I recently returned from a 3-week trip to Cusco, Peru to help out my fellow Project Associate who is based there. I live in Lima, so the trip to Cusco, a sizeable city in its own right but quite distinct from Lima's hustle and bustle, was a welcome respite. I most certainly enjoyed the sunny weather and the lack of noise pollution. However, being based in Lima, I have grown accustomed to the everyday conveniences that are typical of a big city. I was reminded of this point during a trip to the grocery store while I was in Cusco, albeit in a very peculiar way.
Microfinance institutions are often assumed to be socially oriented, but as the industry expands and more institutions enter, it becomes increasingly important to verify these claims. Donors and social investors should require more than a mission statement and a few anecdotes to know whether an MFI is really reaching the poor.
Interesting example of the endowment effect from New York Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/19/dining/19note.html?8dpc
Summing up the quirky behaviors of his dining companions over his tenure as restaurant critic for the NY Times, Bruni describes the way his fellow diners--to whom he had randomly assigned dishes to be sampled--would become protective of "their" choices, defending their quality.
I need to give props to the Kiva Fellows, who work with many of the same microfinance institutions that partner with IPA in the field.
How has Michael Jackson's death helped advance the cause of IPA? I've just come back from rural Cusco, Perú, where we were training credit officers for our newest project, where we use video and radio to help teach village bank clients concepts related to financial literacy. Earlier, I had talked to the credit officers about the importance of randomized trials, mentioned results from previous studies, outlined the indicators we were thinking of measuring, and explained relevant details about the assignment of treatment and control banks.
This month's Atlantic Monthly has a controversial article about breastfeeding, specifically making arguments against breastfeeding. The arguments are of two types. One is social and normative, and the other is on the evidence. My thoughts, naturally, are on the evidence. The journalist makes a classic error in understanding and interpreting "treatment effects." Here is a clip: