Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas!
For the occassion a lovely song (ht my little brother):

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Not Random Links.

  1. A very interesting read: "Broaden Your Horizons by Randomizing Your Reading Material" (h/t Ali). Since reading "The Diceman" by George Cockcroft (on the right below "BOOKS THAT MADE AN IMPACT ON ME") I have a random number generator on my phone that is normally used to select what to eat from a menu. And, now I'm here in the Netherlands, whether I should go to University by bike or foot (the latter is more healthy, but takes 15 minutes longer).
  2. Pics from the WGAPE meeting last May at UC Berkeley.
  3. The movie "Stealing Africa" on Dutch TV: info here. Why Zambia doesn't profit from higher prices of copper. Answer: the big foreign companies earn the money and avoid paying tax in Zambia. (h/t Maarten)
  4. This is brilliant. A randomly generated math paper was accepted to the "Advances in Pure Mathematics". Read also the reviews by the referees: a.o. "We can’t catch the main thought from this abstract." Duh!
  5. Interesting read about the administor-faculty ratio at universities. Mmm. Maybe I should become an administrator. They also seem to earn more. (h/t Jenn)
  6. Interesting post on iRevolution on the use of email data to estimate international migration rates. See also this for very interesting work done by Blumenstock in Rwanda by making use of cellphones.  

Monday, November 26, 2012

BBC's "Masters of Money": Keynes, Hayek, Marx.

Presented by Stephanie Flanders (BBC's economics editor), "Masters of Money" is a 2012 three-episode BBC documentary about Keynes, Hayek, and Marx (each their own episode). It's quite good (h/t Carlos):

The first episode about John Maynard Keynes:

Saturday, November 24, 2012

As events are unfolding in and around Goma.

A blog about the Congo, and mainly about my experiences in Eastern Congo, and I still haven't written about the current events taking place in and around Goma. Well, there are people reporting about this in a much more informed and better way than I could ever do. Please follow among others @texasinafrica; @jasonkstearns; @kvlassen; and @schlindweinsim on Twitter about how events are unfolding.

Today yet another expat friend safely arrived in Bujumbura. I'm happy about that. Unfortunately, my Congolese enumerators, many of them I now consider friends, are still in the area. Yesterday one of them uploaded the picture and text below on Facebook:

"Merci de prier pour la fin de la guerre en Rd Congo. Pensez à tous ces enfants abandonnées, sans parents ... Clique J'aime et écris ta prière en faveur de ce pays au coeur de l'Afrique. Que Dieu vienne en aide mon pays la RD Congo !!!"

With some of them (both Goma and Bukavu) I'm in almost daily contact and they're doing ok. I don't belief much in praying as the quote wants us to do, but I do hope that: 1) President Kagama has told and keeps on telling the M23 to "behave", and that 2) the FARDC and others do not go on pillage (and worse) sprees.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

And how long is your… survey?

When waiting for my plane at JFK last Monday, I was asked to fill out a survey. The US Department of Transport (DOT) wanted to know about the behavior of travelers in order to improve JFK airport. Good initiative, but how useful is a survey like this? It's not random at all! Most people said 'no' when the surveyor asked people to fill out the questionnaire. I said 'yes', but only because I'm doing survey work myself and felt for the surveyor. Let's say that the population consists out of 1% friendly people, and that only friendly people (and the rare confused grad-student) say 'yes' to a survey. Let's say that in this world only friendly people like candy-machines, and that that is what they suggest in the survey as an improvement to the airport. The DOT will thus conclude that "100% of people surveyed want candy-machines" and will spend a lot of money to build candy-machines at JFK. But they’ll build 90% too many of them! It’s a bit stupid example, but you see the point. One needs a proper random sample, and just asking people on the fly is really not doing that.
But there is another problem. When I was about 2 minutes into the survey I was no longer interested and, to be very honest, didn't really read more than half of the question before answering. My answers were probably off several times. Now I'm probably particularly quick to lose interest in things, but what does this say about the quality of answers to, for example, lengthy surveys we conduct in Africa for research?

