Chris Blattman

IPA’s weekly links

Guest post by Jeff Mosenkis at Innovations for Poverty Action.

In case you missed it last week, Chris is letting Innovations for Poverty Action (where he’s a Research Affiliate) share our internal weekly links on his blog, we presume so he can spend time looking for an even more progressive daycare for his kids.

  • From our blog: Development March Madness brackets for all the evaluation superfans out there.
  • Bill Gates argues in the New York Times that as bad as Ebola has been, the next crisis will be worse. Among other things, we have very bad disease tracking systems (IPA’s working on it), and we shouldn’t assume affected countries will be open to US military personnel helping next time. He argues that we could easily be building in vaccines and disease surveillance into existing efforts to improve health infrastructures.
  • Pacific Standard Magazine discusses how hard it is to get good estimates of the economic impact of Ebola (though we did help collect what little good data there is), and wonders if fear mongering made things worse.
  • Two new Gates Foundation challenges: one on better collection of financial services data, another for inexpensive mobile payment systems for merchants in low income areas. A two-page application for $100,000, potentially followed by a million for good ideas.
  • Freakonomics has a nice interview with Katherine Milkman of Wharton on her research around “Temptation Bundling,” a cousin of commitment devices, and a way of getting yourself to do something you know you should but don’t want to do. The trick is a rule pairing it with something you do like, such as only watching your favorite show while exercising. They also talk about the “fresh start effect,” why people time new commitments to particular calendar times.
  • This past week’s New York Times Book Review was dedicated to all things financial and economic (scroll down to “the secret life of money”). One book by a Financial Times reporter argues that impressive economic growth in many African countries masks huge inequality, chronicling how extractive industries bribe those at the top. There’s also one on Islamic finance, for anyone who wants a quick intro.
  • New working paper draft from Jayachandran & Pande, (with slightly changed title) “Why Are Indian Children So Short?” (PDF). They look at the height gap between 174,000 Indian and Sub-Saharan African children, and give three ways the data suggests preferences for sons in India, particularly firstborn sons.
  • In this coming weekend’s New York Times Magazine, Adam Davidson Debunks the Myth of the Job-Stealing Immigrant:

The chief logical mistake we make is something called the Lump of Labor Fallacy: the erroneous notion that there is only so much work to be done and that no one can get a job without taking one from someone else.

He explains that in reality (at least for the US), most economists now believe that immigrants take low skilled jobs, moving native English speakers into higher paying jobs, while lowering overall costs for employers, and they also increasing the size of the population who is buying goods and services (h/t Michael Clemens).

  • Vox says every medical study you’ve heard of is probably wrong, because the publication process and media favor sensational positive outliers that rarely live up to replication. A dot plot shows the findings around 8 common foods that apparently both prevent and cause cancer.

  • One potential solution is hypothesis preregistration. On the Development Impact blog, rising star Ben Ozler looks at the pros and cons of preregistration. It creates a lot of later constraints and several kinds of lost opportunities that could come up later as study/analysis design evolves, while not always preventing fishing. Conclusion is that we’re in an in-between time as norms are developed for how tightly we’re going to hold researchers to their original plans.

And your bonus: Indians try American sweets for the first time

“’Do you guys have this every day??”

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