Links round-up

How da bodi?

Apparently, that’s how you greet someone in Krio, the lingua franca of Freetown. Unless, of course, someone is pulling my leg, which is always somewhere between ‘likely’ and ‘certain’. I’ve been here since Sunday and since the boat trip from the airport to town it’s been fascinating. Parts of my trip have brought to mind the line a particularly perceptive colleague used to describe some programmes he’d seen offering direct support to firms: “It’s like releasing tadpoles into a toxic lake”. Still, there’s plenty to be positive about, too and it seems like an amazing place to work. Today’s links are a little threadbare, and you can blame the office here for keeping me so busy with meetings (all productive!). But I’m here till early next week, and I’ve come equipped with bird guide and binoculars and I fully intend to put them to work this weekend.

 1.       It was International Women’s Day this week (indeed it was a national holiday in Sierra Leone) so a few good links about gender to kick off. First, 538 takes stock of progress on the original issues highlighted in the first women’s strike in the US in 1970. I should point out ‘good’ links don’t necessarily mean ‘happy’ ones at this point. Second, Vox looks at the gender wage gap and the relative stagnation of progress in the 21st Century. I think it understates the challenges of occupational segregation, but hey – how many mainstream media outlets even use the phrase? Lastly, Markus Goldstein (whose Gender Innovation Lab is probably the home of my favourite research into gender and economic development in the world) posts a very nice summary of work by Oriana Bandiera and Greg Fisher (among others) on whether women respond differently to wage incentives than men. Related and brilliant: dialogue in the movies, broken down by the gender of the character.

2.       “I want a Lululemon pair of yoga pants, not the ones from Target.” I was not expecting to read Dietrich Vollrath say this in a blog about the profit share in GDP and its implications for productivity, but he does. And the article is typically excellent, another piece of forensic investigation into the economy undertaken through readily available statistics. It’s a skill too few have.

3.       One of Branko’s more personal blogs, about how he learnt economics and his relationship to Friedman and Samuelson. It’s easy to forget that we all learn in a cultural context which shapes us in many more ways than we may initially realise.

4.       Sad! Low ratings! Crooked! Fake news! Actually, this link is only about fake news, and if I was more liberal with the truth and a better headline writer I’d call it about the fake news of Fake News. But really it’s simpler than that. We notice changes much more than levels: fake news might have grown recently, but it’s still a small portion of overall news consumption and probably doesn’t affect our views very much. We don’t need extra help to remain in our echo chambers.

5.       The great Give Directly experiment on a universal basic income in Kenya gets very good coverage from Vox, and commentary from Justin Sandefur. Justin uses the phrase ‘disintermediating the state’ (that’s ‘cutting out the middleman’). I get the need to do so sometimes. But I also think it can’t be our default. It will be brilliant to eventually see the results of GD’s experiment – it’s genuinely one of the most revolutionary that the development field has put up. I hope, though, even if it’s brilliant, we don’t switch everything to this approach. The state matters for many things, even when it’s bad at most of them.

6.       And lastly, Chinese State-Owned rap videos. I have no words.

 Have a great weekend, everyone!


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