It's our enumerator sitting comfy in that chair. :)

The DOT survey (at least that’s what was written on the front page) takes around 15 minutes. The survey we conducted in the Congo between 2010-2011 with around 10,000 households, took on average two hours! The design can be found here. Now, of course, I'm a particularly impatient person (much more than any African villager I have met). Moreover, our enumerators sit down with the respondents and ask the questions to them instead of the respondent filling out the survey alone. But still, two hours on average per survey cannot do the quality of replies much good.

Of course this was not the first time we thought about this. Two years ago, when creating the design documents, we were very well aware of this potential problem. As a result, we implemented the survey with two variations to learn about this:
  1. Random ordering of questions: The first variation was the random ordering of a set of questions. That is, half of the surveys (randomly selected) had sections ordered as X Y Z, and another half of the surveys had the order: X Z Y. 
  2. Mandatory break: Second, in half of the surveys (randomly selected) we instituted a mandatory break. We were able to do this because we did not make use of hardcopy surveys, but PDAs. We had programmed the PDA in such a way that at a certain point it would say “Now take a 30 minutes break”, and the PDA would be blocked for 30 minutes. The idea here is that after taking a break the person being interviewed (and the surveyor) would start fresh again improving the quality of the responses. 
Needless to say we added several trick questions to the surveys in order to measure whether people answered carefully. By doing so we can now learn whether the length of the survey is important.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Wageningen University: Here I come.

After a cancelled flight last week due to Hurricane Sandy, I'm currently at Heathrow waiting for my flight to Amsterdam. Destination: the Development Economics Group (DEG) at Wageningen University and Research, where I will be a pre-doctoral researcher during November and December.

I look much forward for two reasons. First, I'll by away from all the districtations in New York. While I have several papers up and running, the most important one (the jobmarket paper) still has to be written. I have many ideas but have not yet had the time to sit down and write it. Second, I expect the DEG a really good place to be. There are a set of researchers doing very interesting work on the political economy of development (impact evaluations, lab-in-the-field-experiments), and I look forward working together. As a start: I'm presenting tomorrow at their seminar.

Friday, October 26, 2012


Blogging has been slow. I leave this Wednesday for two months to the Netherlands (to Wageningen University) and have been working hard to get things finished before, and have a bit of a social life. As an "I'm-sorry-that-I-haven't-blogged-in-a-while" hereby a picture that I'm sure will make you happy for the rest of the day: 
(ht to my little brotter)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Vampire Squid From Hell.

Was reading the magazine NewScientist yesterday and there was a short article about the Vampyroteuthis Infernalis, literally "Vampire Squid from Hell". They look like this:

The Vampire Squids from Hell use their thin, rectractable filaments like a fishing line, letting them drift and... collect bits of waste. These guys "munch on any dead plankton, crustacean remains and faecal matter that happens to pass by, making them the only cephalopod not to hunt living prey." Well. That's a bit disappointing given their impressive name and appearance. [1]

In the same issue NewScientist reports research by Kyung Jin Min and colleagues (recently published in Current Biology) that finds how "Eunuchs had an average lifespan of 70-years -- 17 years longer than their non-castrated contemporaries". One theory is that "... testosterone-fuelled reproduction comes at a price. When testosterone is lacking, the body shifts amino acids useful for cell proliferation to cellular defence." Mmm. Given I'm a social scientist, what about this one: Women make men do self-destructive things in order to have sex.

[1] From recently published research in Proceedings of the Royal Society by Henk-Jan Hoving.

Monday, October 15, 2012

What to write in your acknowledgements or preface?

In the last few days I've read several articles by Oded Stark who does very interesting work on (among others) migration. Some of his most interesting articles were written in a time when not only the research's identification strategy was important, but also the idea (these days the balance seems to shift sometimes too much to the first). And interesting research was very much put forward in the 80s and 90s by some of my favorite authors: Oded Stark (economics), Mark Rosenzweig (economics), James Scott (polisci and anthropology), and the like. A bit like some of my current day favorite authors: Herbert Gintis, Samual Bowles, and the like.

In the acknowledgements of his 1985 paper "Motivations to Remit: Evidence from Botswana" with Robert Lucas in the Journal of Political Economy, Oded Stark writes:
“Since this is a joint product, the authors would like to blame each other for all remaining errors.”

