 million.

I refused to sign the document, which was sprung on me on what was supposed to be a short trip to a country house used by WikiLeaks. The others present – all of whom had signed without reading – then alternately pressured, cajoled, persuaded, charmed and pestered me to sign it, alone and in groups, until well past 4am.

Given how remote the house was, there was no prospect of leaving. I stayed the night, only to be woken very early by Assange, sitting on my bed, prodding me in the face with a stuffed giraffe, immediately once again pressuring me to sign. It was two hours later before I could get Assange off the bed so I could (finally) get some pants on, and many hours more until I managed to leave the house without signing the ridiculous contract. An apologetic staffer present for the farce later admitted they’d been under orders to “psychologically pressure” me until I signed.

And once you have fallen foul of Assange — challenged him too openly, criticised him in public, not toed the line loyally enough — you are done. There is no such thing as honest disagreement, no such thing as a loyal opposition differing on a policy or political stance.
To criticise Assange is to be a careerist, to sell your soul for power or advantage, to be a spy or an informer. To save readers a Google search or two, he would tell you I was in WikiLeaks as an “intern” for a period of “weeks”, and during that time acted as a mole for The Guardian, stole documents, and had potential ties to MI5. Compared to some who’ve criticised Assange, I got off fairly lightly.

Those who have faced the greatest torments are, of course, the two women who accused Assange of sexual offences in Sweden in the summer of 2010. The details of what happened over those few days remain a matter for the Swedish justice system, not speculation, but having seen and heard Assange and those around him discuss the case, having read out the court documents, and having followed the extradition case in the UK all the way to the supreme court, I can say it is a real, complicated sexual assault and rape case. It is no CIA smear, and it relates to Assange’s role at WikiLeaks only in that his work there is how they met.

IPA’s weekly links

Guest post by Jeff Mosenkis of Innovations for Poverty Action.

  • I’m going to pitch Netflix a superhero show based loosely on David Evans, whose superpower is the ability to summarize large numbers of papers in a very readable way, this week it’s 34 papers on education (incentives, teacher training, technology and more).
  • Giving scientists money to bet on which studies will replicate predicts the ones that will 71 percent of the time. The Social Science Replication Project is recruiting new researchers to gamble on replications of 21 experimental studies published in Nature and Science (deadline Oct 31).
  • Bentzen, Kaarsen, & Wingender paper, Irrigation and Autocracy:

“We find that countries whose agriculture depended on irrigation are about six points less democratic on the 21-point polity2 scale than countries where agriculture has been rainfed. We find qualitatively similar results across regions within countries. We argue that the effect has historical origins: irrigation allowed landed elites in arid areas to monopolize water and arable land. This made elites more powerful and better able to oppose democratization. Consistent with this conjecture, we show that irrigation dependence predicts land inequality both at the country level, and in premodern societies surveyed by ethnographers.”

Full paper in the Journal of the European Economic Association (ungated PDF here)

  • Bloomberg has a piece about the promise and difficulties of behavioral economics for designing financial products that promote savings for people in the cash economy. It’s a frank look at some of the challenges of a pilot from Jonathan Zinman of Dartmouth with Dean Karlan nudging Bronx check cashing customers to open savings accounts.
  • Price discrimination by algorithm from ProPublica. For SAT prep class pricing:

Consider the difference between two ZIP codes with similar incomes in Texas. In Houston’s ZIP code 77072, with a relatively large Asian population, the Princeton Review course was offered for $7,200. While in Dallas’ ZIP code 75203, with almost no Asians, the course was offered for $6,600. And in heavily Asian, low-income Queens ZIP code 11355, the course was offered for $8,400.

Links I liked

  1. I learned a lot about the art of politics by listening to three podcasts this week: Ezra Klein interviewing Francis Fukuyama, his interview with journalist Jonathan Cohn, and the Weeds podcast discussing the debates (and note that my initial reaction was “how could I possibly hear something new and important about politics from ANOTHER debates discussion)
  2. The political power of black women
  3. Keith Head’s research advice (for economists but relevant for any applied empirical researcher_)
  4. Besley and Ghatak on intrinsic motivation
  5. From @KFILE, a reminder how Trump reacted to Obama’s 2012 victory:


The hidden price of risky research

My rapist was not Mr. Z but a member of his innermost circle — his “money collector.” I hardly knew my rapist; I did not even know his name. He was the tall, wiry guy I had eaten dinner with many times, let into the house, and would greet on the street. Before that night, I had written four unremarkable sentences about him in my field notes. Then one evening Mr. Z invited me to have dinner with him and his friends — a fieldwork opportunity I always accepted. Because he had other plans later, he asked the money collector to take me home, where he then raped me. Mr. Z was as much of a gatekeeper in my fieldwork as he was in my rape: The rapist was Mr. Z’s friend and subordinate, and it happened under his roof and watch that night. What happened to me was an ordinary acquaintance rape of extraordinary circumstances.

