Reading the complex theories and equations in many academic papers often leaves me wondering, "Wow, who wrote this stuff?" It's easy to forget that academic economists don't eat math for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, or run regressions on vacation just for fun. This short Q&A from The Root gives a peek into the real-person world of IPA Research Affiliate and recent "Genius Award" winner Esther Duflo.
It’s remarkably hard to survey people if they have little children around - kids want complete attention. This past week I brought a few big bags of candy to hand out so that the kids would be happy while I was surveying. It was cheap & remarkably effective.
IPA and like-minded organizations are all about generating evidence on what works in the fight against poverty, so that those who direct funding and design policies and programs can make better-informed decisions. When we think about our audience, we usually have the giants of the field in mind: government agencies, multi-million dollar foundations and NGOs, international organizations, and so on. And appropriately so. These are the folks who have the power to design or revise whole programs, or to champion a new way of thinking on the national or international stage.
That's the slogan of Hans Rosling, who runs the website Gapminder.org. I hope you've seen and made use of Gapminder before -- if not, please go rectify the situation immediately. In essence, it's a free online tool for helping people visualize data, especially for helping people see the larger patterns in changes over time and across countries. For those of us who geek out about new ways to tell stories with data, Gapminder provides unlimited hours of entertainment.
It’s been great to see business school faculty take an interest in microfinance. Gabriel Natividad of the strategy group at the Stern School of Business at NYU just published an interesting new paper that links asymmetric information, third-party credit ratings, the price of credit and the operations of microfinance inst
Meet Jacques. He’s the Kiva Coordinator at WAGES, a microfinance institution (MFI) based in Togo, West Africa. Every day, a loan officer hand-delivers a stack of borrower information forms and a USB chip full of photos. Jacques has trained the officers how to fill out the forms, use digital cameras, and get borrowers to smile and display their merchandise proudly for pictures.
In round two of Lisbeth Schorr versus evidence-based policy (see round 1 here), she writes in the Chronicle of Philanthropy that,
If government agencies and private grant makers, afraid of being considered not rigorous, unscientific, or wasteful, choose to support only those efforts that meet the randomized-trial test, we will be robbed of:
* Good programs that do not lend themselves to random-assignment evaluations.
Because of the especially sensitive nature of doing research with human subjects, all of IPA's projects must be approved by an Internal Review Board. The board makes recommendations for how to ensure that the project environment is as respectful as possible to the rights of study participants. One of their requirements is providing survey participants with IPA contact information so that they can ask questions and voice concerns after they have completed the survey.
A recent Aid Watch blog post from guest blogger, Franck Wiebe (who also happens to be my former boss,) gives a very clear explanation why the “helicopter test” makes a lot of sense in weighing which assistance programs to fund.He writes,
The Obama administration – almost as geeked-out a bunch as us – is on board with rigorous evaluation of social policy. Peter Orzag, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, recently wrote that,