Chris Blattman

IPA’s weekly links

Guest post by Jeff Mosenkis of Innovations for Poverty Action.


  • Cool panel on Wednesday, now that schools have gone remote, how to assess remotely if kids are learning.
  • And another on Thursday including Anne Karing of Princeton, Jonathan Robinson from UC Santa Cruz, presenting new data on covid impacts in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Malawi
  • IPA’s Research Methods Initiative has a call for proposals, due July 31st, with $10k for methodology studies (typically an add-on to an existing study).
  • University of Cape Town economist Grieve Chelwa has been critical of RCTs in the past so my colleague and I were braced for his online discussion at Africa is a Country (dropping you in after 40ish min of football talk but feel free to rewind for that). But honestly we walked away both saying he was right, and it was a really good conversation. (Paraphrasing), he said something like as a student in Zambia he read plenty of great research by Zambian economists but somehow the only recognized repository of authoritative information on the Zambian economy is in the Journal of Development Economics. Few African economists are represented on the editorial boards of the journals where research on African economies are published. The dynamic is different he feels like in economic policy––where local officials defer to outside authorities from abroad––from health policy, where he sees more reliance on local experts.
  • On the Brookings Blog, macroeconomist Célestin Monga describes being appointed as a Senior Economist at the World Bank and having a European country’s finance minister he was supposed to work with refused to believe a Cameroonian economist could be competent. But he goes deeper to explain how a dynamic, in which country officials have to run proposals by donors from far away who are doing their best to guess what’s best for the country, leads to a vicious cycle of the wrong questions being asked and wrong data collected, and back into flawed decisions.
  • An article in DevEx wonders if the north-south dynamic in health policy led to the same advice being given to wealthy and low-income countries regardless of it was appropriate for the latter.
  • NBER Summer Institute’s dev sessions will be streamed Mon & Tues afternoons (Eastern U.S. time), details here.
  • Podcasts:
    • Planet Money’s doing a “summer school” teaching some basics of economics for those without a background in it. Here’s Episode 1 (Apple) with Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers on choice.
    • Tyler Cowen interviews Clark Medal winner Melissa Dell (Apple) about how historical circumstances from long ago can affect countries’ development today. I was really amazed by all the history she brings to bear (reminded me of the episode with John McWhorter (Apple) which combined a lot of history with linguistics).
    • Before Professor Dell won the Clark medal, she won the AEA CSWEP Elaine Bennett Research Prize Talk in 2018 and reflected on the bigger picture questions in her research.
  • I also really liked Cowen’s interview with former prosecutor and law professor Rachel Harmon (Apple) about policing reform. She had a lot of really thoughtful answers and a quality I really respect in a guest, declining to speculate on areas outside her expertise.

And thanks to AI and natural language processing, you don’t have to wait for the next Tyler Cowen interview


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