In the immediate days that followed, it is not an exaggeration to say that I feared for my life. With one unforeseen event, a situation that had felt fairly safe rapidly escalated into dangerous. For more reasons than one, I did not involve the police: In a country with an astonishingly high rate of rape and a notoriously corrupt police force, I did not believe the police (even with the involvement of the U.S. embassy) would protect me. Nor would the criminal-justice system deliver me meaningful justice.

Instead I turned to Mr. Z, who governed this world. I wanted him to know what the money collector had done, and I needed to inoculate any threat I presented, as I was no longer his houseguest but the raped American researcher. Although he expressed some sympathy, his allegiances were with his money collector. We tacitly agreed that I wouldn’t pursue charges and he wouldn’t harm me.

Having completed a significant amount of research, I could have abruptly ended my fieldwork. Instead, I chose to take a leave and later returned to finish what I had started. I refused to allow my rapist to take my fieldwork after already taking my body.

In The Vulnerable Observer: Anthropology That Breaks Your Heart, Ruth Behar quotes Clifford Geertz: “You don’t exactly penetrate another culture, as the masculinist image would have it. You put yourself in its way and it bodies forth and enmeshes you.” This is my story about rape, but it is more than that, too.

Full piece, by Mingwei Huang. Hat tip @kcroninfurman

Here is another bit:

When ethnographers can access and immerse themselves in worlds unknown, such as illicit ones, their work is valued and rewarded. Within the academic version of celebrity, the risk-taking, intrepid, normatively white and male ethnographer is a star. The price that many ethnographers pay in pursuing their fieldwork is not always recognized, and rape carries a particular stigma.

I agree the risks are particularly high for women, because of rape, but it’s worth saying that youth, inexperience, and peer pressure also drive broader set of field work risks, risks that few of us as graduate students were prepared for.

I have not only felt these myself (when, as PhD students pursuing their dissertation, my wife and I camped in displacement camps with active rebels around) but even more acutely when I hire young research assistants and surveyors. The risk their home is invaded by criminals (happened, fortunately non-violently); the risk that someone breaks an ankle on slippery motorbike paths through the jungle (also happened); a mugging gone awry (also happened, fortunately resulting only in minor injury). Nothing more serious has happened on my projects so far. Partly this is because precautions I insist on. Partly because I’ve pulled out of working in some countries for reasons like these. But partly it’s also luck.

It’s surprising how little we talk about these risks, even when  those of us who work in dangerous places gather for drinks. People exchange advice, especially about health risks—where to go for emergency malaria treatment, warnings not to take the motorbike taxis, and so forth. But my hunch is that machoism keeps us from talking about the security concerns, rape included.

Bleg: Best academic job market advice and resources?

I’m putting together a set of resources for Harris PhDs, and I know some of the good stuff out there, but probably not as much as my readers.

In addition to economics and political science market advice, pointers to job advice for other professional schools (education, public health, law) are welcome.

Also welcome is advice on non-academic positions: consulting, government, beltway bandits, etc.

Or, if you have original advice to offer, please add to the comments or email me.

In addition to advice, please point me to (or share) templates for submission materials, examples of web pages, etc.

The comments section to this post will hopefully become a useful resource, and I will integrate what I find into my job market and other advice posts (at right), as a public good for all.

Sweatshops probably do not have the effect on workers you think they have

Every now and then, we remember that there are poor people in the world, and sweatshops become news. Jonah Peretti — the click-accumulating mastermind behind The Huffington Post and BuzzFeed — got his start in viral journalism 15 years ago by baiting Nike with a chain of witty emails requesting that his personalisable Nike trainers be emblazoned with the word SWEATSHOP.

Peretti having moved on to grander projects, the stage storyteller Mike Daisey picked up the baton, delivering a riveting monologue, “The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs”. It was about Daisey’s heroic unmasking of appalling working conditions in the Chinese factories that make iPads. It made compelling radio when This American Life aired it in 2012. It was even more compelling when This American Life retracted the episode shortly afterwards. Ira Glass, the show’s host, wrote: “Daisey lied to me.”

