Links round-up

Hi all,

By the time I actually send this e-mail out it will be all over one way or another, but right now, if you listen very carefully, you can hear the prayers of thousands of Sri Lankan cricket fans. Rangana Herath, Sri Lanka’s Mr. Potato Head spin bowler is batting for the final time in his test career, and typically, he is all that stands between the team and defeat. For someone so great at what he does, he does it with extraordinarily little fuss. In a world where sportspeople are (for the most part) venal, immoral or immature, he stands out like a beacon: a man so down-to-earth and humble despite being the greatest Sri Lankan bowler since Murali, that asked about his post-retirement plans, he explained that he would go back to his day job as a bank manager. Even at the height of his career, after winning the T20 World Cup, he went into office as normal on his return home.

  1. Well, that was a kiss of death. He just got run after reverse sweeping Rashid (the sounds of prayer have been replaced by a national facepalm). Anyway, while I’m depressed: Raj Chetty and colleagues have released the newest tranche of the epic, amazing research they are doing in the Opportunity Insights team at Harvard. And it makes for grim reading. Chetty and co. have released an ‘Atlas of Opportunity’, which demonstrates how small differences in place of birth and childhood can have massive (and totally varied) impacts on lifetime earnings, likelihood of incarceration and other outcomes. Chetty (whom I think will win the Nobel either for this or his stuff on tax) is doing things with observational data that could lead to a fundamental change in policies to address inequality. Every release deserves attention.
  2. David McKenzie knows more about firms in developing countries than almost anyone else around – so when he puts down his evidence-based musings about the trade-offs involved in aiming to support job creation and productivity versus direct poverty reduction, anyone interested in either of these things should read it. We need to know what the choices we make cost us. Also from Development Impact: David Evans summarises Oxfam’s lessons for policy impact. I have a concern he doesn’t raise – when research is designed to motivate a change too explicitly, the temptation is always there to juke the findings to maximise the impact. I think Oxfam have done this more than once, so I’m more cautious in taking this advice wholly to heart.
  3. “People like to understand things. It’s an earnest and charming quality of the human race.” Clare Malone on the US mid-terms is exactly the kind of person people on any part of the political spectrum should read. The elections were complicated, and don’t mean any one thing, and be wary of anyone who starts any sentence with “The elections proved…”. Also from 538: the gender gap in voting patter was massive.
  4. One for the economists only: I had a discussion on the sides of the DFID economics conference about discount rates, so this paper (summarised at MR) is timely. Many experts think we should not have any positive rate of time preference at all, welcome news for those worried about climate change (though, of course, time preference is not the only salient component of discounting).
  5. Apparently, I’m not the only person who immediately translates pop culture into economic theory. Stacey and Cardiff (Garcia!) at Planet Money do too, and examine the use of ‘Customer Lifetime Value using Pretty Woman (transcript). Apart from the film being appalling rubbish and the fact that they should never encourage anyone to watch it, the message that algorithmic methods of price or service discrimination might be both inaccurate and hard to argue with is good.
  6. Dietz adds his $20 dollars to the cross-country convergence debate (he’s so good, I couldn’t say 2 cents). His grasp of detail, and ability to communicate it clearly is stunning. I can only envy the lucky students who learn macro from him.
  7. And finally, not only has the NBA started up again, but so has the NCAA, which gives me cause to once again mention young Zion Williamson, an 18 year old hewn from stone and more destructive than Thor in a bad mood. He’s already doing things that properly belong on the set of Space Jam 2, and nothing will stop my posting the entire set of results for the google image search “Zion Williamson dunking people into oblivion gif.” He’s still not as cool as Herath, though.

Have a great weekend, everyone!


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