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Legal empowerment of the poor, education, Africa, evaluating aid effectiveness
Justin Sandefur is a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development. Prior to joining CGD, he spent two years as an adviser to Tanzania's national statistics office and worked as a research officer at Oxford University's Centre for the Study of African Economies. His research focuses on a wide range of topics, including education, poverty reduction, legal reform, and democratic governance.
In this paper we examine how policymakers and practitioners should interpret the impact evaluation literature when presented with conflicting experimental and non-experimental estimates of the same intervention across varying contexts. We show three things. First, as is well known, non-experimental estimates of a treatment effect comprise a causal treatment effect and a bias term due to endogenous selection into treatment. When non-experimental estimates vary across contexts any claim for external validity of an experimental result must make the assumption that (a) treatment effects are constant across contexts, while (b) selection processes vary across contexts. This assumption is rarely stated or defended in systematic reviews of evidence. Second, as an illustration of these issues, we examine two thoroughly researched literatures in the economics of education—class size effects and gains from private schooling—which provide experimental and non-experimental estimates of causal effects from the same context and across multiple contexts.
The impact evaluation world has changed dramatically through a range of initiatives at research institutions, think tanks, development agencies, and governmental policy units. It has now been seven years since CGD’s Evaluation Gap Working Group released “When Will We Ever Learn? Improving Lives Through Impact Evaluation,” and four years since the launch of 3ie.
The purpose of this conference is to reflect on what has been achieved in recent years, to consider how the environment has and has not changed, to assess existing initiatives aimed at improving the supply and use of high quality evidence and to provide ideas for 3ie as it considers the next stage of its strategy within this landscape. Please note that the afternoon sessions will be organized to include small group discussions with the intention of generating specific and useful ideas for future action.
We investigate heterogeneity across beneficiaries and implementers—in a randomized trial of contract teachers in Kenyan schools. The data show a stark contrast in success
between the government and NGO arm that can be traced back to implementation constraints and political economy forces put in motion as the program went to scale.
There's a lot of chatter in the blogosphere about Westerners' perceptions of Africa, and how poorly they align with Africans' own views of the challenges their societies face.
This week I'm in Oxford, for the annual conference on "Economic Development in Africa" at the Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE) . The CSAE conference is unique among top-tier development econ conferences in that it brings together a huge number of scholars based in African universities and research institutes -- as well as people like me, non-Africans working on the economics of Africa.
Financial incentives may reduce teacher absence and improve student performance, but they may also lead teachers and schools to simply exaggerate attendance. Zeitlin and co-authors report on an experiment in Uganda that combined pay-for-performance for teachers with a separate experiment that enlisted local parents to independently monitor teacher absence and report back via mobile phone.
When teachers were paid for attending school, their actual attendance increased, and so did the number of false reports. But the increase in bad information was more than offset by an increase in total information from parental monitoring, providing administrators with a more reliable overall picture of teacher absence. Despite inducing false reports, the results suggest that social welfare was higher with financial incentives.
This is a joint-post with Alaina Varvaloucas. Varvaloucas is a student at Yale Law School and formerly worked for Oxford University’s Centre for the Study of African Economies, based in Freetown.
Yesterday, after 9 years and nearly $250 million dollars spent, the Special Court for Sierra Leone in the Hague sentenced former Liberian President Charles Taylor to 50 years in prison after convicting him on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Taylor's trial has been an important milestone in the struggle to end impunity for tyrants and mass murderers. But the international community's guilt-ridden obsession with pursuing the Charles Taylors of the world is skewing the allocation of resources in war-torn countries toward celebrity trials and away from poor people with limited access to justice.