Economics, of course, offers a less click-worthy perspective. We shouldn’t be surprised if people making sneakers and iPads are paid badly to do tough, hazardous work, because they live in countries where such work is everywhere. And since people are moving away from grinding and precarious rural poverty to work in these grim factories, perhaps they see them as an improvement? The pithiest account of this view comes from the great 20th-century Cambridge economist Joan Robinson: “The misery of being exploited by capitalists is nothing compared to the misery of not being exploited at all.

That’s Tim Harford in the FT, beginning his discussion of my sweatshops study with Stefan Dercon. In case FT is gated, I’ve got a short results summary and of course an academic paper.

The short answer: young people are using these jobs as fallback positions when their better but less formal opportunities don’t work out. But these jobs carried big health risks, so much so that for every month in a job, 1 in 100 complained about a serious health problem, even months after most had quit the unpleasant work.

Happy 9th blogiversary!

research-paper-vs-internet-comicSunday marked 9 years of blogging. This year, more than any other, I blogged in fits and starts. Every year I post this Asher Sarlin cartoon, as the best explanation for the blog’s long lifespan. This year was different. Some idle musings:

  • I remember Dani Rodrik leaving his blog because it crowded out his time to think and write more deeply. I have started to feel that pinch. I’ve been thinking about switching research directions, and taking on some new topics, and it’s hard to imagine doing that and blogging at the same time.
  • Leaving social media for a month or two this summer was healthy. I think I will try it again soon, maybe more permanently. I’m going to see if post-election social media becomes informative and diverse again. If not I’m done. But leaving social media also gave me less stuff to browse and link to. A blog needs a pipeline of material. It’s a hard decision.
  • On the days I think “Maybe I’m done at last,” a few things keep me blogging, some selfish, some not. And it’s not at all dinosaurs, cakes, and bikinis.
    • The blog has been around long enough that I now meet assistant professors, or reasonably senior public officials, who thank me for the advice posts, and talk about how helpful they were early in their careers. This could not make me happier. I take mentoring and advising seriously and if all I did was help people find more happiness in science and public service then it’s all worth it.
    • Selfishly, I must admit, the blog has brought me more research grants, more paper citations, and more opportunities than maybe anything else I have done. On the surface the blog has always taken time away from other work. But indirectly it’s enhanced all my research. That’s hard to give up.
    • One of these days I would really like to write a book, and focus more on writing for news outlets. Not now. I’ll probably have to give up much of my blogging to find the time. But the path from here to there certainly lies through keeping up the discipline of regular blogging.

Forgive the spotty on-and-off blogging in the meantime, and see you in a year for the big 10.

There aren’t many times I can say “I haven’t seen this point made in all the Trump coverage” but for me this is one of them


A Democrat looking at the above might expect any self-respecting Republican to distance him or herself from Trump. You can understand why someone running for the House doesn’t do so (they need those votes) but why don’t more leaders or more voters turn away? “Why do 40% of voters resolutely stick by Trump with their vote?”, I hear my friends say.

It’s one thing to respond “over the issues,” but to put it in slightly more personal terms, I’ve been asking friends and family the last few days this question: “What could Clinton possibly do that would make you stay home, let alone vote for Trump?” (And for the people who say Trump is an exception, just substitute “George W. Bush” and pretend this was your choice.)

The answer so far: not much.

Imagine, for example, the power couple in Netflix’s House of Cards, who make it to the White House through years of murder and deception and scandals suppressed, but who have a sincere commitment to the issues. Imagine that were Hillary and Bill’s story, and it all came out this week: the hints of sinister murders and drug use and conniving. But still, no dent in the chances Hillary nominates a liberal supreme court judge, or pushes for climate change measures, or treats the 11 million illegals in the country in a humane way.

What I want to ask people is: Would you vote Trump, or even stay home and let Trump win in your state? For committed Democrats, I’m betting the crimes would have to be incredibly bad, and the proof incontrovertible. And the social media bubble would have to stick those unpleasant truths in your face rather than sow doubt about the truth or seriousness of any accusations.

Bizarrely, this makes me feel better about my country. You can look at your fellow Americans and not say “what a bunch of deplorables!”, but instead see a group of people who have a deep commitment to a set of principles and issues, and think their chances are better with Trump than Clinton, however much they might dislike him. These are largely people who will vote for Trump despite not because of his worst behaviors and statements. My point is that most Clinton supporters would do the same.

