188 karmaJoined Jul 2020


Working as a Research Assistant at the International Monetary Fund. DC-based. I like talking about economics, trade, development, and DEI.


Answer by geoffreyMay 31, 202330

I've found a lot of professional overlap between groups focused on global health and groups focused on LMIC growth (low-and-middle-income country growth). Each group tends to be the biggest audience and best critic of the other approach.

I'm not sure if breaking out the topic would incentivize more attention of LMIC growth, but I do worry we'd lose some interesting discussion.


Answer by geoffreyApr 28, 2023122

Try "managing up" with a simple text document during meetings.

I'm the main contributor on a project with a light management layer. The autonomy' s nice. But it's given a lot of space for stakeholders to spend check-ins talking about their long term wish list (which is fun for them) while avoiding the prioritization I need them to do. 

Recently, I started bringing a text document into check-ins on my understanding on what the priorities, editing it as the meeting goes, and assigning items as (In progress), (todo), or (nice-to-have). It's Kanban in spirit but without the overhead of actually running Trello / Jira/ Notion.

Here's some extra (low confidence) info regarding financial aid:

Some programs will have a link on their website where you can talk to a program coordinator or admissions officer. Talking to this person before you apply and forming a good impression may help you secure a much nicer financial aid package when you get accepted. This varies by school and it's luck-of-the-draw whether you hit it off with someone. Generally, you should be genuine and approach the meeting with curiosity over topics like when certain faculty teach. But that person may have info on how to best negotiate financial aid or they may even be able to champion the financial aid package for you internally.

Diversity-based aid is extremely rare and I don't know anyone who's personally gotten it. But I think if you have a especially rough hardship story or rare background for your field (the kind that warrants a local newspaper article or university profile) AND you're a good student, you're likely to get some money for that. 

Finally, if you're price-sensitive and willing to take some risk, newer Master's programs and/or lower-tier programs tend to offer generous packages because they're trying to establish their brands. I wouldn't recommend this, but if you just want the credential, this does get you through at a lower price. Or if you know and trust one of the program coordinators / faculty personally, maybe you could take a risk at a newer program.

Hi Caspar, 

Thanks for the response. On second thought, my objection might be different than what I initially suggested. I do think the test of overlap of scales as you mentioned would be an interesting test to run, but it doesn't seem to be capturing the overlap I ultimately care about.

Maybe this comment can captures my complaint better. We don't have any access to what "the most/least satisfied that any human could possibly be". We don't even have access to "the most/least satisfied you personally think you could become". 

As a personal example, I would take most of my worst post-therapy days over most of my best pre-therapy days. Younger me has no access to realizing how much satisfied I could be with life, or even how broadly people are in general.

I might be using the language wrong, but I think I'm hinting at differences in the latent scale of well-being or satisfaction... which doesn't feel like it's knowable.

I enjoyed this a lot. I've been meaning to delve into well-being measurement and this was a nice entry-point into the field. 

One thing I'm not clear on is whether vignette anchors (or any of the comparability methods) can correct for non-overlapping well-being scales. You talked about an example like this:

But I'm more interested in examples like this:

Measuring these larger SWB (subjective well-being) differences seems crucial for detecting interpersonal differences across societies and picking up on how intense pain / pleasure can be at the long tails. The non-overlap area seems like it can get extremely big.

Hi Niki, glad to hear it helped. Here's some more thoughts. Can't promise they're any good.

Yes, I agree the consumption smoothing point is critical. I could have worded my answer a bit better. What I meant to say is that rural households are good at trying to smooth consumption given their situation. That can still be a low overall ability given how sporadic income can be. The crux, I suppose, is whether we trust the households to smooth their own consumption or if  we should make the decision for them. If we think the households are better able to make the decision, we send the transfer now. If we think they're worse (perhaps for lack of willpower reasons), then we delay.

From the dataset I linked you, it's tough to decompose the idiosyncratic shock from just family-level income / consumption / wealth data. You'd want to correct for village-level shocks and seasonality and so on. I believe it's do-able but noisy. And it's usually cleaner to simply ask the families whether they suffered from X adverse event in the past 12 months (which the India Human Development Survey does ask).

