Archive for the ‘Monday miscellany’Category

Monday miscellany: Ebola links

A couple academic articles (expect a lot more in the near future):

Maia Majumder is updating excellent charts based on the latest outbreak data: example here.

Kim Yi Donne wrote this almost a month ago now: Why West African governments are struggling in response to Ebola

Tara Smith is one of the best sources for analysis on this outbreak — you should probably just go ahead and follow her on Twitter too:

On Z-Mapp, the little-tested and completely unproven experimental serum:

Other articles:


08 2014

Monday miscellany

  • If you’re in DC this Wednesday, Charles Kenny is giving a talk to launch his new book, The Upside of Down: Why the Rise of the Rest Is Good for the WestCharles’ previous book (Getting Better) was a good read and he’s been churning out interesting journalism since (sample here). You might describe the general theme of Charles’ writing as “not everything is all that terrible,” which is remarkable because so much of the writing — at least the smart writing — on international development could be summarized as “really, everything is quite terrible.”
  • Newspapers are biased (study) towards covering medical articles that aren’t as good. (Via the always interesting Justin Wolfers.) Another way of reading this is that the higher quality papers are typically RCTs, but many of the questions that are most interesting to the lay public can only be answered with large observational studies. Those studies are more likely to give answers that won’t hold up to further study, and more likely to be dreadfully overhyped by their authors and by journalists.
  • Angus Deaton reviews Nina Munk’s book on Jeff Sachs. Sachs is not impressed. Two thoughts: 1) I love that Deaton connects it to the Anti-Politics Machine, which is one of the best books on development and what I kept thinking of on reading The Idealist. 2) A three-way conversation between Sachs, Deaton, and Michael Clemens would be fascinating, in part because Deaton and Clemens are both Sachs critics, but differ strongly on RCTs — Clemens has written about how the Millennium Villages could be evaluated with them, and Deaton wouldn’t be impressed even if they were.
  • Elizabeth Pisani (author of the Wisdom of Whores) has a new book soon on Indonesia.
  • Some humor: What if meetings were all like conference calls, and The Onion describes the new American Dream.
  • Bill Gates shared this graph on Twitter, showing how the distribution of log GDP per capita has changed from a bimodal “camel” distribution to a single dome today. (It might be even more informative to look at the same numbers with and without China, which accounts for much of the departure from absolute poverty):


01 2014

Monday miscellany

I’m hoping to start writing posts other than link round-ups soon, but I’ve been swamped the last few month with fascinating work and travels in the US, Nigeria, Zambia, South Africa, and Lesotho. Not to mention the latest Hunger Games movie is giving me lots of ideas for a follow-up to my original survival analysis!  More on that soon. In the meantime:




12 2013

Monday miscellany: just give people money edition

Unconditional cash transfers (i.e., just giving people money) are the talk of the blogosphere right now:

The post that comes closest to my own feelings is from Matt Collin of Aid Thoughts: “When every argument begins with ‘is it better than cash?'” Here’s an excerpt:

…there are a range of public goods (or semi-private goods which have substantial externalities) which we can imagine might increase welfare a great deal more than a cash transfer of equivalent cost: schools, health facilities, roads, a functioning police force. Basically, any semblance of a local or national state. How many of you would vote for your own government to transfer its entire budget evenly across the population and then shut down all its operation for good? It certainly would make it easier to pay the rent next month, if your apartment complex hadn’t been burned down by the marauding hordes yet.

A bandwagon

It’s great, read the whole thing. I wouldn’t go as far as Matt in saying that there is a “current bias towards cash transfers”, but otherwise I agree. There’s growing evidence that cash transfers, conditional or not, work pretty well. That means they’re probably better than many forms of institutional aid, some of which don’t have evidence of working at all. That doesn’t mean they’re better than all forms of institutional assistance, or that all forms are even directly comparable to cash. Many public services in health — I’m thinking especially of vaccination and other investments in preventative health — are unlikely to materialize in response to cash transfers alone. In short, I think it’s useful for both individual and institutional donors to think in terms of portfolios: considering giving cash directly, but also simultaneously investing in the public provision of services.

Some older, related posts:


10 2013

Monday miscellany


08 2013

Monday miscellany


07 2013

Monday miscellany

A day late, but “Tuesday miscellany” loses the alliteration:

  • “Promoting professional networks at work”, by Ian Thorpe, who writes the blog “Knowledge Management on a Dollar a Day”. This post has a lot of practical advice for organizations, especially when onboarding new staff.
  • “Does it take a village?” by Paul Starobin in Foreign Policy, examines Jeff Sachs, the Millennium Villages Project, and their evaluation plans. For those who have been following the subject for a while there’s some interesting background material worked into the piece that I hadn’t read before.
  • “On what do health economists agree?” asks the Incidental Economist. The penultimate point (on inequality) is the only one I thought didn’t seem widely agreed, and the blog comments concur.
  • Causal inference: extrapolating from sample to population, via the Monkey Cage. This paper argues that findings done with multiple regression from supposedly representative samples aren’t necessarily representative; seems likely to become widely read and discussed.
  • Berk Ozler of the World Bank Development Impact blog shares some enlightening comparisons of medical and economic journals.
  • Finally, Hans Rosling explains population growth and climate change (with Legos!).


07 2013

Monday miscellany: on my reading list

Monday miscellany


04 2013

Monday miscellany


03 2013