Links I liked

  1. Wikipedia reduces ideological segregation
  2. A great NYRB review of various books on the Panama papers
  3. The Metaketa initiative at EGAP funds evaluations of similar programs, providing a degree of simultaneous replication, and they have a new round of research grants for building trusted and effective security forces
  4. And these comments from Max Fisher, commenting on the following tweet:

This is the most under-reported conflict in the world right now

Just three days earlier, a stampede at a religious festival in Bishoftu, a town south of the capital, had resulted in at least 52 deaths. Mass protests followed. Opposition leaders blamed the fatalities on federal security forces that arrived to police anti-government demonstrations accompanying the event. Some called the incident a “massacre”, claiming far higher numbers of dead than officials admitted. Unrest billowed across the country.

From The Economist. The political unrest in Ethiopia strikes me as one of the more under-reported events of the year. It’s the 13th largest country in the world by population, the second largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa if you ignore oil and gas, a key US ally in regional conflicts (Somalia but perhaps also Yemen), a growing source of imported manufactures to Europe, a popular destination for Asian investment dollars, and a major country in the World Bank’s lending portfolio.

As autocratic regimes go, it is more stable than some. When Prime Minister Meles Zenawi died in 2012, the world barely noticed, because the political system had a a process and qualified party man to replace him. How many countries could do the same, especially in sub-Saharan Africa?

This goes to show the extent to which power in Ethiopia is institutionalized in a ruling party, not a strongman, and how important that institutionalization is for a country to have stable growth (autocratic or not). When talking about autocracies, journalists and academics often overlook this quality.

That said, Ethiopia also has some hallmarks of instability, especially the fact that the ruling party is dominated by a small ethnic minority, ex-rebel leaders from the northern Tigray region. As risk factors go, ethnic minority rule is one of the strongest predictors of some kind of state failure.

At the same time, my hunch is that being a nascent industrial producer will reduce the chances of conflict. In Kenya, for instance, the 2007 election violence led to a huge push from capitalists (domestic and foreign) to tamp down future instability. Industrial production is often so productive that even a small sector accounts for a huge amount of national wealth. And that production is way more sensitive to political instability than most resource and commodity production.

This should give Ethiopia’s government an added incentive to find a peaceful solution, especially to the extent that the party and elites are invested in the industrial sector or the local property market. The Economist article hints at the role industry is playing:

The government is rattled by the prospect of capital flight. An American-owned flower farm recently pulled out, and it fears others may follow. After almost a week of silence, the state-of-emergency law was a belated attempt to reassure foreign investors, who have hitherto been impressed by the economy’s rapid growth, that the government has security under control.

I have been running a study of industrial workers in Ethiopia for several years, but I’m fairly ignorant about party politics and the roots of the conflict. If I were reporting on this, here’s what I would want to investigate: How removed and insulated are the party elites from the economic consequences of war? How much do the opposition leaders (and armed leaders) think about these economic pain points, and are they thinking strategically about using them? How chunky is political power, and can the ruling party credibly share a little more power, to broaden the ethnic coalition just enough to stave off war?

There must be Ethiopia experts who can correct any misconceptions I have.

Links I liked

  1. UVA is hiring an Assistant Professor, tenure-track, in Hip Hop and the Global South. On the one hand I think “if only I hadn’t already accepted that Chicago job!”, and on the other hand, if you Google “worst hip hop dance moves ever” you get this, which is still 100 times better than anything I could ever do
  2. New Yorker profiles of Ursula Le Guin and Leonard Cohen
  3. The economic case for accepting refugees
  4. The New York Times writes a thinly veiled user manual on how to swap your vote this election with someone in a swing state
  5. Fascinating story with very close parallels to my own CBT research in Liberia: “Psychologist Helps San Quentin Prisoners Find Freedom Through Self-Reflection
  6. And finally, Hamilton Gets Out the Vote:

See this blog for the other great videos


The master class on stealthily taking over a state

The New Yorker has a must-read-to-believe story on Fethullah Gülen, the Turkish spiritual and movement leader who, from his perch in rural Pennsylvania, has been accused of orchestrating a state takeover in Turkey, including the recent coup attempt.

Dexter Filkins starts off skeptical and then keeps uncovering layer after layer of decades-old plans to co-opt the state. The organizational mastery, if true, is amazing.

An example:

In a taped sermon from the late nineties, Gülen exhorted his followers to burrow into the state and wait for the right moment to rise up. “Create an image like you are men of law,” he told them. “This will allow you to rise to more vital, more important places.” In the meantime, he urged patience and flexibility. “Until we have the power and authority in all of Turkey’s constitutional institutions, every step is premature,” he said. But, ultimately, he promised, their work would provide “the guarantee of our Islamic future.”

