Seminar on Social Media for Economists this Friday at Cornell

Warren Hall, home of the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management.
Warren Hall, home of the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management.

I am in Ithaca this week to run some lab experiments (more on those in early 2015) with my PhD student Yu Na Lee and my friend and coauthor David Just. It will be nice to return to my old stomping grounds, get to see old friends, and get a bunch of work done on a few separate projects.

Because I am going to be in town, the Dyson School’s Graduate Student Association has asked me to present on the topic of social media for economists. If you are interested, do come by. The seminar will be on Friday, from 11:45 to 1, in Warren 101.

The Futility of Development Policy

A recent post over at Worthwhile Canadian Initiative on the staples trap made me dust off an idea I had a few years ago about the futility of development policy. The staple trap is such that

While exporting [natural] resources can generate great wealth, the danger of such a path is that a staples economy becomes overspecialized in raw material extraction to meet foreign needs, and runs up large external and domestic debts over-developing the resource base and associated infrastructure. These become hard to service if and when external demand collapses, setting the stage for widespread financial dislocation along with painful losses of jobs and output.

What I discuss in this post is similar to the staples trap, but it is not quite the same. The staples trap is generally the result of market forces: As demand for a staple increases, the industry surrounding that staple develops and generates side industries (e.g., processing, packaging, exporting, etc.)

What I discuss here is the result of policy making–and it illustrates the futility of development policy, by which I mostly mean “industrial policy” rather than specific development policies like building roads and bringing clean water into villages. If I can be Minnesota nice about it, this post illustrates the development policy trap. Continue reading

The Prevalence of Female Genital Mutilation


The above map, which shows the prevalence of female genital mutilation (FGM) in Africa and the Middle East, is from The Economist‘s Espresso email for last Thursday.

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you may recall that I have been doing some work on FGM. My paper on the topic (coauthored with Tara Steinmetz and Lindsey Novak; see here for the slides) used to focus on Senegal and The Gambia for the most recent years, but in giving us a chance to resubmit, the editor in charge at the Journal of Development Economics has asked us to look at all of West Africa for all available years. This has obviously meant a lot more work, but we are hoping to have a revised (and much longer) version after the Holidays.

If, like me, you happen not to have time to read The Economist cover to cover every week and are too lazy get too busy to visit their website, the Espresso email service delivers the top international news straight to your inbox every morning.