Links round-up

Hi all,

I have extremely exciting news: I managed four hours of uninterrupted sleep last night. It’s true,  more exciting have happened in the world this week: there’s an election heist in progress somewhere, it seems, undertaken with all the panache of the Sticky Bandits; another vaccine company has seen fit to boost its share price with an announcement of efficacy before showing us the data; and a man in Australia is competing with the aforementioned election bandit for the title of the world’s most selfish man. But the world is made up both of things that are too big to move by yourself and small challenges to meet one-by-one. And in both cases, I really think they bend towards improvement, in the long run, as Lee might say. And if my little sleep-depriver is beginning to see it fit not to test how much wailing it takes to wake up a man who sleeps with his hearing aids in a jar next to him, then I’m going to enjoy that one while it lasts…

  1. I really did promise not to turn the links into the CGD Weekly, but my colleagues don’t make it easy. First Matt Juden and Ian Mitchell dig into the cost effectiveness of climate spending here, and spoiler alert, the answer is ‘no sod knows’, which is kind of disappointing. There’s a trend towards good analysis of cost-effectiveness right  now, and this gap needs to be filled, quickly. It would help, too if donors were honest about what they’re really spending on climate change – but my colleagues Atousa Tahmasebi and Euan Ritchie seem to have caught out a few being … shall we say, economical with the truth? This is excellent stuff, the kind of thing you only learn if you have the inclination and wherewithal to get into the weeds with the data. And lastly, in the spirit of shameless self-promotion: with rumours gathering pace that the ODA budget is going to be slashed in the coming few days, I’ve written a note on how to do these cuts without losing the best of what UK aid can achieve. The blog is here for the short-of-time, but I really recommend the full note. It names names, and there will be plenty to disagree with, but cuts are awful. And there needs to be a robust debate about what loses out, if they come.
  2. I’m a big fan of the idea of ‘pre-morteming’, that is starting a new project by listing all the ways it might go wrong; like Tim Harford I think it can work very well, but sadly I also agree that there’s rather a lot of completely stupid policy that would have been pursued even with a laundry list of ways they might fail.
  3. Planet Money’s newsletter takes aim at the absolutely insane number of civil servants that are personal appointees of the President in the US. I am always baffled by how the system is meant to work when it’s loaded with partisans with every change of administration. Compare and contrast with this thread on how things should work in the UK, by Calum Miller.
  4. Normally I’d link to a paper I want to talk about here, but I can’t seem to find a version of it online – so instead we’ll have to make do with the tweetstorm of what looks to be a fascinating paper using data from Uber drivers to investigate the gender pay gap. There is no formal difference in the pay rates by gender between men and women Uber drivers, but this paper finds significant differences in their earnings – much of which are driven by women doing less driving in more dangerous (and therefore higher-price) localities. This is really important: lots of people argue that pay gaps deriving from different preferences by gender aren’t a problem, they’re a reflection of what people want to do. But preferences don’t come from nowhere – they’re reflections of the society they emerge in, and if women feel less safe in certain places or ways, it can fundamentally reshape their preferences in really damaging ways. It reminds me of Girija Borker’s awesome paper on how street harassment changes the educational choices of young women in India. Also on gender: a crazy study in Nature that is stretching thin data so far it’s like they’re doing the Bake Off window pane test on it.
  5. This week on Development Impact, the brilliant job market papers series continued (the Borker paper I link to above was once one of them, too). Read them all, but my favourite of the week was Thomas Gautier’s on how refugee settlement patterns can affect their integration in the host community. He has the perhaps counter-intuitive finding that more refugees in a locality leads to more integration, not less. But read all of them – this is the most fun series in development blogging out there.
  6. Are you thinking about breaking the Covid rules for a small gathering – or a big one if you celebrate Thanksgiving? Let my favourite science writer, Maggie Koerth tell you why this is a terrifyingly bad idea. The graphics are like an epidemiologist’s horror movie.
  7. And lastly, it’s not just a virus that has learnt to kick humanities ass. I’m here to tell you that all of nature is after us. In the sea, the Orcas have risen up against us, and they are coming for your boat (if you have one, and if you do, please pay more tax). Are you a farmer? Well, it turns out that crops are learning how to hide from us. Evolution: it’s all fun and games until the fauna starts to rise up in rebellion.

Have a great weekend, everyone!


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