Links round-up

Hi all,

I’m trying very hard not to get my hopes up: Sri Lanka have managed to reduce India to 74/5. Back in the day, I’d be rubbing my hands with glee in anticipation of the last five wickets falling to our bug-eyed genius, but recent experience has taught me that Pujara and Jadeja will put on a quintuple-century stand and we’re going to be crushed underfoot like a dried-out locust. Either that or it’s going to rain for the next four days. On the plus side, however, my adopted son Joel Embiid  has this week both atomised the self-respect of the Clippers and dominated the Lakers so completely that Lonzo Ball is probably in hiding. He’s playing so well I literally googled ‘Whose soul did Joel Embiid eat for breakfast today?’ yesterday. Anyway, enough inanity.

  1. A while ago, Sarah O’Connor wrote a great piece in the FT, with the title The Best Economist is the one with Dirty Shoes, arguing that economists who get out into the real world learn things that the theories of their discipline cannot teach them. Angrist and co-authors have a really nice paper exploring a similar idea in the intellectual terrain economists travel. They show that economists increasingly cite the work of other disciplines in their papers; and that this intellectual curiosity is mutual. They also show that empirical work is becoming more influential within the discipline (and with others), a sign that economists are looking outwards, and getting their shoes dirtier. This can only be good for the discipline, so long as we learn from what others do, rather than sally forth and ‘do economics’ to them, as they sometimes complain.
  2. Claudia Goldin’s recent NYT piece on the economics of the gender pay gap is brilliant: she’s not afraid of exploring the complexity of its genesis, and of the solutions, and isn’t shy of acknowledging where there are trade-offs. It does no-one any favours to pretend that it is just discrimination and nothing more: real solutions require we think more deeply.
  3. I’ve never been much of a fan of instrumental variables. I’m not enough of an econometrician to formalise my doubts enough, but they’re either complex and lack transparency (so interpreting the coefficients is very difficult) or they seem to capture much more (or less) than is purported (is there anything rainfall doesn’t instrument for?). Alwyn Young, whose genome sequence presumably spells out ‘attention to detail’ takes a hatchet to them here, though from a very different perspective. Related, a good read on replicability and good scientific practice in economics. The David Evans summary would be: we’re getting better but far from fixed, and haven’t got the incentives right yet.
  4. The ODI Fellowship applications are open until 1 December. As an ex-Fellow, I’m biased, but I think the scheme is brilliant, and unlike any other exposure to policymaking in developing countries that a development person will ever otherwise have.
  5. Everyone in DFID should already have internalised this, but here’s our Deputy Chief Economist Nick Lea making the case for tradable-based growth. Not all tradables are equal, of course, and non-tradables can matter too – but the underlying logic here is strong and important.
  6. This totally fits all my priors: Jennifer Aliz-Garcia, Sarah Walker an Anne Bartlett on the economic benefits of refugee camps. Confirmation bias aside, though – I do wonder about the validity of calibrating night lights and consumption from a period prior to the advent of the camps and using this to guesstimate consumption effects of the camps – could the relationship have changed due to impact of the camps? Related: Planet Money go to South Sudan and explore the effect of the civil war on the financial asset most of those in the camps used: cows (transcript).
  7. Finally, and by far the most important article of the week: The Ringer ranks the fifty best superhero movies ever, and confirms that everyone must bow down before Heath Ledger.

Have a great weekend, everyone!


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