Links round-up

Hi all,

It’s sometimes a struggle to write an intro to the links. Some weeks, cricket and basketball, plus a brief rundown of the birds landing in my garden get me through the first paragraph. Other weeks there’s an incredibly obvious topic to comment on which given my inability to moderate my opinions, , I nevertheless have to ignore for fear of laying waste to the civil service code. Moving to the economics for fear of an ill-chosen comment:

  1. It feels appropriate to start with this piece from Duncan Green’s blog, a rant about the short-sightedness and negative impact of the UK’s labyrinthine visa application procedures. Visiting academics from Africa appear to have been particularly hard-hit; and the examples in the blog are only the tip of an iceberg. I recall that one of the people I’ve invited to speak at DFID in the past declined citing the disutility of applying for a visa here (he eventually came while on a trip for which his visa was handled by another organiser).
  2. Raj Chetty has clearly touched a nerve. A number of people have sent me or shared this Vox piece on his new economics course in Harvard, Economics 1152, which upends the traditional theory-first approach to teaching economics in favour of an empirically-based course. Introducing students to the complexity of the real world, measurement and rigour early on in their studies can only be a good thing, but I’m not sure I buy the set-up of the piece, which pits the Chetty course as a disruptor and competitor to traditional introductory economics. The issue isn’t that economists learn theory early on, because good theory is necessary to understand empirical results. It’s that they are taught economics in layers that rarely reveal the nuances and complexity that will be introduced in the next layer or by empirical work. As a result the many students who stop after a few basic courses leave with the impression that economics as a discipline has a simple faith in the market, or that it believes that the world moves according to well-defined and understood rules. It’s why ‘economics’ articles in the newspapers written by journalists with a year of econ from a PPE degree are so uniformly terrible.
  3. Nor is empirical economics quite the finished product yet, either. Eszter Czibor and co-authors (including John List) argue that experimental economics still has much to do in order to adequality report on the generalisability and applicability of the evidence they produce. I tend to agree. Part of this is really the responsibility of the reader, who needs to be able to think in a detailed way about the theory of change being tested by an RCT, but many papers reporting on the results of an experiment make this difficult.
  4. In the run up to the elections in India, VoxDev ran a series of podcasts about what economics is teaching us about politics in India. Lakshmi Iyer talks about the lack of female politicians here (VoxEU write up here), and Abhijeet Banerjee reports on the results of an experiment providing report cards on politicians here.
  5. David Evans and Alexis Le Nestour write about the effect of female teachers on girls’ outcomes in school; they appear decidedly mixed. There seems to be a lot going on here, and I’m not sure how meaningful it is to compare evidence across settings so broadly, but this is definitely worth a read.
  6. I’ve read speculation recently that Andy Haldane may be next Governor of the Bank of England. They could do much worse: few public intellectuals in the UK are as thoughtful, and few economists as comfortable handling so broad a range of topics. In this Guardian profile, he talks about the role of civil society in the UK and the consequences of its neglect.
  7. Lastly, The Ringer have stoked my outrage with this list of the 25 best high school movies of all time. Where the hell is Pretty in Pink? Why the heck is Carrie so low (did anyone who watched that movie as a kid not have nightmares?) At least they give due props to Kid’n’Play and the greatest haircut of all time.

Have a great weekend, everyone!


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