Dean Karlan


Are second hand clothes actually a problem in Haiti? | 

Haitian youth wearing pepe.
Haitian youth wearing pepe.
Paolo Woods

I noted an article yesterday that made the case that second hand clothes are flooding Haitian markets and damaging small businesses.

The twist in the story is that the influx of used clothes is in some part linked to the rise of clothing production in Haiti for consumers in the United States and elsewhere. The clothes that some Haitians are producing for people in other countries are hurting local tailors.

The article took a critical view of the sale of secondhand clothes. Another article published earlier this month sees things differently.

Reporter Tate Watkins writes in Medium about his personal journey from being a critic of the trade of used clothes, known as pepe (pè-pè) in Haiti, to a supporter. He argues that Haitians like the clothing, based on his discussions with people in Haiti. Further, the ability to purchase higher quality clothing and brand names at extremely low prices is advantageous to Haitian consumers. Continue reading

Easterly-GiveWell Debate Is Good for Aid | 

An interesting conversation took place in mid-July between Bill Easterly of NYU; Holden Karnofsky and Stephanie Wykstra of GiveWell; and an unnamed funder. Easterly and Karnofsky penned a pair of blog posts that shared some of the highlights of the conversation. It is interesting in terms of how the two sides perceived the conversation in light of their disagreement on whether or not to make recommendations based on academic research.

Easterly, who has emerged as one of the critics of the much lauded randomized control trial (RCT) explains his point of view at the start of the conversation.

As Angus Deaton has repeatedly emphasized, RCTs give an average result. Treatment effects vary a lot depending on the context. When we average over a lot of them it’s almost certain that we’re getting some negative treatment effects, even when the average is a positive and significant result. You want a safeguard against having one enormous beneficiary with everyone else losing. You want a safeguard against harming a lot of people unacceptably. Continue reading

Global Washington: What do we mean by development? | 

On the first day of Global Washington‘s annual meeting, being held through Tuesday on the Microsoft campus, one of the primary challenges facing many participants is “development.”

The word, that is — what it means and how to know if you’re actually doing it.

“It has a lot of different meanings depending on who you’re talking to,” said Bill Clapp, a co-founder of Global Washington and one of the region’s leading philanthropists especially active in the anti-poverty strategy known as microfinance.

(Microfinance has also had a bit of an identity crisis as an anti-poverty scheme lately. Some, like the Grameen Foundation, are trying to set standards for measuring social impact.)

“What we mean by development is social development,” said Clapp. By that, he means they are focused on the kind of development that actually improves the health and welfare of people. Continue reading