Author Archives: DevelopmentImpact

Looking for a shortcut to identifying great teachers? You may be out of luck.

Teachers are important.

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Weekly links September 15: the definitive what we know on Progresa, ethics of cash, a new…

In the latest JEL, Parker and Todd survey the literature on Progresa/Oportunidades: some bits of interest to me included: CCTs have now been used in 60+ countries; over 100 papers have been published using the Progresa/Oportunidades data, with at least 787 hypotheses tested – multiple testing corrections don’t change the conclusions that the program had health and education effects, but do cast doubt on papers claiming impacts on gender issues and demographic outcomes; FN 16 which notes that at the individual level, there are significant differences in 32% of the 187 characteristics on which baseline balance is tested, with the authors arguing that this is because the large sample size leads to a tendency to reject the null at conventional levels – a point that seems inconsistent with use of the same significant levels for measuring treatment effects; Two decades later, we still don’t know whether Progresa led to more learning, just more years in school; One of the few negative impacts is an increase in deforestation in communities which received the CCT Dave Evans asks whether it matters which co-author submits a paper, and summarizes responses from several editors; he also gives a short summary of a panel on how to effectively communicate results to policymakers.

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Should we require balance t-tests of baseline observables in randomized experiments?

I received an email recently from a major funder of impact evaluations who wanted my advice on the following question regarding testing baseline balance in randomized experiments:Should we continue to ask our grantees to do t-tests and f-tests to assess the differences in the variables in the balance tables during the baseline?  

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Are good school principals born or can they be made?

Good principals can make a big difference “It is widely believed that a good principal is the key to a successful school.” So say Branch, Hanushek, and Rivkin in their study of school principals on learning productivity. But how do you measure this? Using a database from Texas in the United States, they employ a value-added approach analogous to that used to measure performance among teachers. They control for basic information on student backgrounds (gender, ethnicity, and an indicator of poverty) as well as student test scores from the previous year.

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ABCA 2017 Roundup: The latest research on agriculture in Africa

This post is joint with Niklas Buehren and Muthoni Ngatia You can find the entire conference schedule here.  In the summaries below we link to papers and videos (where applicable).    

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Building Grit in the Classroom and Measuring Changes in it

About a year ago I reviewed Angela Duckworth’s book on grit. At the time I noted that there were compelling ideas, but that two big issues were that her self-assessed 10-item Grit scale could be very gameable, and that there was really limited rigorous evidence as to whether efforts to improve grit have lasting impacts. A cool new paper by Sule Alan, Teodora Boneva, and Seda Ertac makes excellent progress on both fronts. They conduct a large-scale experiment in Turkey with almost 3000 fourth-graders (8-10 year olds) in over 100 classrooms in 52 schools (randomization was at the school level, with 23 schools assigned to treatment).

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Weekly links May 26: the Chetty production function, collect priors before you work, small…

Pre-registration should be a plan, not a prison – from the Center for Open Science the Atlantic on how female mentors help female engineering students based on a paper forthcoming in PNAS – study only has n=150 at one college, assigned to male mentors, female mentors, or no mentors: 100% of women with female mentors remained in engineering majors at the end of year 1 compared with 82% with male mentors, and 89% without mentors Eva Vivalt gives four reasons your study should collect priors

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A Framework for Taking Evidence from One Location to Another

“Just because it worked in Brazil doesn’t mean it will work in Burundi.” That’s true. And hopefully obvious. But some version of this critique continues to be leveled at researchers who carry out impact evaluations around the world. Institutions vary. Levels of education vary

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What happens when business training and capital programs get caught in the web of…

Two weeks ago, I blogged about a new paper by Arielle Bernhardt and coauthors which looked at the idea that when women receive a cash infusion from a program, they may give it to their husbands to invest in their business.  

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Weekly links May 12: the ‘stans, how publishing might hurt you, list experiment discussion,…

On the Future Development blog, Steve Radelet provides a summary set of responses to the blanket “aid doesn’t work” critique Berk’s post this week on list randomization experiments had some of the best comments and discussion we have had for a while. Thanks to our readers! Clearly we just need to make our posts even more geeky than usual to get good discussion going. The New York Times discusses the Suri and Jack work on M-Pesa, and then the different innovations that have followed M-Pesa and make use of its payment infrastructure. Tim Taylor on the economics of the ‘stans.

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Money for her or for him? Unpacking the impact of capital infusions for female enterprises

In a 2009 paper, David McKenzie and coauthors Chris Woodruff and Suresh de Mel find that giving cash grants to male entrepreneurs in Sri Lanka has a positive and significant return, while giving the same to women did not.   David followed this up with work with coauthors in Ghana that compared in-kind and cash grants for women and men.  Again, better returns for men (with in-kind working for some

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Weekly links May 5: an econometrics bonanza, charter schools, Chinese inequality, and more…

At VoxEU, Martin Ravallion discusses how many of the arguments against universal basic income are really about strawmen that overstate the effectiveness of targeted transfers. Bruce Wydick on fake news, narrative, science and truth. The new issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives has a symposium on recent ideas in econometrics, including (among others) Athey and Imbens on Causality and Policy Evaluations; Low and Meghir on Structural Models; and Mullainathan and Spiess on machine learning.

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Should we pay kids to read?

A few weeks ago, my wife and I were reading aloud Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s newest book, a short volume entitled Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions. The eponymous fifteen suggestions are Adichie’s advice to her friend on how to raise her daughter – Chizalum – as a feminist. Here’s the fifth suggestion: “Teach Chizalum to read. Teach her to love books. The best way is by casual example.

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A cynic’s take on papers with novel methods to improve transparency

What is the signal we should infer from a paper using a novel method that is marketed as a way to improve transparency in research? I got to thinking about this issue when seeing a lot of reactions on twitter like “Awesome John List!”, “This is brilliant”,etc. about a new paper by Luigi Butera and John List that investigates in a lab experiment how cooperation in an allocation game is affected by Knightian uncertainty/ambiguity. Contrary to what the authors had expected, they find adding uncertainty increases cooperation. The bit they are getting plaudits for is then the following in the introduction:

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