IPA’s weekly links

Guest post by Jeff Mosenkis of Innovations for Poverty Action.


  • If you can get past me at the beginning, this Planet Money episode The Poop Cartels (Apple/iTunes link), I think shows the power of good econ theory put into practice. Molly Lipscomb of the University of Virginia explains how she, with Laura Schechter, and a big research team in Senegal tried to introduce what some people have also called the “Uber for Poop.”
  • Peter Biar Ajak is a former Sudanese “lost boy” who went on to train at Harvard and Cambridge and is a research adviser for the International Growth Centre in South Sudan. He was arrested and is being held without access to a lawyer following a tweet critical of the government. Read more from Amnesty International, or follow the Free Peter Biar account.
  • On GitHub, Quartz’ guide to bad data and what to do about inconsistently formatted dates, data in PDF form, and the like.
  • Also on GitHub, the Stata cheat sheets have been updated for Stata 15.
  •  A few years ago six randomized controlled trials found introducing a new microcredit program had some positive effects, but on average did not boost people’s economic outcomes. Dahal & Fiala have a new working paper suggesting this is because of statistical power with low take-up, but they do find effects with pooled data. BUT NOT SO FAST – Rachael Meager has a paper forthcoming in AEJ: Applied using Bayesian hierarchical models and doesn’t find those clear cut average effects using pooling which allows for variation between programs and contexts. She explains here.
    • I think this approach allows for nuance that we often don’t see in methods that just count interventions and effect sizes. It makes me a little happier after the depression spiral that Eva Vivalt sent me into by pointing out how findings in dev econ are often so difficult to replicate in new contexts on the 80,000 Hours podcast. (Reading Rachael’s paper at the time probably would have been a better coping mechanism for me than stress eating.)
  • The University of Chicago’s Luigi Zingales, in Why Every Good Economist Should be a Feminist, talks about measures that departments can take to let all faculty thrive. He points to a dispute between a female junior professor at Columbia Business School and the more senior professor accused of sexually harassing her, who also held control over the joint data set that she had put a lot of time into developing. In addition to the $750,000 court judgement against him, another interesting thing to come out of it:

The Columbia Business School faculty proposed an interesting default rule to resolve these power imbalances. In case of disputes between a senior and a junior faculty, the intellectual property right of a joint project should be automatically allocated to the junior faculty, to protect the weaker contracting party. Such a rule should be adopted by all departments.

And Paul Krugman tries to teach Stephen Colbert about macroeconomics on a roller coaster: