Chris Blattman

IPA’s weekly links

Guest post by Jeff Mosenkis of Innovations for Poverty Action.


  • Evans, Goldstein, Jakiela, O’Sullivan, Montalvão, & Ozier, once again do a great job boiling down 120+ papers from Oxford’s Center for the Study of African Economies into one-sentence summaries, broken down by topic and methodology here and here.
  • Millions Saved is an amazing resource from Amanda Glassman & Miriam Temin with the Center for Global Development documenting what’s worked in global health. In an example academics should be emulating, the Key Findings page extrapolates basic one-sentence principles that policymakers should know. There will also be a book version.
  • The UN is being sued over cholera brought to Haiti by UN peacekeepers (perhaps just one peacekeeper), which has infected over 770,000 people there.
  • And a UN official explains why he’s quitting:

    Six years ago, I became an assistant secretary general, posted to the headquarters in New York. I was no stranger to red tape, but I was unprepared for the blur of Orwellian admonitions and Carrollian logic that govern the place. If you locked a team of evil geniuses in a laboratory, they could not design a bureaucracy so maddeningly complex, requiring so much effort but in the end incapable of delivering the intended result. The system is a black hole into which disappear countless tax dollars and human aspirations, never to be seen again

    It’s worth reading the examples he documents of how bureaucracy, politics, and outdated rules have gotten in the way of the UN doing its own job.

  • Every few years, journalists write about how demand and prices for quinoa, the grain newly popular in rich countries, are rising and how terrible that is for the farmers in Peru who grow it, but can’t afford to eat it. Brooklynites can now rest easy thanks to Marc Bellemare, Johanna Fajardo-Gonzalez and Seth Gitter, who show that quinoa producers and consumers in Peru have been doing pretty well since the boom. The best piece of critical writing on this is from Boring Development: Strong Demand For Things Poor People Sell Somehow Bad for Poor People.
  • State laws designed to protect the poor and minority job applicants by prohibiting potential employers from checking their credit scores sound good, but seem to have backfired. A new paper finds when those laws are passed minority hiring goes down. One more reason to test and phase-in policies. (h/t Dina Pomerantz)
  • A slightly better model (but still imperfect) for policymakers comes from Tennessee which tried to combat a spike in babies born drug dependent by criminalizing drug use by pregnant women. That law also seems to have backfired (discouraging pregnant women who might be drug users from getting prenatal care), but since it was enacted as a two-year trial, it will expire on its own. The point is that across the political spectrum, sensible-sounding policies often backfire, which is why J-PAL North America recently opened to help state and local leaders figure out which policies work before passing them into law. Lawmakers – please call them.
  • Senegal has just voted in a national referendum to reduce presidential terms.

A big thank you to my colleague Jenn Cowman, who’s been helping edit these links, but is leaving IPA for Australia. Expect to start seeing more misplaced commas and horrendous typos.

And from SMBC:

SMBC Economists No Longer Welcome in Hell



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