Keleş told me that the chief targets of infiltration were the police and the judiciary. The schools and test-preparation centers were central to the plan. At the schools, acolytes were recruited at an impressionable age; at the centers, they were prepared for entrance examinations to the country’s bureaucracy. In many cases, “brothers” within government agencies fed answers to Gülenist candidates. Once the recruits were hired, fellow-Gülenists promoted them and furthered their careers.

In infiltrated police departments, each Gülenist officer had a code name, and each unit was overseen by an outside “imam,” regarded by the officers as a higher authority than the police chief. By the early nineties, Keleş said, he had become the movement’s “imam” in Central Anatolia, overseeing fifteen cities. By then, he estimated, forty per cent of the police in the region were followers, and about twenty per cent of the judges and prosecutors. “We controlled the hiring of the police, and the entrance exams, and we didn’t let anyone in who wasn’t a Gülenist,” he said.

…Gülen’s followers recognized that they needed greater numbers in the military. A former A.K.P. member named Emin Şirin told me that in the fall of 1999 he visited the compound in Saylorsburg, and Gülen told him that a “golden generation” of acolytes were working their way into Turkey’s institutions. If a more tolerant general was appointed to lead the military, he said, it would “bring me peace.” He mentioned General Hilmi Özkok as a desirable candidate. “I thought what I heard was insane,” Şirin recalled. But in 2002 Özkok was named chief of the Army, and the vigilance within the military relaxed. According to Jenkins, Gülen’s followers began to fill the ranks. “This created an enormous amount of unease in the officers corps,” he said.

Full story. I would be keen to hear form my Turkish academic colleagues what this story gets right and wrong. No  ideologues from any side, please.

IPA’s weekly links

Guest post by Jeff Mosenkis of Innovations for Poverty Action.


Dean Karlan with Abhijit Banerjee. Photo definitely not courtesy of Yale or MIT.

  • There’s been some controversy about Chinese-funded aid projects in Africa, and whether they’re genuinely altruistic, and if that even matters. The folks at AidData find Chinese-funded projects do promote development – sort of.
    • Using satellite pictures to measure nighttime light around over 3,000 Chinese-funded project sites in 47 African countries, they estimate a 0.2-0.3 percent increase in regional GDP. But these projects tend to be concentrated in the presidents’ birth regions which tend to already be the richer parts of the country, so the projects may be furthering inequality.
    • In contrast, World Bank-funded projects didn’t show the same luminosity boost, but also weren’t geographically biased.
  • Nudge news:
    • The White House’s second-year report on nudges for better policy is out.
    • A classic nudge to change behavior is the social norm reference, the hotel card saying “most people re-use their towels” is an example. The Behavioral Insights Team found the opposite was also effective to stop illegal garbage dumping (furniture, tires, etc.) in San Jose – telling people they’d been specially selected to have any extra garbage picked up at their house (anybody can use the program).
    • The city of Washington, DC is hiring for their nudge unit (Deadline Sept 19th).
    • The very cool Busara Center for Behavioral Economics, which operates in several African countries and works with researchers anywhere, is also hiring.
  • Doctors Without Borders is turning down Pfizer’s offer of free vaccines. Channeling Milton Friedman, they give a number of reasons why in their experience, there is no such thing as a free vaccine.
  • The Development Impact blog is soliciting researcher failure stories. Dean Karlan (above) and Jacob Appel of the new Failing in the Field book, offer one this week. There’s also a link at the bottom for how you can contribute your own story.

A lesson in survey weights (and data transparency)


There is a 19-year-old black man in Illinois who has no idea of the role he is playing in this election.

He is sure he is going to vote for Donald J. Trump.
And he has been held up as proof by conservatives — including outlets like Breitbart News and The New York Post — that Mr. Trump is excelling among black voters. He has even played a modest role in shifting entire polling aggregates, like the Real Clear Politics average, toward Mr. Trump.
How? He’s a panelist on the U.S.C. Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Daybreak poll, which has emerged as the biggest polling outlier of the presidential campaign. Despite falling behind by double digits in some national surveys, Mr. Trump has generally led in the U.S.C./LAT poll. He held the lead for a full month until Wednesday, when Hillary Clinton took a nominal lead.
Our Trump-supporting friend in Illinois is a surprisingly big part of the reason. In some polls, he’s weighted as much as 30 times more than the average respondent, and as much as 300 times more than the least-weighted respondent.

The reason? The poll up-weights respondents by their demographic category, and guess how many young black men with past voting preference data are in the sample?
Of course we only know this because all the data and methods are posted online. Kudos to the pollsters.

Full story.

IPA’s weekly links

Guest post by Jeff Mosenkis of Innovations for Poverty Action.

The real reason to get a Ph.D.: