WWP: When a (new) house is not a home

Ever since I found out about Delhi's housing lottery, I've been trying to find a clever way to use its built-in randomization to learn about something interesting. My advisor, who already thinks I'm working on too many projects, will be happy to learn that someone has beat me to it. A really interesting new working paper from Sharon Barnhardt, Erica Field, and Rohini Pande looks at what happened to housing lottery winners in Ahmedabad, Gujarat (not Delhi, but same idea). They do some impressive data collection to follow up with the lottery winners and losers, and find a surprisingly low program take-up - only 66% of lottery winners actually moved in to their new housing development. They also find essentially no difference in human capital attainment and wages between the winners and the losers, and suggest that social ties are important contributors to the low observed benefits from being a lottery winner.

They describe it better than I do, so I'll let their abstract speak for itself:

A housing lottery in an Indian city provided winning slum dwellers the opportunity to move into improved housing on the city’s periphery. Fourteen years later, relative to lottery losers, winners report improved housing farther from the city center, but no change in family income or human capital. Winners also report increased isolation from family and caste networks and lower access to informal insurance. We observe significant program exit: 34% of winners never moved into the subsidized housing and 32% eventually exited. Our results point to the importance of considering social networks when designing housing programs for the poor.

Go take a look at this important paper! (One of these days I'll have a WWP edition that's not focused on an NBER paper - but this one was too good to pass up.)

As an aside, fortuitous timing or good strategy? The NBER also just put out a new working paper on the long-term benefits of deworming, from Sarah Baird, Joan Hamory Hicks, Michael Kremer, and Ted Miguel. (Spoiler alert: deworming leads to long-run increases in education, less subsistence agriculture in favor of cash crops and small businesses, and more work.)

Make science, not (worm) wars

Make science, not (worm) wars

I have no interest in opening the can of - well, you know - that has taken the development economics twitterverse by storm this week. Without getting into the relative merits of the original study and the replication, though, I think there are lessons that the social science community can and should take away. There's a lot going on here - many of these sub-sections will likely be the topics of further posts, but this is a nice setting to discuss all of them together. More on the scientific method, replications, re-analysis, fixing problems, and science in the media after the break.

Read More