Weekend links: air conditioning, the GBD Study, behavioural economics, podcasts, poverty and the brain

Add air conditioning units to the list of items that can provide unexpected insights into the state of the economy. On the UN Dispatch podcast, Mark Leon Goldberg interviews Lucas Davis about ‘what air conditioners can teach us about international development’. Davis and fellow University of California Professor Paul Gertler’s recent paper in PNAS uses data from Mexico to examine the relationship between temperature, income levels and the adoption of air conditioning – and what burden increased electricity consumption due to air conditioning may have impose on the environment.

Wired Magazine is not normally one of our go-to sources for stories on aid and development, so we missed an interesting summary published in April about Epic Measures, a new book about Christopher Murray and the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) Study. Though the GBD Study has much to interest methodology junkies, author Jeremy Smith focuses primarily on the challenging political implications of producing improved health data.

Via IPA’s weekly links on Chris Blattman’s blog, the Wall Street Journal has an interesting article on behavioural economics and poverty. If it leaves you wanting to say things like “that’s interesting, but…” have a listen to this recent episode of Development Drums, in which Owen Barder grills Varun Gari (the co-director of the 2015 World Bank World Development Report) on what, if anything, behavioural economics can contribute to development work. Barder asks all the right questions and Gari does an excellent job of replying, which makes for great learning. On the subject of Development Drums, the latest episode has what promises to be a fascinating interview with Morten Jeven on statistics and Africa. And, since we’re speaking podcasts, if you’ve got some spare listening time, you might like, Joshua Angrist valiantly defending empiricism in economics, David Skarbek on the complicated game-theoretic world of prison gangs and Joshua Green trying to fashion political philosophy from human psychology.

Finally, Madeline Ostrander of The New Yorker looks at research recent on the effects of living in poverty on the developing brain. The findings help to elucidate some of the physiological pathways that lead from exposure to extreme stresses commonly experienced by those living in conditions of poverty (‘overcrowding, noise, substandard housing, separation from parent(s), exposure to violence, family turmoil’) to long-term cognitive and behavioural outcomes. Importantly, even though the physiological processes are experienced individually, their root causes are located in (and so can be changed by) the broader social environment.

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Camilla Burkot

Camilla Burkot was a Research Officer at the Development Policy Centre, and Editor of the Devpolicy Blog, from 2015 to 2017. She has a background in social anthropology and holds a Master of Public Health from Columbia University, and has field experience in Eastern and Southern Africa, and PNG. She now works for the Burnet Institute.

Terence Wood

Terence Wood is a research fellow at the Development Policy Centre. His research focuses on political governance in Western Melanesia, and Australian and New Zealand aid.

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