The Economist magazine has a special report on feeding the world in their latest issue. One of the major challenges is ensuring that people get the right nutrients, even if they are getting enough calories. Abhijit Banerjee quotes George Orwell writing in 1937 on the British working class to highlight the importance of cultural norms as an obstacle to good nutrition:
A common concern from new partners on our projects is whether it is fair to deny the benefits from a program to some participants (in order to establish a control group). This question really rests on how many resources we have. Do we have enough money to vaccinate every child on the planet with this project? If not, we have to choose which people benefit and which don't anyway. Randomization is often one of the fairest and most transparent ways of doing this.
Yesterday Tania wrote about some of the methods we use to ensure the accuracy of our data, including extensive training for interviewers, auditing a sample of questionnaires by going back to households and re-surveying them, and moving towards the use of electronic devices.
I love doing taxes. This season, I will have spent every Thursday evening (when I am not travelling for IPA workshops and meetings) volunteering as a preparer at a tax assistance site in Washington DC. What does this have to do with IPA? Well, as I was taking the certification course it struck me how similar it was to surveyor training. We sit down with respondents and conduct interviews. Based on their answers, we can skip some sections of a two page survey and fill out additional forms in other sections.
"The question that I can't help but wonder, is that really the best that we can do?... Even if it was just a rag, even if it was sold for 50 cents as a rag, the cost-benefit analysis probably means its better off selling it as a rag and taking the money and buying something else like bednets and deworming pills and sending that to Africa."
The Super Bowl stirred up an old controversy in the international aid community. What happens to all those preprinted “Pittsburgh Steelers 2011 Super Bowl Champion” t-shirts? Apparently, each year the NFL gives them to the international relief and development organization World Vision, who then ships them to Africa.
Imagine you are a bicycle rickshaw driver in Delhi who's migrated from your small hometown in Bihar to the Indian capital metropolis of close to 15 million. You earn on average about $5 a day peddling your clients around the city, out of which you spend $1.5 to pay rent on your bicycle, and another $1.50 on food, alcohol and other daily needs. Whatever remains of your meager income you send home to your mother and ailing father.