IPA’s weekly links

Online Census form

Guest post by Jeff Mosenkis of Innovations for Poverty Action

  • Remember to fill out your U.S. Census form if you got a mailing! Of course accurate counts are important for apportioning leadership and federal resources, but more importantly (as someone else pointed out) so that researchers 80 years from now looking at historical trends won’t pull out their hair in frustration of the lost 2020 census data the same way ones today do about the 1890 census data fire.
  • The Dev Impact blog had a pair of postings for research in the time of COVID-19. First, how your interventions and methods will have to change in the times of COVID-19, and dilemmas for researchers when your study is interrupted and what to do about them, which goes into specific past examples of how researchers adjusted when something unexpected happened to still get a useful study when things didn’t go according to plan.
  • I spoke with Oeindrila Dube of the University of Chicago about her new papers about health systems in Sierra Leone and Ebola, and the implications for COVID-19. The work, with Darin Christensen, Johannes Haushofer, Bilal Siddiqi, and Maarten Voors, started out as an evaluation of two interventions to improve health clinics, specifically by building trust and communication with the communities they served. Ebola hit after their study ended, but recall that one big barrier then given all the fear and stigma was getting people to come forward to get tested and treated. The researchers later matched up location-specific data to the areas where their programs had been and found that in the communities with the programs, more people came forward to get tested and treated. Two takeaways were how a social intervention helped save lives when a disease hit, and also how researchers can use recent or ongoing studies to inform a crisis response.
  • As the crisis rips into economies CGAP has a nice collection of lessons from previous studies on how financial tools can help the poor during crises (and you can contribute more there if you know of relevant work).
  • Martin Ravallion has a really helpful collection of thoughts on the many ways COVID might affect low-income countries and what people should be thinking about.
  • Mushfiq Mobarak talks in more detail about fighting the virus in Bangladesh and other low-income countries, and why we can’t copy and paste prevention strategies or even assumptions about spreading patterns from high-income countries to low-income countries. He explains new data collection efforts underway and how strategies will have to be developed that are location-appropriate.
  • South Africa appears to have cracked down, both more ruthlessly and effectively than many countries, including sending police out to arrest or just beat people violating quarantine. (h/t W. Gyude Moore, former Liberian Minister of Public Works and current Visiting Fellow at the Center for Global Development, who’s definitely worth a follow if you’re on twitter)
  • An ultra-Orthodox town in Israel supposedly went from a corona hotspot to no new cases by putting in stricter-than-required behavioral restrictions supported by local religious figures, but also following the “make it easy” rule so people wouldn’t have to be outside. The supermarket allowed people to submit a grocery list to a 24-hour hotline and their groceries would be delivered, and books and toys were delivered to families inside.
  • A helpful thread of African writers on COVID-19 there (h/t Rachel Strohm, who’s always sharing useful information)

And for some non virus breaks:

  • I really enjoyed this Tyler Cowen podcast (Apple/iTunes) with linguist John McWhorter, who just seems like a store of so much knowledge (reinforcing my opinion that linguistics is the social science that learns the most from other subfields)
  • For a cheap read and an occasional chuckle, marketing professor and humor researcher Peter McGraw, a friend of mine, has a new general audience book trying to distill wisdom from comedians for the workplace. He tries to dissect different types of jokes and what makes ideas unexpected, with the help of a comedian. One creativity exercise he says he sometimes uses in consulting is ‘Sh*tstorming” – brainstorming, but trying to come up with the worst ideas possible. He says it often loosens up people to be less inhibited, and occasionally generates good ideas. Anyway, the electronic version of the book is a buck on Amazon until Tuesday.
  • This article asserts the real problem behind the toilet paper shortages isn’t runs on stores, it’s that national usage has shifted abruptly from at workplaces, schools, and businesses to home. The problem is that manufacturers make very different types of toilet paper for each (even the size and shape of the rolls), and with the market experiencing so much movement, the industry has to quickly adjust supply chains on the back end.

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