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RS 175 - Chris Blattman on "Do sweatshops reduce poverty?"

Release date: January 8th, 2017

Chris Blattman

This episode explores the economics and ethics of low-paying factories (which some might call "sweatshops") in Ethiopia. Do they make their workers better off, relative to those people's outside options? Professor Chris Blattman has run some well-designed randomized controlled trials exploring this question, and he discusses what surprised him and how he's updated his views from his research. Julia and Chris also discuss an innovative program to reduce crime in Liberia using cognitive behavioral therapy.

Chris's Paper: "Occupational Choice in Early Industrializing Societies: Experimental Evidence on the Income and Health Effects of Industrial and Entrepreneurial Work"

Chris's Blog Post: "Books development economists and aid workers seldom read but should?"

Chris's Pick #1: "The Anti-Politics Machine" by James Ferguson

Chris's Pick #2: "Seeing like a State" by James Scott

Chris's Pick #3: "The Art of Not Being Governed" by James Scott

Podcast edited by Brent Silk


Full Transcripts 

Reader Comments (6)

What a relief, I was wondering when you're gonna be back. Very rational 2017 to you, Julia!
January 9, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterZoran
This episode was right in my ballpark, all books added to my reading list!
January 9, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterh
The True Cost
January 18, 2017 | Unregistered Commenteranon.
On my first hearing, I was a bit bothered with the ethical implications of the methodology, particularly the random hiring of job applicants. I imagined myself as a job applicant that had prepared for the job interview and had much riding on getting the job only to find out at the interview that the selection was being done by lottery. That was not pleasant. I was surprised that you did not question him about it during the podcast.

When I checked the original paper my concerns were assuaged a bit. The usual practice of hiring was ad hoc and typically done on a first come first serve basis. Most able-bodied people had the necessary skill sets to perform and hence there was no great incentive for screening. Still, it does not state whether they informed the applicants that they were being selected randomly rather than the usual first come first serve basis, which itself requires marginally more effort. Imagine losing your place in the line to get a new game console or to board on a place, for instance. Although the participants were informed about the study after they were selected.

In the end, another interesting podcast as usual. Also very useful picks. Thank you.
January 20, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSajal Sthapit
Perhaps we need to make contraception and education more available, particularly to the poor women. 15% annual inflation indicates some serious financial mismanagement by the government. The fact that cash grants worked well proves that private entrepreneurial capitalism outperforms socialist policies.

Globalization and Automation will continue no matter how many nationalists oppose them.
December 6, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJameson
I think the correlation between Income and Crime is much more about the type of Opportunities, Resources one has available to them than about how much Income they have at their disposal. So really it depends a lot on the Social Infrastructure and Economic Conditions around them that will have the most meaningful impact in the way react in these type of circumstances.
August 20, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterErnest

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