Links round-up

Hi all,

 The Nobel Peace Prize was announced today, and while the announcement is often a let-down (remember when Obama got it for not being Dubya? I always thought I should have shared that with him – I’m not, either), this year it’s actually gone to people who have, y’know, done something: Nadia Murad and Denis Mukwege, who have both worked to support survivors of sexual violence. I’ll admit to knowing little about either before today, but they both sound pretty amazing – one running a hospital for victims in the DRC and the other, having literally fled sexual slavery now uses her experience for campaigning. My original intro was going to be about Kamindu Mendis, who scored 61 runs against England and bowled both right arm offies and slow left armers but it kind of pales in comparison, doesn’t it?

 1.       More economics should be written like this: Markus Goldstein anchors his discussion of the really interesting new paper from Alex Eble and Feng Hu with a discussion about why his daughter thinks maths (I have to add the s, I’m British) is difficult, and how hard it is to shift that perception. The Eble and Hu paper helps unpick some of the mechanisms underlying the gender gap in maths, in China at least. They find that students in China, both male and female, are likely to believe that boys are better than girls at maths – even though the test scores don’t support this belief (at least early on). What’s more, a lot of this bias seems to be coming from the biases held by the parents of the kids the in the class – both their own and their peers’ parents. Three postscripts: the authors find that exposure to these biases leads to reduced effort and enthusiasm, and hence performance; and that this effort does not appear to be switched over into other subjects; and it appears that friendships may have ameliorating effects: girls who have enough close friends seem less affected.  

2.       Two more gender links, both on studies I’ve linked to before: Chris Woodruff talks about perceptions and actual performance of female managers in garment factories in Bangladesh (if you scroll down to the comments in the first link, you’ll see me popping up to ask questions about the Eble/Hu paper inspired by Chris’s work). And Girija Borker has a VoxDev write-up of her paper on how much women are willing to sacrifice for personal safety while travelling.

3.       With the Pathways to Prosperity launch meeting next week, Stefan has a piece on Duncan Green’s blog decrying the Luddist tendencies among those who fear technology will forestall any hope of African economies transforming (the Luddite charge is sometimes literal: we had an economist ask Francis Teal if we should smash the machines at a DFID conference a couple of years ago. I think he was joking). But with that rebuke delivered, he also attacks the mindless optimists who think our problems will be solved on our mobile phones. The main point cannot be emphasised enough: the world will change, and it’s those Governments and societies that set themselves up to respond flexibly and sensibly that will do the best out of it. Related: for those with a TLS subscription, his review of Mohamad Yunus’ new book is fantastic, centred around the danger of trying to make everyone an entrepreneur.

4.       I really can’t believe I’m about to type this, but the Guardian has two pretty good long reads on the economy. The first examines Brexit through the fortunes of the Nissan plant in Sunderland (depressing in how widespread misconceptions still are); and the second argues that the UK financial sector creates a resource curse that damages the rest of the country. There’s lots to disagree with in both, but they’re both thought-provoking.

5.       “Garbage in, garbage out” was probably the most overused phrase in my notebooks back when I worked on government financial statistics in East Africa, and it appears I chose the right years to use it. Justin Sandefur writes that in Tanzania it is now literally illegal to question official statistics. More than one person has been menaced by the new law already, and it may mean that even running a poll before an election may now be illegal.

6.       This bothered me. Jonathan Portes has a piece in VoxEU about the analysis underlying the recent MAC report into the appropriate level of migration into the UK. He reports on studies which show that migrants are a net boon to the public purse, and that they seem to have implausibly large positive effects on productivity, but completely ignores any of the evidence underlying their decision to suggest that we virtually end unskilled migration.

7.       Anyway, my anger about that has left me quietly seething. If someone in the Scottish NHS is listening, I think I really need a course of the new treatment they’re prescribing: birdwatching in the Shetlands. If they fancy financing my trip to Fair Isle, I’ll be waiting with my binoculars packed. Meanwhile, Sweden’s answer to the sword in the stone has been liberated by an 8 year old, who will presumably now lead a horde of Vikings on a rampage across Europe to the strains of Immigrant Song.

 Have a great weekend, everyone!


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