Links round-up

It seems like a lot of goodbyes have accumulated in the two weeks since the last e-mail. Harry Dean Stanton (watch Repo Man), Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, and the Screaming Eagle of Soul, Charles Bradley (listen to Ain’t it a Sin) all died. Kumar Sangakkara retired from first-class cricket, and I’m (temporarily) leaving DFID. But, unlike the others, I’ll be back, and in the meantime I will be continuing to send these links out every week, since the good people in the admin department are letting me hold on to this machine until I return. So, with a minimum of fuss, on to the links.

  1. Last week, I talked a bit about Stefan Dercon’s habit of blockbuster presentations at the DFID Economics Conference. This year his presentation covered, among other things, the importance of the mental models we have for determining our action. The role of human aspirations in our decisions is increasingly the subject of research in international development, and this excellent paper by Emma Riley demonstrates why: kids who watched a movie about someone like them overcoming difficulty and making something of themselves did better in school – an effect that was strongest for those in the worst schools and at the worst starting position. David Evans also discusses the paper here.
  2. So, Emma’s study involved showing kids movies, which sounds a lot more fun than the average research project. But there’s a place for more prosaic research that confirms what we already guessed – like this VoxDev write-up of research by Davids Atkin and Donaldson on trade costs in Africa, demonstrating that the costs of moving goods around within Africa are around five times greater than those in the US. While this remains the case, any country not on the coast will struggle to reap the gains of globalisation.
  3. “No one can understand the economic consequences of large migrations without careful economic research on the ripple effects—which are subtle, invisible, delayed. When politicians brush this aside they are being duplicitous, or at least disingenuous.” When Michael Clemens writes about migration, everyone should listen – because amidst the duplicity and disingenuity, integrity and clarity and rigour become ever more important.
  4. My normal reaction to anything Alex Tabarrok says is to look for the reset button, and hope when he starts up, the empathy module will have installed. But in this case I’m simply admiring: his response to David Roodman’s replication of one of his papers is superb, and shows real integrity.
  5. Branko in unusually personal form: about growing up in Yugoslavia and the absence of anything resembling his past in the official histories of the end of Communism.
  6. This week in absolutely stunning headlines: The media is really, really bad at dealing with probabilities, and this makes for bad coverage of an uncertain world.
  7. And lastly, the NBA season is nearly upon us, so thank god LeBron James and Gregg Poppovich are there to talk some sense.

Right, I’ve got to pack my stuff and leave the building, but the links will be back next week. Have a great weekend, everyone!


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