And yesterday I started (re-)reading James Scott's 1976 "The Moral Economy of the Peasant: Rebellion and Subsistence in Southeast Asia". A must-read (together with all his other books) for those working in the developing world. In the preface he writes:
"At this point in the standard preface it is customary for the author to claim total responsibility for error and wrongheadedness and to absolve others of blame. I am not so sure I want to do that. While I am happy to stand or fall with what I have written, it is also clear that I have learned so much from so many scholars that a great many of us are implicated in this enterprise. If it should turn out that I am on the wrong track, I suspect that many of them are on the same errant train with me!  
I wish also to report that my wife and children, who have their own scholarly and other concerns, had virtually nothing to do with this volume. They were not particularly understanding or helpful when it came to research and writing but called me away as often as possible to the many pleasures of life in common. May it always remain so."

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Peter the pessimistic 'Expert'.

The presentation last week (see previous post) went well and the days have been busy since. The main goal for upcoming weeks is to get words on paper. That is, write my dissertation. But, of course, more than that happened last week: among others me being an 'expert' for a SIPA course. This was quite fun.

Students of Columbia's Master "MPA in Development Practices" have to do an assignment in which they have to "apply the concepts and tools from the readings, as well as the class discussions and practical exercises, in order to produce a coherent, well justified design for a country-specific development program." This they then have to present to a panel of four experts who give comments. In addition to three real experts (a professor from SIPA, a professor from the National War College, and the chair of the Millennium Promise), I sat in as well.

A total of four projects were presented, each by a group of 6 SIPA students. Each group received a problem and several (hypothetical) millions of dollar. And each group then had to design a development program (+- 40 pages each) to solve one of the following problems, in brief:
  1. Youth unemployment in Tunisia;
  2. Low levels of agricultural productivity in Haiti's northern corridor;
  3. Slow recovery of Sri Lanka's eastern province;
  4. Provincial malnutrion in Mozambique.
Needless to say I know little about Tunisia, Haiti and Sri Lanka, and only a bit more about Mozambique because of my dissertation's Africa focus, and found myself using what I learned from old development economics courses. Of course I also made some remarks regarding evaluations, cellphones and surveys, which is much closer to my current work. Of the four people in the panel I was probably most pessimistic, though. There were three major points that I emphasized:
  1. Incentives: All four presentation expected complete government buy-in and participation. I emphasized that they should not take this for granted. While outsiders might have the best of the project in mind, bureacrats or local government officials might not. The latter's incentives might be different: they might see a development project as a way to get a new car or some extra money to buy a television. They might also not been paid for months and very unwilling to take on extra work.
  2. Local capacity: All four projects involved new, additional management structures and the need for local capacity. The to-be-created management structures were to be embedded in ministries. Some others structures would be cross-ministry with bureaucrats from different departments sitting in. All projects, of course, were directly reporting to the prime-minister or president. This held even for the 'small' projects; say $10 million. Important is to keep in mind that each of these projects will join another several hundred (if not thousand) projects that already take place in the country: there are so many World Bank projects, each developed country has a large set of development agencies and NGOs, etc. All of these projects want to put management layers like this in place -- often burdening developing countries' governments that are underfunded and do not have enough staff in the first place.
  3. Tradition: Each of the four projects would spend a lot of time and money on trainings, workshops, etc. For example, to decrease corruption in Tunisia it was suggested to have a set of information meetings to discuss ways to increase transparency. Or to increase productivity in Haiti it was suggested to hold meetings with farmers and tell them about new farming techniques and seeds. I pushed back on this a lot for two reasons. First, these issues (corruption, gender, farming, etc.) do not change from one day to the next. Farming, to give one example, is based on centuries of tradition. They are often the result of structural issues and do not change due to a workshop. Using one type of seed might not depend on output but risk (i.e. decreasing variability in output). Second, who are we to come in and say "you do X, that's wrong, do Y". I have been working in Congo for the last 4-5 years and still do not know the place. We do not know a country after reading 2 or 3 books about it. I really think that we -- us young-dog but well-meaning Westerners -- have to be more humble.
Was I too pessimistic. Maybe. Maybe not. It is important to mention them I think, though. SIPA students go on to be the world's leaders and while these were hypothetical cases, several of these students will definitely be spending 10s if not 100s of millions of dollars for developing projects in the very near future.

Monday, October 1, 2012

"Characterizing Migrant Integration" at Columbia.

