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Impact Evaluations

A better way to train small business owners: using psychology to teach personal initiative

Billions of dollars have been spent by governments, microfinance organizations, and NGOs on training small businesses. Traditional training programs typically aim to teach owners to use better business practices such as record-keeping, stock control, and simple marketing. But while employing more of these practices does seem to improve firm performance, most attempts to train firm owners result in only a small change in these practices, making it hard to detect any impact on firm performance....

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Six Questions with Chris Udry

This is the first in a potential new series of posts of short interviews with development economists. Chris Udry was one of the pioneers of doing detailed fieldwork in development as a grad student and has continued to be one of the most respected leaders in the profession. While at Yale he taught David, and advised both David and Markus, and is famous for the amount of time he puts into his grad students. Most recently he has moved from Yale to Northwestern. We thought this might be a good...

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Weekly links September 15: the definitive what we know on Progresa, ethics of cash, a new approach to teaching economics, and more…

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...

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

Teachers are important. From Pakistan to Uganda to Ecuador to the United States, study after study shows that a good teacher can make a big difference in student learning. If we want more student learning, then it seems that “hire better teachers” or “make sure you retain the good teachers,” would be good bets. But identifying good teachers is challenging. The studies above measure the learning gains associated with being in a particular teacher’s class, but they don’t identify observable...

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Weekly links September 8: career advice, measuring empowerment, is anyone reading, lumpy cash, and more…

On the IPA blog, Rachel Glennerster and Claire Walsh argue that it’s time to rethink how we measure women’s household decision-making power in impact evaluations -  congrats also to Rachel for being named DFID’s new chief economist. At VoxDev, Alaka Holla blogs about how IT training in Nigeria may have changed aspirations for women, and Natalie Bau and Jishnu Das on the market for teachers in Pakistan On the AfricaCan blog, Gautam Bastian and Sreelakshmi Papineni report on a test of...

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Worker productivity and soft skills

There’s a lot of talk about soft skills and how they might help boost productivity and earnings.    Into this literature comes a neat new paper by Achyuta Adhvaryu, Namrata Kala, and Anant Nyshadham which looks at the returns to providing training on these skills for factory workers in India.   They provide a convincing case that it might make economic sense for firms to provide trainings for these skills.     The setting:   Off we go to southern India, where Adhvaryu and co. are partnering...

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Is it possible to re-interview participants in a survey conducted by someone else?

I recently received an email from a researcher who was interested in trying to re-interview participants in one of my experiments to test several theories about whether that intervention had impacts on political participation and other political outcomes. I get these requests infrequently, but this is by no means the first. Another example in the last year was someone who had done in-depth qualitative interviews on participants in a different experiment of mine, and then wanted to be able to...

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Monthly links for August: What did you miss while we were on summer break?

While the rest of us took August off blogging, Dave Evans blogged about how information can improve service delivery on Let’s Talk Development. There was a lot of discussion about gender and economics. Rebecca Thornton helpfully has put together a list of gender and economics links. Marc Bellemare has good advice on how to cite intelligently. As more and more papers rely on large admin datasets, there are questions about who gets to use this data and under what conditions. The 74 million...

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Sometimes (increasingly often times), estimating only the ITT is not enough in a RCT

"In summary, the similarities between follow-up studies with and without baseline randomization are becoming increasingly apparent as more randomized trials study the effects of sustained interventions over long periods in real world settings. What started as a randomized trial may effectively become an observational study that requires analyses that complement, but go beyond, intention-to-treat analyses. A key obstacle in the adoption of these complementary methods is a widespread...

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Weekly links July 28: overpaid teachers? Should we use p=0.005? beyond mean impacts, facilitating investment in Ethiopia, and more…

Well-known blog skeptic Jishnu Das continues to blog at Future Development, arguing that higher wages will not lead to better quality or more effective teachers in many developing countries – summarizing evidence from several countries that i) doubling teacher wages had no impact on performance; ii) temporary teachers paid less than permanent teachers do just as well; and iii) observed teacher characteristics explain little of the differences in teacher effectiveness. Are we now all doomed...

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