The Abdul Latif Jameet Poverty Action Lab has a new list of “best buys” to reach the MDGs out. The suggested interventions are mostly intuitive and reasonable: providing free bednets, deworming, basic education, and empowering women using political quotas.
In the past few years, J-PAL has drastically altered the way we validate our policies, mainly by raising the bar of empirical skepticism. However, I question the specific-to-general recommendations they are making: while each individual study is rigorous and convincing, there is an implicit assumption being made here that what works in a few isolated settings will work in every setting.
Statements like “time-limited offers to purchase fertilizers in the harvesting season, with free delivery in the planting season, can massively increase uptake and usage of fertilizers,” should have qualifiers like “in Western Kenya” added to them.