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Author Archives: Laura Freschi

Who should be the next IMF chief?

Even if the serious charges against IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn are proven false, the IMF will likely be in need of a new leader.

According to unwritten agreement, the IMF has always been headed by a European, just as the president of the World Bank has always been American.

Some (mainly Europeans, funnily enough) argue that the IMF needs a European leader now more than ever, because the biggest issues the IMF currently…

Posted in In the news | 11 Comments

Are Lax US Gun Laws Spilling Violence into Mexico?

The question:

Do more guns cause more violence?

The experiment:

We exploit a natural experiment induced by the 2004 expiration of the U.S. federal assault weapons ban to examine how the subsequent exogenous increase in gun supply affected violence in Mexico. The expiration relaxed the permissiveness of gun sales in border states such as Texas and Arizona, but not California, which retained a pre-existing state-level ban.

The results:

Using data from mortality statistics and criminal

Posted in Academic research | 17 Comments

African Universities: Creating True Researchers or “Native Informers” to NGOs?

In a recent speech addressing the Makerere Institute of Social Research in Uganda, Mahmood Mamdani described the state of academic research and higher education in Africa as dominated by a “corrosive culture of consultancy.”

Today, intellectual life in universities has been reduced to bare-bones classroom activity. Extra-curricular seminars and workshops have migrated to hotels. Workshop attendance goes with transport allowances and per diem. All this is part of a larger process, the NGO-ization of

Posted in Academic research | Tagged , , | 24 Comments

Development before security…is a killer

In an article that just might have been overshadowed by bigger news out of the “AfPak” region Sunday night, the New York Times reported on USAID’s project to build the Gardez-Khost Highway in Afghanistan. This 64-mile stretch of road meant to connect the two mountainous southeastern provinces of Paktia and Khost is shoddily constructed and incomplete after 3 years.

Not least among the problems was that construction began before the region was cleared

Posted in Aid policies and approaches, In the news, Military aid | 21 Comments

Controlled experiments and uncontrollable humans

Bill reviewed two much-awaited books for the Wall Street Journal last weekend: Poor Economics by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, and More Than Good Intentions by Dean Karlan and Jacob Appel.

The Good:

The books’ signal achievement is in addressing two disgraceful problems that beset humanitarian aid. The first is that the effectiveness of aid is often not evaluated at all; the second is that even when aid is evaluated, the methods are

Posted in Academic research, Books and book reviews | 4 Comments

Cash transfers: What are they good for?

There is convincing evidence from a number of countries that cash transfers can reduce inequality and the depth or severity of poverty. For example, in Brazil a combination of cash transfer programmes accounted for 28 percent of the total fall in the Gini index (a summary measure of inequality) between 1995 and 2004….

Well-designed and implemented cash transfers help to strengthen household productivity and capacity for income generation. Small but reliable flows of transfer income

Posted in Academic research | 15 Comments

All Cups, No Tea

Another humanitarian hero has tumbled off his pedestal.

It remains to be seen whether Greg Mortenson, author of the best-selling “Three Cups of Tea,” will be able to avert a total reputation meltdown. But last Sunday’s 60 Minutes broadcast and a thorough exposé by Jon Krakauer provide convincing evidence for some serious allegations…

Posted in Accountability and transparency, Aid policies and approaches, In the news | Tagged , , , | 32 Comments

World Bank to Bloggers: Drop Dead

UPDATE: Bill receives WDR2011 in Sunday 12:30pm email from World Bank. Should we complain now that he is getting special treatment?

This morning we learned that the World Bank does not consider bloggers journalists. According to Bank policy, it won’t give press accreditation to bloggers, denying them access to the media briefing center where new reports are released under embargo before they are published for the public.

In this case, the report we won’t be…

Posted in Meta, Technology | Tagged | 27 Comments

Finally, the definitive guide to creatively manufacturing your own research result

From the brilliant xkcd (also the creator of this classic in statistics humor).

We couldn’t resist using this as a way to illustrate some of our early wonky posts complaining about the suspected practice of “data mining” in aid research.

In aid world, research looks for an association of some type between two factors, like economic growth and foreign aid. But since both growth and aid contain some random variation, there is…

Posted in Academic research, Data and statistics | 11 Comments

The Aid Contest of the Celebrity Exes

A high-profile charitable foundation set up to build a school for impoverished girls in Malawi, founded by the singer Madonna …has collapsed after spending $3.8 million on a project that never came to fruition…. the plans to build a $15 million school for about 400 girls in the poor southeastern African country of 15 million — which had drawn financial support from Hollywood and society circles…— have been officially abandoned.

Madonna’s Charity Fails in Bid

Posted in Aid policies and approaches, Badvocacy and celebs, In the news | 16 Comments