Data, Decisions, Public Policy Lecture Series

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The D2P2: Data, Decisions, Public Policy lectures feature leading academics and other experts who share knowledge derived from modern applied economics research to demonstrate how it can inform better public policy decision-making. Speakers will discuss their groundbreaking research and practice and how it can be applied to improve people’s lives.

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Upcoming Events

Paul Niehaus headshot

Giving money away to people living in extreme poverty
Paul Niehaus, Associate Professor of Economics at the University of California, San Diego
Thursday, April 25 | 12:00PM – 1:00PM ET
MIT Building E51, Room 325 and broadcast live on this page

Billions of dollars are spent every year on foreign aid and charitable contributions. People living in extreme poverty decide how approximately none of this money is spent. Instead, donors make decisions, which may or may not align with what people want or need.

On April 25, Paul Niehaus, associate professor of economics at the University of California, San Diego, will lead J-PAL’s next Data, Decisions, Public Policy talk at MIT. Paul’s lecture will discuss an approach that is challenging the conventional approach to aid: giving money directly to the poor. He will explore questions such as: If we gave more money directly, what would happen to the people who receive it and the communities in which they live? Is providing a “basic income” the best way to help people living in extreme poverty?

In addition to his faculty position at the University of California, San Diego, Paul is an affiliate at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), the Bureau for Research and Economic Analysis of Development (BREAD), the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), and the Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA). Paul is also a co-founder of GiveDirectly and of Segovia Technology Co. He holds a PhD in economics from Harvard University. In 2013, Foreign Policy named Paul Niehaus one of its “Top 100 Leading Global Thinkers.”

Roberto Rigobon headshot

Venezuela: How did we get here, and what’s next?
Roberto Rigobon, Society of Sloan Fellows Professor of Management and Professor of Applied Economics at the MIT Sloan School of Management
Tuesday, May 14 | 3:00PM – 4:00PM ET
MIT Building 3, Room 270 and broadcast live on this page

The third constitution—ever—was written in Venezuela. Additionally, use of the term “social security” as a responsibility of the state was first introduced in Venezuela in 1818. Between 1945 and 1965, Venezuela had the second fastest growth rate in per capita GDP (after Japan), the second lowest inflation rate (after Germany), and the lowest interest rate, not to mention good weather (which clearly defines paradise). So what happened?

On May 14, Professor Roberto Rigobon of MIT Sloan will deliver the next talk in J-PAL’s Data, Decisions, Public Policy (D2P2) lecture series. Roberto will speak about the modern history of Venezuela, starting from when the country had little oil all to way up to the turmoil of today. He will discuss the current humanitarian crisis and possible alternatives moving forward.

Roberto Rigobon is the Society of Sloan Fellows Professor of Management and Professor of Applied Economics at the MIT Sloan School of Management. He is a Venezuelan economist with research interests in international economics, monetary economics, and development economics. His work focuses on the causes of balance-of-payments crises, financial crises, and the propagation of them across countries—the phenomenon that has been identified in the literature as contagion. He is one of the two founding members of the Billion Prices Project and a co-founder of PriceStats. Roberto is a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, a member of the Census Bureau’s Scientific Advisory Committee, and a visiting professor at IESA School of Management in Venezuela.

Past Events

A Big Data Revolution in Assessing Climate Risk
Michael Greenstone | Thursday, October 11, 2018

Climate change is one of the greatest risks facing humanity. However, most of what we know about its economic impacts come from models that were developed before the modern empirical literature on climate impacts emerged. This new literature has been made possible by recent advances in remote sensing, climate models, and computing power. Read more >

Making Donor Dollars Count: GiveWell's Approach to Selecting Charities
Elie Hassenfeld | Wednesday, April 4, 2018

FileElie Hassenfeld: Making Donor Dollars Count

As a nonprofit that conducts in-depth research to determine how much good a given program accomplishes (e.g. lives improved) per dollar spent, GiveWell is dedicated to identifying outstanding giving opportunities and publishing the full details of their analysis to help donors decide where to give. Read more >