To do this more cleanly, you'd want a dataset that interviews each family multiple times in a single year. Then you could see the variability in income / consumption / wealth over time per family.

I'm not familiar with how GiveDirectly does their operations, but I'd be surprised if the communication was frequent enough that GiveDirectly staff could observe and react to every family illness in real-time. 

On systemic shocks, you might be right. I was envisioning a bad natural disaster where the logistics of shipping more food out to villages is temporarily clogged up. But perhaps NGOs are more crafty that I think.

Answer by geoffreyMar 16, 202330

(Some quick thoughts hastily written based off some class papers I wrote a while back.)

One dataset that pops to mind is the India Human Development Survey. This is a rich household-level dataset that includes total household monthly income (disaggregated by source) and if I recall right, also tells you what month it is. These are time-intensive to work with, but I imagine a few others datasets like this exist in the world. And you can estimate "income" per month with them.

My guess is you'll get obvious insights from this, like income dropping during cold / dry seasons in more agricultural-dependent villages.

That said, my gut feeling with the policy question is that sending cash transfers sooner is better. A few reasons:

  • The book Portfolios of the Poor suggests rural households, especially poor ones, are good at managing their own finances and spreading out their resources over time (or consumption smoothing as economists call it). 
  • Household debt (not captured in income) may accumulate interest, and interest rates can be exorbitantly high.
  • Idiosyncratic shocks (like a family illness) are hard to surveil and predict from afar. So it's hard to implement strategic delays
  • Extreme systemic shocks like very harsh droughts / floods may temporarily constrain food / fuel supply reducing effectiveness of cash transfers at that time.
  • Households may want to stock up on durable foods like grains or oils ahead of time
  • Counterintuitively, giving money while households have high-income may push them over a wealth-threshold that lets them make durable investments (roofs, goats, farm equipment). This may be welfare-enhancing in the long run. I think this goes by the "lump-sum" effect in the cash transfers literature. 

Hope this helps. Happy to chat about this more.


This is great stuff. I appreciate you posting some initial results quickly, being careful about what claims you can make right now, signposting what you'll investigate later, and being explicit about what updates you've made.

I'll also echo Lily's comment about dis-aggregating POC. I'd be interested to see POCs breakdown between countries / regions of the world. For example, being a Chinese-American and being a Chinese national are different things.


Noted! Sorry for the misinterpretation.

One concrete idea could be an article centered on "class migrants". Perhaps it could be similar to the format of the anonymous interview series, or it could be like the imposter syndrome article where there's one personal profile and a few mini-profiles attached.

Partly, this is to help people feel less alone. But also, I think the strategy for developing your career differs based on where you're starting. Even between colleges, there's variation.

Beyond that, I'm not sure. I get that 80k's target audience is different from me and messaging is hard. So I'm hesitant to recommend huge strategic changes in content.

I never felt excluded either.  And 80k does a lot of things right on this front. The messages of ambition and "here's some broken stuff why don't you go fix it" are good and certainly have pushed me to do things I wouldn't have done otherwise. I genuinely feel people from underprivileged backgrounds need to hear more of it and I try to promote them as much as I can.

>I just had to discount or not read any sections that talked about status, top universities, etc., kind of assumed I'd have to write my own theory of change and have a thick skin about not always being taken seriously.

I think this is where our experiences diverge. I also discounted these sections... by charging straight ahead into applying for my dream jobs and thinking I had the similar chances to Ivy League graduates. But (1) college brand name does matter if comparing two people with no experience, (2) the Ivy League graduate probably had more opportunities, networks and internships than me, and (3) many of my dream jobs were magnitudes more competitive than I initially thought.

Maybe 80k advice worked too well and I flew too close to the sun? I don't know. Messaging is tricky.

>I'd be more excited about 80k targeting the frustration people older than 25 or 35 have with 80k, that seems more useful than thinking deeply about class.

Agreed. To be clear, I'm not endorsing thinking deeply about class. The "business case" for class diversity doesn't seem great to me. But I saw "demographic diversity" mentioned in the original post and I was wondering if class was included in that.

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