COVID-19 in Low- and Middle-Income Countries—An (incomplete) Round Up

Simeon Djankov and Ugo Panizza, in partnership with the Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) and the International Development Policy Journal, have an edited volume on “COVID-19 in Developing Economies.” Aside from a questionable (at best) cover image, this seems to be a valuable resource. The included essays are short and will likely be helpful for many involved in policy-making or research in low- and middle-income countries. I will highlight a few chapters that I found particularly insightful.

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COVID-19 and Conflict—New Working Paper

What does the threat of and the policy response to COVID-19 mean for inter-group conflict worldwide?

This is the question at the center of a new (and short) working paper, by me and my super-star colleague Colette Salemi. In this paper, using data from the ACLED Project, we track time-series trends for different types of inter-group conflict and evaluate discernible changes taking place as global awareness of COVID-19 spread.

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Early childhood education and the role of psychological skills—Evidence from the Philippines

Most of us understand that investments in early childhood education matter. Quality education early in life not only leads to higher educational attainment, and typically increased learning, but also enables other positive outcomes—such as increased wages. Despite this broad understanding, important caveats exist.

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The tangible and intangible effects of social networks

In a nice new(ish) working paper, Anandi Mani and Emma Riley review the recent and expanding literature on social networks, role models, peer effects, and aspirations in low and middle-income countries. In this post, I will summarize Mani and Riley’s review of the literature and offer my own commentary along the way. I will also comment on some of the methodological challenges implicit in this literature and will end with a discussion of what this all means for development policy.

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My Job Market Paper, in Blog Form

In the fall of 2013, while living in Kitale—a town in Western Kenya—I remember reading through several job market papers posted in blog form on the World Bank’s Development Impact blog. The experience, in part, inspired me to pursue graduate studies in development economics.

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How reliable is survey data on personality traits from low- and middle-income countries?

Last week in the Weekly Links, David McKenzie shared a new paper recently published in Science. The paper, by Laajaj et al., examines the validity of quantitative measurements of the “Big 5” personality traits (e.g., openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and emotional stability) in developing countries. Here is the punchline:

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Aspirations and Real Estate Investment in Rural Myanmar — New Working Paper

Aspirations, or future-oriented goals, influence how we make choices in the present. In recent years, development economists have developed a particular interest in the way aspirations influence human behavior. The figure below plots my calculation of the number of published articles that mention “aspirations” cataloged in the EconLit database from 1956 through 2016.

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How to Assess “Economic Significance”

Back in 2015, I read a book by Morten Jerven, in which the author makes the point that over 145 variables have been found to be statistically significant explanatory variables for long-run economic growth. Morten’s point is more nuanced than this, but this suggests that when interpreting regression results we need to not only consider statistical significance, but also economic significance.

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