IPA’s weekly links

Guest post by Jeff Mosenkis of Innovations for Poverty Action.

The 26 artifacts, which include statutes and thrones looted by French troops during a military raid against the once powerful West African Kingdom of Dahomey in 1892, are among some of the 5,000 artifacts requested from France by Benin.

And that’s just Benin, there are an estimated 90,000 looted African artifacts in France.

  • A holy grail in economic development, and really all of business investment, is figuring out which small businesses will grow when given the opportunity. A few years ago David McKenzie evaluated a very successful program in Nigeria involving an intense business plan competition with $50,000 for the winners. The program’s being copied by other countries, but David and Dario Sansone went back to use all the data collected to compare different methods of predicting later business success, including machine learning. The upshot? As their title suggests “Predicting entrepreneurial success is hard” (ungated here, and let’s hear it for clear titles!):

Business plan scores from judges, simple ad-hoc prediction models used by researchers, and machine learning approaches. We find that i) business plan scores from judges are uncorrelated with business survival, employment, sales, or profits three years later; ii) a few key characteristics of entrepreneurs such as gender, age, ability, and business sector do have some predictive power for future outcomes; iii) modern machine learning methods do not offer noticeable improvements; iv) the overall predictive power of all approaches is very low, highlighting the fundamental difficulty of picking competition winners.

  • Bonus: listen to David and Lariat Alhassan, one of the Nigerian business plan competition winners, on this Planet Money episode.
  • Jobs:
    • IPA isn’t all RCTs. Our young Right Fit Evidence Unit does M&E consulting to other orgs and governments to help them use data better, and is looking to hire an Engagement Manager and a Senior Associate, but is looking for with folks with different backgrounds than often end up at IPA. Management consulting, previous M&E work, or other research management could all be good backgrounds to work on help orgs use data better.
    • Chris Blattman’s looking for an RA to help with a follow up on a study of cash transfers and cognitive behavioral therapy for high-risk men in Libera.
    • And for someone with more research experience (and a Master’s degree), we’re looking for a Research Coordinator/Manager in Uganda.
    • (As always all of IPA’s jobs are on our jobs page, and we participate with several other orgs in the J-PAL careers portal.
  • Dina Pomeranz and Paul Goldsmith-Pinkham are taking grad school & career advice questions and sharing them with the larger econ twitter community under the hashtag #EconAdvice. If you’d prefer to remain anonymous, feel free to DM them and they’ll remove identifiers before sharing.
    • Johannes Haushofer shares this really nice introduction for RAs who work with him on how to work productively together and what to expect. Note the emphasis on what they should expect from him and on not being afraid to ask.
  • Gray Kimbrough re-upped advice for econ grads applying to non-academic jobs

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