IPA’s weekly links

A slope even non-economists can love

Guest post by Jeff Mosenkis of Innovations for Poverty Action

  • First, please pass along to your skiing friends that the owner of the ski treehouse above in Whitefish, MT (Glacier National Park adjacent) is offering to donate proceeds to the non-profit I work for, IPA, from any rentals between now and Jan 31. (Instructions here)

    Among other things, IPA’s been investing in expanding the things that academics don’t always have incentives to do, hiring Ph.D.s and sector experts to do the replications and tinkering (AER probably won’t publish the 4th attempt to test a phenomenon, but to get it right, somebody has find out how it works across borders), build infrastructure for open-science and data transparency, and run longer term coordinated cross-country research agendas on big problems. Creating information might not sound like an urgent cause, but all of the work enables us to make sure we’re responding to the urgent causes in the right way. We’d also welcome your support in this on our donate page. Feel free to share both with friends and social networks also, thanks!
  • Caitlin Tulloch of the IRC shows us one reason testing the practical stuff across contexts matters. Looking at the same humanitarian program, run by the same organization in different places and scales, costs varied by as much as 20x! (Ungated here) But, she’s able to model for that knowing some basic characteristics of the program and place.
  • In the wake of Nobel-spawned critiques of RCTs, philosopher Peter Singer, along with Johannes Haushofer and Arthur Baker respond on the ethics of RCTs. Noah Smith responds to Lant Pritchett’s criticism, which as far as I’ve ever been able to tell amounts to “there should be no development microeconomics” because national economic growth will lift all ships much more efficiently than tinkering with individual programs. Among other things, Noah points out that we all agree poor people getting richer would solve their problems, but there’s no obvious “get rich” button to hit to make that happen. Meanwhile, as the Nobel committee pointed out, plenty of individual programs *have* improved the lives of many many people.
    To Lant’s credit, rumor has it he enjoyed the tool during one of the last laps around this pool to help you figure out what he thinks of your work (better with sound).
  • In any other time this would be more of a bombshell – ProPublica reports that Vice President Mike Pence broke USAID guidelines by overruling career staff to direct aid money to Christian groups in Iraq.
  • A nice starter thread of resources for data management, file control, and the like to organize and future proof your files.

In GitHub’s latest annual State of the Octoverse report, developers from Africa created 40% more open source repositories on the software engineering marketplace over the past year—a higher growth percentage than any other continent globally. Among African countries with established developer communities (defined by GitHub as having more than 10,000 contributors to the platform), Morocco accounted for the most growth on the continent.

  • The above from Quartz. Kenya, Nigeria, and Egypt followed Morocco for growth in the large category. But there was major growth from a number of smaller African countries as well, including the French-held islands of Mayotte.
  • Historically Black Colleges and Universities pay more to underwrite bonds on the bond market (older ungated version), suggesting they have a harder time finding buyers. This holds true even when there’s no difference in creditworthiness and the effect is three times higher in the deep south. (h/t Jason Zweig)
  • Dr. Jean-Jacques Muyembe, the Congolese doctor who discovered Ebola in 1976 but never got credit for it, hopefully will be recognized now.

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