Via MarginalRevolution’s assorted links and others, a short BBC article about a pilot project in Finland on universal, basic income. Economist Ohto Kanninen, coincidentally a fellow student of mine from graduate school, describes the project:
The prime minister has expressed support for a limited, geographical experiment. Participants would be selected from a variety of residential areas.
Mr Kanninen proposes testing the idea by paying 8,000 people from low income groups four different monthly amounts, perhaps from €400 to €700.
They also have the Prime Minister on board:
Prime Minister Juha Sipila has praised the idea. “For me, a basic income means simplifying the social security system,” he said.
This sounds really exciting, and I cannot wait to see the working paper.
Chetty, Saez and Sandor have experimented on the referees of the Journal of Public Economics. They find that somewhat unsurprisingly that shorter deadlines, cash incentives and social incentives make referees faster. Further, cash does not crowd out intrinsic motivation, report quality is unaffected, and spillovers on other referee activites are small or nonexistent. They do note that “[O]f course, referees must forego or postpone some activity to prioritize submitting referee reports. The social welfare impacts of our treatments depend on what activities get displaced.” To the extent that it is just procrastination that is crowded out, the conclusions could be even more positive.
Chris Blattman rants against the resistance to trying to estimate cost-effectiveness that he has encountered in the aid world. One thing he writes about is the “we do not experiment on people” argument (counter: there are always some who gets the stuff and some who do not).
Another expression of reluctance to measurement that I have encountered is: “We understand that we should be held accountable to donors, but why the need for such tight control? Don’t they trust us?” But this gets wrong the rationale for measuring, which primarily is to learn about the effects of what we do in order to do it better. Even if you are not accountable to anyone, measurement may help you learn what you do best and to improve.