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.