Design and Effectiveness of Public Health Subsidies in Less Developed Countries
Pascaline Dupas | Friday, December 8, 2017 FilePascaline Dupas: Design and Effectiveness of Public Health Subsidies in Less Developed Countries

Although coverage rates and health outcomes are improving, many poor people around the world still do not benefit from essential health products. An estimated two-thirds of child deaths could be prevented with increased coverage of products such as vaccines, point-of-use water treatment, iron fortification, and insecticide-treated bednets. On December 8, 2017, Co-Chair of J-PAL's Health sector Pascaline Dupas examined what factors limit the flow of products from the producer’s laboratory bench to the end users, and what can be done about the issue. Read more >

Coming Apart? Lives of the Rich and Poor Over Time in the United States
Marianne Bertrand | Thursday, September 28, 2017FileMarianne Bertrand: Coming Apart? Lives of the Rich and Poor Over Time in the United States

Income inequality in the United States has increased consistently since the 1980s, but has this growing economic gap led to larger cultural distance between the rich and poor? On September 28, 2017, Co-Chair of J-PAL's Labor Markets sector Marianne Bertrand discussed how the lives and attitudes of the rich and poor have diverged from the 1960s to the 2010s, using results from a machine learning algorithm. Read more >

The China Shock: Economic and Political Consequences of China’s Rise for the United States
David Autor | Thursday, May 18, 2017FileDavid Autor: The China Shock

China’s rise as an economic power has significantly shifted the patterns of world trade and challenged existing empirical research about how labor markets react to trade shocks. On Thursday, May 18, 2017, J-PAL affiliate David Autor (MIT) presented a lecture on “The China Shock: Economic and Political Consequences of China’s Rise for the United States.” In this talk, part of J-PAL and MIT’s Department of Economics’ joint lecture series, David discussed the impacts of Chinese growth on US consumers, labor markets, and inequality. Read more >

Demonetizing India: What, Why, and Where Now
Abhijit Banerjee | Thursday, April 13, 2017

FileAbhijit Banerjee: Demonetizing India

On November 8, 2016, the Government of India announced that all 500 and 1,000 rupee notes would no longer be legal tender. This decision to demonetize is one of the most unusual policy experiments carried out in recent times anywhere in the world. In this installment of the Data. Decisions. Public Policy. lecture series, Abhijit Banerjee (MIT) discussed the economics and politics behind this move, partly based on recent field research in India. Read more >

The Science (and Pseudoscience) of Winning Elections
Donald Green | Wednesday, November 2, 2016

FileDonald Green: The Science (and Pseudoscience) of Elections

In the lead-up to the US presidential election, the third lecture of the D²P²: Data. Decisions. Public Policy. series featured J-PAL affiliated professor Donald Green (Columbia) speaking on “The Science (and Pseudoscience) of Winning Elections." The light-hearted lecture discussed how randomized evaluations have transformed the way political campaigns operate, from the design of mailers to organizing election day parties. Read more >

Measurement for Action
Rukmini Banerji | Monday, September 19, 2016

FileJ-PAL-MIT Economics Lecture Series: Rukmini Banerji

For the second Data. Decisions. Public Policy. lecture, Dr. Rukmini Banerji (CEO of Pratham) spoke about “Measurement for Action.”  The lecture showcases Dr. Banerji’s work with the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) and how the massive citizen-led assessment of children’s learning has led to a national debate and changed public priorities in India. Read more >

The Psychological Lives of the Poor
Sendhil Mullainathan | Monday, May 2, 2016

FileJ-PAL-MIT Economics Lecture Series: Sendhil Mullainathan

The D2P2 Lecture Series launched with an inaugural talk by Sendhil Mullainathan titled, “The Psychological Lives of the Poor.” This lecture showcases a new way of understanding why the poor stay poor and the busy stay busy, and it reveals not only how scarcity leads us astray but also how individuals and organizations can better manage scarcity for greater satisfaction and success. Sendhil Mullainathan is a professor of economics at Harvard University and co-author of Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much. For further reading on the topic, see his co-authored paper "The Psychological Lives of the Poor." Read more >