Papers, blogs, podcasts
Do universities cause economic growth? Anna Valero and John Van Reenen have a paper saying yes…
In my past engagements with higher education policy this question has annoyed me a lot, and I’ll post more about that in future posts. I get even more annoyed when I see definitive headlines based on papers with questionable identification strategies. We need a bit more humility about empirical work.
In which regard, I’ve recently been catching-up on some EconTalk podcasts. I enjoyed these two:
Heckman on econometrics, with some useful comments about ‘Hayekian humility’, failures of prediction and the like.
Phillip Tetlock on ‘superforecasting’
Even closer to the subject of my own recent work, two interesting-looking papers relating to RCTs and external validity:
Bentley Macleod on an issue I’m interested in: performance of subjective expertise
Banerjee, Chassang and Snowberg on decision-theoretic considerations relevant to external validity
I covered aspects of this in my PhD and published working paper on external validity, but look forward to reading this contribution.
Chris Blattman has a useful summary of recent developments among development NGOs relating to basic income grants (an idea that was debated at some length in South Africa over a decade ago):
Came across a truly terrible piece on experimental methods in economics and ‘economics imperialism’. The saddest part is that this is often the only kind of ‘philosophising’ tolerated in parts of the discipline.
I had similar sentiments about this related podcast with Russ Roberts.
I have one draft paper and a sketch of a research programme on this topic, and the coverage given here to the issue is really bad. (That’s as nicely as I can put it). Classify both as links to avoid…
A lot’s being said about the Panama Papers. People and companies should not evade taxes. The notable absence of some countries’ citizens from this particular database, though, does raise some interesting questions about possibly selective leaks.
Events and initiatives
On the 28th of April Thandika Mkandawire is speaking in Cape Town on panel discussion entitled:
Africa and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): Progress, Problems and Prospects
In London, CEMMAP recently held a one-day conference on econometrics for public policy:
Looks like a great programme.
Economic Research Southern Africa has a new initiative to train academic economists in quantitative methods:
On the one hand, this is a good idea. On the other hand, it’s a real slap in the face for those who have these skills but still can’t get academic jobs. However, it usefully supports a point I’ve been arguing for some time: in most disciplines, academics in South Africa are amongst the most protected of workers regardless of their competence or effort. (For international readers: in South Africa formalised ‘tenure’ processes don’t really exist.) Much more on both issues in future posts.
The Campbell Collaboration annual conference is open for submissions: