Chris Blattman

IPA’s weekly links

One of the original Kodak “Shirley” cards

Guest post by Jeff Mosenkis of Innovations for Poverty Action

  • Have fun to everybody at the NEUDC conference this weekend! Fun fact: the Northeast Universities Development Consortium conference is being held at Northwestern, which is neither in the Northeast, nor the Northwest. The conference has never been held at Northeastern University. So for everybody complaining about confusing econ speak, this is what they do to themselves.
  • An interesting idea from Michael Lokshin and Martin Ravallion, addressing U.S. (or other wealthy country) labor market needs, immigration, and global poverty at the same time: People in the rich country rent out their right to work to someone who wants to come to the country to work. They outline the basics on VoxEU, Martin goes into more detail on his blog, and here’s the full paper.
  • Chinese cell phone manufacturer Transsion is valued at $6.5 billion, despite having never sold a phone in China. It focuses exclusively on African markets, where it sells a phone for the equivalent of $130 that can compete with an iPhone. One thing they’ve done well is optimize the camera for dark skin tones. Even before cell phones, this was a problem in the U.S. film camera market which was well-known among photographers. It turns out to go back to Kodak having produced a series of color reference cards for the industry with a light-skinned woman wearing light clothes. In a sense the problem foreshadowed modern AI data training problems – the early reference that the system is normed/trained on can have massive and persistent downstream effects.
  • Jobs – these might appeal to a different sort of career track than what people often look for at IPA. They involve working with the underlying data on studies to make research projects better across a lot of studies. Ideally these are for someone with a good data background, but is interested in growing in the position long-term (e.g. not a stopover on the way to grad school). Please share if you can!
  • J-PAL is recruiting for U.S. office-based RA positions (deadline Oct 11), and of course the main jobs portal for IPA, J-PAL and affiliated orgs is here.
  • A fascinating paper from Andrew Bacher-Hicks and Elijah de la Campa. They use the quasi-random movement of police commanders between New York City police precincts to study the effects of the stop-and-frisk policies those commanders bring with them on the long-run educational outcome of kids in the neighborhoods. The stop-and-frisk policies apparently improves education and safety outcomes slightly for white and Asian kids, who interact with the police the least, while it substantially reduces high school and college outcomes for African-American kids, who have the most interaction with police. (via John Holbein, who often shares interesting papers like this.)
  • In 1998, Dutch civil servant Sirak Asfaw, who was born in Ethiopia, noticed something shiny in a houseguest’s suitcase. It turned out to be a stolen Ethiopian religious crown. He locked out the guest, took the crown and hid it for 21 years, afraid officials in Ethiopia might have been complicit with the looting, and is now trying to have it returned.
  • A cool travel hack below (and follow the thread for more in the replies). Also, if you have trouble sleeping on the road or at home, I really like the podcast Sleep With Me (Apple). He’s just a savant at telling really boring stories (I don’t know how else to describe it, but he’s got a huge following).