- Duncan Green summarizes Stefan Dercon’s view of 10 top thinkers in development. E.g. on Acemoglu and Robinson “their policy advice is just ‘buy yourself a better history/don’t start from here’. Not very useful for aid”. Alice Evans responds to the lack of women on Stefan’s list with five big problems in development and female scholars to learn from on these.
- How did Chinese consumption respond to changes in the minimum wage? Dautovic and co-authors on VoxEU report that “For the period 2002-2009, we identify more than 13,874 changes in the local minimum wage across China's 2,183 counties and 285 cities…many counties experienced substantial nominal increases in their minimum wage above 20%...we show that low-income households spend their entire additional income from a higher minimum wage…for poorer households, 40% of the additional minimum wage income is spend on health care and educational expenditure”
- Looking to try out machine learning for poverty prediction? The World Bank has launched a competition (with prize money) to see how well you can predict poverty.
Often there are many steps or stages between the starting point of some intervention and its ultimate goal, and at each step, people can drop out. The result can be extremely low power to measure impacts on this end outcome, even though we might be able to detect impacts on the intermediate steps. This post illustrates this point, with the goal of making clear the importance of trying to measure intermediate outcomes, and concludes with suggestions of ways to partially overcome this problem.
Before we begin new posts next week, here are the 2017 Development Impact posts that were most popular over the last year. In this case, popular = most page views.
- 10 journals for publishing a short economics paper
- When should you cluster standard errors? New wisdom from the econometrics oracle
- What’s the latest in development economics research? A round-up of 140+ papers from NEUDC 2017
- The State of Development Journals 2017: Quality, Acceptance Rates, and Review Times
- Fact checking universal basic income: can we transfer our way out of poverty?
- What’s new in education research? Impact evaluations and measurement – March round-up
- The latest research in economics on Africa: The CSAE round-up
- IE analytics: introducing ietoolkit
- Technoskeptics pay heed: A computer-assisted learning program that delivers learning results
- A new answer to why developing country firms are so small, and how cellphones solve this problem
- top ten
- Lia Fernald and co-authors have a toolkit for measuring early childhood development – “The ECD Measurement Inventory that accompanies this Toolkit contains 147 measurement tools for children under 8 years. For each test it reports the domains assessed, age range for which the tool is appropriate, method of administration, purpose of the assessment, origin and locations of use, logistics, and cost.”
- Cyrus Samii has a nice “selection of amazing papers from 2017” – advances in causal inference, work on generalizability, and great examples of field studies. And Cal Women of Econ have a round-up of papers on gender and racial disparities in economics and the workforce.
Development Impact will now be on break over the next couple of weeks for the holidays, resuming in early January after the AEA annual meetings. Inspired by some of the interesting lists of favorite papers of the year (e.g. Noah Smith, Matt Notowidigdo) we thought we’d each offer three of our favorite development economics papers for the year...
- favorite papers
A central question in development economics is how to fund public goods. Informal taxation, whereby households make direct contributions to local public goods (such as water resources, roads and schools) outside of the formal tax system, is an important source of funding for public goods in many low-income countries, especially Kenya (Olken and Singhal 2011, Ngau 1987, Barkan and Holmquist 1986). Informal taxes are coordinated and collected by local leaders and enforced via social sanctions rather than the state. In a formal tax system, legal statutes dictate how taxes change with household income. But how does informal taxation respond to changes in household income?
My job market paper first quantifies informal taxation in Kenya. Using household panel data, I estimate informal tax schedules over the income distribution and test whether informal taxes respond to changes in earned income. Second, I estimate how informal taxation and public goods respond to a large, one-time increase in income from a randomized unconditional cash transfer program targeting poor households.
This is the seventeenth, and penultimate, of this year’s job market series.
Research question and motivation
That early-life events can affect adult outcomes is now well established. Lifelong health, education, and wages are all shaped by events of the in-utero and early-childhood environments (Barker 1992; Cunha and Heckman, 2007; Almond et al., 2017). To the extent that adverse shocks can often not be prevented, a key task for researchers and policymakers is to ascertain the potential for and degree of mitigation: Could investing in children's health and education help reduce gaps caused by early-life adversities?
In my job-market paper, we study whether the returns on human capital investments on children differ by exposure to adverse early-life shocks. We focus on two shocks that significantly affect households in developing countries: adverse weather shocks -- i.e., floods and droughts, which reduce children's initial skills--, and the introduction of conditional cash transfers (CCTs), which provide monetary subsidies to families with young children conditional on investments in children's health and education. In particular, we provide empirical evidence on how the effects of CCTs on children's long-term educational outcomes interact with children's early-life exposure to adverse weather shocks.
- Great discussion on the Financial Inclusion blog on the frivolity of frivolous expenses – noting another reason not to fixate on how people spend cash assistance – discussing how spending on alcohol and cigarettes by displaced people may actually be for important purposes like getting being something you can trade for survival information.
- On VoxDev, Amirapu and Gechter on the cost of labor regulations in India.
- Also on VoxDev, Markus on the impact of skill development on adolescent girls in Liberia and Uganda and Dunsch et al. (including Dave Evans) on management training versus consistent supervision to improve rural healthcare in Nigeria
- On VoxEU, Kone et al. on how India’s internal borders deter internal migration