This Wednesday (October 3) I present the paper "Characterizing Migrant Immigration: An Analysis of Pro-Social Behaviors in the Congo" at the Comparative Politics Seminar -- jointly sponsored by Columbia's Department of Political Science and the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy (ISERP). This is joint work with Neelanjan Sircar and is work in progress. Chris Blattman agreed to be the discussant. So it is a good Seminar and a good Discussant, now let's hope the paper is up to standard! A preliminary abstract: 

In this paper we seek to learn how migrant populations integrate into new communities. We do so through an analysis of pro-social behaviors -- benevolence and reciprocity -- between natives and migrants in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We design a novel set of dictator games that takes into account the dyadic and network aspects of pro-social behavior, which allows us to retrieve empirically robust estimates of migrant integration.

Feel free to join! Lunch and refreshments will be served at 12:15 and the seminar will run from 12:30 until 2:00. It takes place in the Lindsay Rogers room (Room 707), International Affairs Building at Columbia University.


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Crowdseeding also in Sweden.

Am happy to see that "crowdseeding" is picked up as a strategy for data collection in addition to "crowdsourcing", and "bounded crowdsourcing". At the bottom of the slide:

  • Representative samples
  • Small costs

From the presentation "ICT and Conflict Prevention: The Case of a Quantitative Early Warning System" by Gerd Hagmeyer-Gave from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

More on crowdseeding here.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Crowdseeding in Oslo.

Today I presented at the two-day conference "ICTs and the Global Governance of Peace and Security" at the University of Oslo in Norway. It is in interesting get-together with participants from Cambridge U, Oxford U, PRIO, SIPRI, UNDP, EUI, etc. More information here.

I (again) discussed the benefits and limitations of "Crowdseeding" based upon our experiences with Voix des Kivus in the Democratic Republic of Congo. If you're interested, my slides are here.

  • Other than stop-overs by plane, the last time in Norway was about 15 years ago with mom, dad and brothers for holiday (read: the typical Dutch family with car + caravan). Except for the long winters that people keep on talking about here, it's a gorgeous country!
  • Next time I do take a jacket with me. It's cold.
  • And... it's expensive. To give an idea, a 25cl bottle of wine (+- a big glas of wine) from the minibar is almost $25. One can by a farm in France from that!
Expensive (1 $ is about 5.5 NOK)...
But beautiful!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Survey Response to Moral Issues.

By making use of a survey 'magic trick' researchers show how people can be tricked into reversing their opinions on moral issues, even to the point of constructing good arguments to support the opposite of their original positions. More in the video below and here.

The article continues: The researcher have previously reported this effect, called 'choice blindness', in other areas, including taste and smell and aesthetic choice. “I don't feel we have exposed people or fooled them,” says Hall, “Rather this shows something otherwise very difficult to show, [which is] how open and flexible people can actually be.”

In our household survey in Congo we did something similar (design document: here), although we did not have a magic trick and we were interested in something different. In particular we were interested in what we called the respondents' "social desirability bias". An important subject for academics and policymakers that conduct surveys is: In how far does the reporter actually tell the truth? Is the response given really his or her opinion, or did he or she just reply in such a way to give (what the reporter thinks is) "the correct answer" -- the socially desirable reply.

The final evaluation report was published several months ago (here) but we are currently in the process of writing the secondary analysis report, and this social desirability bias is one of the many things we look at. How? We have two statements:
  • A “Many NGOs in the region believe that elections are not appropriate to choose community representatives when it comes to a position of technical responsibility. “
  • B “Many NGOs in the region believe that elections are always the best way to choose community representatives, even for positions of technical responsibility.”
The statements are followed by the question: “Do you agree that elections are the best way to select representatives?” Now 50% of the respondents received first statement A, and then sufficiently later in the survey statement B. For the other 50% of respondents A and B are swapped. As a result, for each individual we receive two observations: their response to “Do you agree that elections are the best way to select representatives?” after statement A, and once after statement B. The social desirability effect is the effect of the prime on the likelihood to agree with that statement. Respondents that give socially desirable answers will say "yes" to the question after statement B, and "no" to exactly the same question after statement A. In addition to this within-person analysis, we also conduct a between-person comparison where we use only whichever statement was asked first for each person (which removes consistency biases), and regress the answer on the prime given.

