Chris Blattman

IPA’s weekly links

Guest post by Jeff Mosenkis of Innovations for Poverty Action

A slight, shy, balding, 49-year-old when the 1980 Nobel was announced, Cronin was relieved when the university sent Larry Arbeiter to his home at 7 a.m. to help him handle the deluge of requests for press interviews. Arbeiter, a writer in the university’s press office, suggested that Cronin satisfy all the interview requests at once by holding a 10 a.m. news conference.
”Oh,” Cronin insisted, ”I can’t do it then. I’ve got a 10 o’clock class this morning.”
With a good reporter’s instinct, Arbeiter asked what course Cronin was teaching, thinking of news photos of the newly minted Nobelist lecturing to his awed and adoring students.
”No, no,” Cronin told Arbeiter, ”I’m not teaching a course, I’m taking Chandrasekhar’s graduate course on the theory of relativity.”

  • A few days after the Nobel, Romer spoke to NYU graduate students, according to Emma van Inwegen, he spent about half the time talking to them about his research: 
  • Every year the World Bank releases its World Development Report, taking stock of one aspect of development, diving into what we know, and looking to what might be ahead. This year’s is out and the theme is The Changing Nature of Work. If wealthy countries have already transitioned to digital economies, what does that mean for countries with large populations of farmers and unemployed, and that are still working on building industrial sectors? 
  • The National Academies has just put out their comprehensive review and update on the science of learning: How People Learn II: Learners, Contexts, and Cultures. (The II refers to an update of the first in 1999). Note that it’s free to read online or download a PDF.
  • The popular photo & personal storytelling project Humans of New York (Facebook, & Instagram) has been in Nigeria and Ghana profiling people’s stories. One that jumped out at me was Ghanaian Kwabena Opoku-Agyemang. He got a Ph.D. in West Virginia, but afterwards faced with the decision to stay in the U.S. where job prospects were better or return to Ghana, he decided to go back so that his child wouldn’t have to grow up experiencing the racism he saw here (though he jumped in to add that he enjoyed living in both places).
  • A reminder for profs that first generation college students might not realize they can ask for help in extenuating circumstances, like extensions on work. It’s helpful to explicitly say it.
  • And on the grad level Shelly Lundberg explains that grad students from minority backgrounds or untraditional paths might not realize the unspoken things about grad school that one needs to know (like how to choose an advisor), and what do to about it. She makes some helpful recommendations about how faculty and fellow students can make sure everybody’s successful. 
  • My vague impression is that the health community has done a better job responding to more recent outbreaks of Ebola, but now it’s appeared in a conflict zone in the DRC, and traditional public health approaches of contact tracing and using the new vaccine to immunize contacts of the infected, are much more difficult to accomplish in those circumstances.
  • Previews of AER: Insights are up, including lots of names you’ll recognize, including Karlan, Mullainathan, and Roth who look at debt traps in India and the Philippines. Part of being poor is being stuck in cycles of debt, but if their high-interest debts are paid off for them, does eliminating that drag help them stay debt-free? Unfortunately, most were back in debt in six weeks, and one to two years later, those who’d had their debt paid off were borrowing at the same rates as those in a comparison group who hadn’t had any intervention.
  • Karthik Muralidharan and Paul Niehaus have a nice audio interview with VoxDev about their Experimentation at Scale paper and the differences between a typically relatively small RCT and effects when talking about big (say, national level), changes.

Why We Fight - Book Cover
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