Week of August 1, 2016

1. Cash Transfers, Conditions and Fathers: Akresh, de Walque and Kazianga compare the effects of conditional and unconditional cash transfers, and whether they are given to mothers or fathers in 75 villages in southern Burkina Faso. They find conditions matter and that, if anything, children and households benefit more when the father is the recipient. I'm trying really, really hard to fight confirmation bias, and losing.

2. Financial Inclusion and Digital Financial Services:
The Bookings Institute has published it's second annual review of progress on financial inclusion and access, with a particular focus on digital financial services. It covers 26 countries reviewing availability, use and the policy/regulatory environment. Kenya and Colombia top the list; Egypt and Ethiopia are bottom.

3. Medicine, Economics, Data and Evidence: The grass is not greener on either side of the fence. A few weeks ago we had Croke, et al's critique of meta-analysis in health research. On the other hand (see what I did there?): "In comparison to medical studies, most economics studies examined do not report important details on study design necessary to assess risk of bias." Meanwhile the medical community is arguing over how and when data from clinical trials should be shared. Larry Husten summarizes the arguments, but be sure to scroll to the end for a discussion of the difficulties of setting up a market for data and whether anyone "owns" the data. I feel like some economists might have something to say about that, perhaps starting with Coase and Ostrom. Though will the market for data end up being a Market for Lemons? And will economists put their data where their mouth is?  

4. Payday Regulation: In the New Yorker, Astra Taylor reviews why it's so hard to regulate short-term lenders, with particular emphasis on Georgia (the US state) which, I learned was founded as an alternative to debtors prison ("Would you prefer to go to prison or go to Georgia?" may not have been the most effective branding campaign in history). Perhaps it's time to focus more on why so many people need access to short-term credit. Could it be income volatility? And might that be disproportionately affecting certain communities?    

5. Whither INGOs: Michael Edwards pens an essay on the future of INGOs, neither one thing or the other in a rapidly evolving landscape, touching on organizational survival imperatives, theories of change, effective altruism, "new power" and principal-agent problems (maybe I read between the lines too much). Michael Clemens has some suggestions about an issue that INGOs are well-placed to take on. 

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