More soon!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Can cellphones be used to learn about conflict events?

Between 2009 and 2011 Columbia University implemented Voix des Kivus in Eastern Congo; an SMS-based pilot project to obtain high quality data about conflict events in real-time from hard-to-access areas. To obtain high-quality data Columbia invented "crowdseeding" -- in contrast to data-collection projects based on "crowdsourcing". Last week the academic study came out discussing data quality and using the data for a downstream experiment to assess the conflict effects of international aid. The abstract:
Poor quality data about conflict events weakens humanitarian responses and hinders academic research on the dynamics of violence. To address this problem we piloted a data gathering system in Eastern Congo in which reporters in randomly selected villages reported on events in real-time. We describe the data generated through this system and use it to implement a downstream experiment that illustrates how the data can be used. We take advantage of exogenous variation in the allocation of development aid to assess whether aid is associated with increased or reduced violence. Our data suggests that aid had a negative effect on conflict. Critically, by exploiting the continuous nature of our data, we also highlight the sensitivity of estimates of effects to the timing of measurement.

The complete study can be found HERE.

Friday, September 21, 2012

I'm on Twitter.

Since a few minutes I'm on Twitter. Let's see if I can get into this:


Spot on!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Pro-social Behavior in the NYC Metro.

Yesterday, around midnight. Raul, Neelan and me in the metro: back from University to our apartment in Brooklyn. While waiting for the train Neelan gets a smile on his face and says "I am very pro-social now". Raul and I look behind us, see what's in the picture below, and crack up.

Why? Neelan and I are writing a paper together that deals, among others, with the behavior of people when they are under scrutiny. On this topic there is a well-known paper by Kevin Haley and Daniel Fessler (published in 2005 in "Evolution and Human Behavior") that shows that even small hints of monitoring can make people more pro-social. They do so by placing a set of eyes on computer screens while people play lab experiments. The abstract:
Models indicate that opportunities for reputation formation can play an important role in sustaining cooperation and prosocial behavior. Results from experimental economic games support this conclusion, as manipulating reputational opportunities affects prosocial behavior. Noting that some prosocial behavior remains even in anonymous noniterated games, some investigators argue that humans possess a propensity for prosociality independent of reputation management. However, decision-making processes often employ both explicit propositional knowledge and intuitive or affective judgments elicited by tacit cues. Manipulating game parameters alters explicit information employed in overt strategizing but leaves intact cues that may affect intuitive judgments relevant to reputation formation. To explore how subtle cues of observability impact prosocial behavior, we conducted five dictator games, manipulating both auditory cues of the presence of others (via the use of sound-deadening earmuffs) and visual cues (via the presentation of stylized eyespots). Although earmuffs appeared to reduce generosity, this effect was not significant. However, as predicted, eyespots substantially increased generosity, despite no differences in actual anonymity; when using a computer displaying eyespots, almost twice as many participants gave money to their partners compared with the controls. Investigations of prosocial behavior must consider both overt information about game parameters and subtle cues influencing intuitive judgments. 
 Link to the complete paper here.

Maybe a bit nerdy? :)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Apple in Africa.

I saw this passing by on Facebook. Not sure whom to give credit (I saw something saying "I Love Ghana), but it's good fun:

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Manuscript Submission to a Journal? Some Useful LaTeX Code.

I'm about to submit a manuscript to an academic journal. People that write their papers in LaTeX often do so in a format of which they like the .pdf output: e.g. single-spaced, footnotes at the bottom of the page, et cetera. Now unfortunately journals often want to receive their manuscripts in a very different format. The one I am about to send a manuscript to wants:
  • The manuscript double-spaced throughout;
  • Footnotes, references, tables, and graphs on separate pages at the end of the document;
  • To follow The Chicago Manual of Style;
  • And because the journal sends out the manuscript anonymously for review, the author names and affiliations should be taken out, and anything else that makes the manuscript not-anonymous.
Needless to say with some cutting, pasting and tweaking of code this is possible. However, by doing so one ends up with multiple LaTeX documents: one for "normal use", and one for submission to the journal. Bah! As a result, this morning I wrote some code that avoids this. That is, by changing one thing at the start of the document (i.e. indicating whether you want a normal version or a version for journal submission) you obtain either one of two .pdf outputs: a normal working version, and a manuscript for submission that complies with the conditions the journal wants. All from the same LaTeX document. It's quite straightforward, but useful:


