1. Children are the Future: The NY Times has a new data set and visualization on socioeconomic status and school achievement in the US. But it’s not just in poor neighborhoods in the US that children aren’t learning. The failure to measure learning in global education policy is a big problem. Of course, surviving to school age is the first step. Chen, et. al. look at why infant mortality is higher in the US than Europe (hint: mothers in poverty) and Amarante et. al. see cash transfers to such poor pregnant women leads to higher birth weight babies (which are less likely to die) in Uruguay. But perhaps the cash grants shouldn’t stop during pregnancy. Russ Whitehurst at Brookings argues that cash support to families has a bigger impact on learning outcomes than early childhood education programs. Hey, that’s 5 things in the first item. This may be getting out of hand.
2. Basic Income: Speaking of cash grants, basic income is apparently the story of the moment. FiveThirtyEight provides a pretty comprehensive overview, including upcoming experiments in Kenya, the Netherlands and Finland and a look back at the NIT experiments (which helped launch the modern era of RCTs). Meanwhile, Michael Strain at AEI thinks basic income is unworkable in practice and we’ll just end up back where we started.
3. Women and Risk: There's danger in the “risky rhetoric of female risk aversion”. Which seems like a good time to point to an oldie but goodie debate I had with Barbara Magnoni about microcredit targeting women (with bonus comments from David McKenzie and Dean Karlan) and this oldie but goodie literature review from Esther Duflo of women’s empowerment and economic development.
4. Agriculture: How do farmers allocate their time, money and investment? A new paper from Jing Cai examines how agricultural insurance affects financial behavior (though, "boo" to the overly broad title and an abstract that says nothing about context). But there’s also a long-term mystery about farming behavior: why are small plots more productive than larger plots (almost everywhere and everywhen)? Barrett and Bevis have a new paper that suggests it’s accessibility to the edges of the plot—in other words, attention—that that drives the difference in Uganda.
5. Debunking: It’s always exciting to see conventional wisdom overturned. But can we stay out of a debunking recursive cycle? It’s not clear how. (Here’s Jeff Mosenskis guide to debunking debunking). Ever wonder how the story of #wormwars or #repligate will be told in a few years? If the past is any guide, important details will be wrong.
Bonus Extra: There’s some new Q&A from the US Financial Diaries and basic income, daily pay and fintech all make appearances. That only makes it 15 links in a newsletter purportedly about 5 links.