% Create your condition:


% The below is the only thing to be changed. Indicate whether you want the normal work version (deselect "\issubmissiontrue"), or whether it's for submission (deselect "\issubmissionfalse"):


% The next bit of code makes the document doublespaced, makes the footnotes endnotes, and places the tables and figures at the end of the document on separate pages, but only if the document is for submission:


% The next bit of code makes the document anonymous (i.e. takes out the authors' name and acknowledgements), but only if the document is for submission:


% Any other text or code in the document can be made conditional, and be kept out or changed depending whether it is for normal use, or for submission. Here, for example, a website link in a footnote is given "normally" if we want the normal working document, but it will become anonymized as "{link}" when the document is for submission:

NORMAL TEXT.\footnote{All documents can be found on the project's website: \ifissubmission \{link\}. \else {REAL WEBSITE LINK} \fi NORMAL TEXT

% Finally, the code below, which should be placed at the end of the document, gives the references in Chicago style, and indicates where the endnotes should appear, but again only if the manuscript is to be for submission:

    \bibliography{PATH TO .BIB FILE}
    \bibliographystyle{YOUR NORMAL STYLE}
    \bibliography{PATH TO .BIB FILE}


Monday, September 10, 2012


Blogging has been slow. The reason: I'm back in NYC and spent a good bit of time searching for a new apartment, and moving in. The latter happened this weekend. To give an idea of the overlap of work and social life for a PhD student: I'll be living with three close friends, all are PhD colleagues, and two are co-authors. And to give an idea how nerdy we are: we have a large empty wall in the living room so somebody came up with the idea of buying a projector to watch movies. After less than 1 minute we were talking about how cool it would be to show newly-created R figures, or do coding on such a large screen. Two pictures (because the apartment is still a mess with boxes):

After five years on the island (2 in Harlem, 3 in Upper-West Side) we said goodbye to Manhattan. On the picture: financial district from the Manhattan Bridge (World Trade Center just to the right outside of the picture).

We moved to Brooklyn where the coffeeshops are larger and there are more outdoor spaces. Specifically, we moved to Crown Heights (Franklin Avenue 581): a very dynamic upcoming neighborhood: new bars, coffeeshops, etc. Also, compared to our previous apartments we get twice as much space at 60% of the price we paid in Manhattan. And instead of looking at the wall of the neighboring building we have an extraordinary view over Franklin Avenue and from our window we can see the financial district again -- including the World Trade Center being build (see picture above). And this is not even from our roof.

Great months ahead!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Causality, RCTs and Impact Evaluations

Early August 2012 I was briefly in Congo (slightly more here). One reason for this was to give a presentation to the development community in Bukavu about conducting evaluations. The presentation deals with, among others:
  • Why RCT's are so important to get at causality;
  • The limitations of RCTs;
  • Alternatives to RCTs;
  • Techniques to get at sensitive questions.
The slides are not technical. They are also not very clear on their own because I prefer to write little on slides when giving presentations. The plan was to add more info before posting them, but I haven't had the time yet. So with the idea that something is better then nothing, here we go (you have to scroll down a bit):

Also, if you have any questions, feel free to send me an email. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


I'm about to take a plane to Berlin, and then tomorrow back to NYC! Hereby a quick post with some links:
  • Notes from NASA's Curiosity on Mars. "I've got a nuclear-powered laser and control of an entire planet… so I'm essentially a Bond villain. #suckit007. Smart little fellow. More here (h/t Ali);
  • "DRC: Bushmeat blamed for Ebola outbreak". Mmm. Maybe I should cut down on eating monkey. Old blogpost here, and an old picture of my bike while doing fieldwork in Maniema, Congo (FYI: I only ate it once):

  • Yesterday I watched "Inside Job" by Charles Ferguson. A 2011 documentary about the current financial crisis. It's a must-watch. Trailer:

  • Last week, OCHA released 500 free humanitarian symbols on both ReliefWeb and the Noun Project websites. More here. This is "carjacking":

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Wonderful Days (also in IKEA) by Charly Lownoise and Mental Theo

That little bit of credibility that I have build with the last 300+ posts will be gone after this one -- but I just have to. The song of my youth ("Wonderful Days" by Charly Lownoise and Mental Theo) on xylofoon (h/t Lucas):

For those that did not had such a sophisticated youth as I had, hereby the 'real' version.

And why does the following never happen when I'm at the IKEA?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Migration (and cellphones).

Partly for work but mostly as a treat I often read articles in Science, Nature, PNAS, etc. As you know I'm interested in "migration", and also have been working on a phone-based project in Congo (more here). How cool is it to combine both? Well, this cool:
Most severe disasters cause large population movements. These movements make it difficult for relief organizations to efficiently reach people in need. Understanding and predicting the locations of affected people during disasters is key to effective humanitarian relief operations and to long-term societal reconstruction. We col- laborated with the largest mobile phone operator in Haiti (Digicel) and analyzed the movements of 1.9 million mobile phone users during the period from 42 d before, to 341 d after the devastating Haiti earthquake of January 12, 2010. Nineteen days after the earthquake, population movements had caused the population of the capital Port-au-Prince to decrease by an estimated 23%. Both the travel distances and size of people’s movement trajectories grew after the earthquake. These findings, in combination with the disorder that was present after the disaster, suggest that people’s movements would have become less predictable. Instead, the predictability of people’s trajectories remained high and even in- creased slightly during the three-month period after the earth- quake. Moreover, the destinations of people who left the capital during the first three weeks after the earthquake was highly cor- related with their mobility patterns during normal times, and spe- cifically with the locations in which people had significant social bonds. For the people who left Port-au-Prince, the duration of their stay outside the city, as well as the time for their return, all followed a skewed, fat-tailed distribution. The findings suggest that population movements during disasters may be significantly more predictable than previously thought.
From Lu, X., Bengtsson, L., & Holme, P. (2012). Predictability of Population Displacement After the 2010 Haiti Earthquake. In Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Reading on Migration:

Btw, there is quite a bit of reading out there on migration (and with a wide variance in quality). Some journals below (with their impact factor if I could find it):
I also regularly check the website of the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, and Forced Migration Online should be in this list as well.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Few Hours of Solid Entertainment.

While entering data from the Congo I like to have a tv-series on in the background. I've already watched "Peepshow", "The Young Ones", and "Bottom" too many times, and "Mr. Bean" doesn't say very much, so the last few weeks it has been "I'm Alain Partridge", "Sax" or " "Men Behaving Badly". It seems I have a preference for type of humor on the other side of the North Sea:

I'm Alain Partridge:


Men Behaving Badly:

Friday, August 17, 2012

Random Things.

Four very random things:

1. Some solid Irish commentary at the London Olympics. Despite the bad video quality, it's definitely worth watching. (h/t Pierce)

2. This is lovely. CNN's Soledad O'Brien taking on somebody from the Romney campaign.

3. Beautiful photos at WIRED: Mars-Inspired Art as commissioned by NASA:

4. We've got -- yet again -- elections coming up in the Netherlands: September 12. There is a website that helps Dutch people: Kieswijzer. Based on your reply to 30 statements it will tell you what party to vote for. Last elections over 4 million people made use of this website -- almost 1/3rd of the Dutch electorate! Instead of this being great, isn't it really very scary. Our decisions depending on a reply to only 30 statements and an algorithm that we don't know. It reminded me of a thought-provocing article in NewScientist how algorithms are -- without us noticing it -- taking over more and more of our lives.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Power of Introverts.

Whenever I'm alone reading a book or staring in front of me... Please do not disturb! It better for all of us. :) An interesting presentation by Susan Cain about the power introverts:

Monday, August 13, 2012

ThreeHundredFifty Faces From Congo.

How to thank the many Congolese for the information they have given me over the last four years so I could learn about their lives, and write a dissertation? How to thank these people with whom I have lived with — sometimes for months — while conducting fieldwork in Eastern Congo? I hereby present 350 out of 420 pictures we recently took for a lab-in-the-field experiment (more here).

Via these pictures I hope to say thanks. When going through the slideshow please do two things. First, look at the backgrounds to get a glimpse into their extraordinary lives. Texts that are written on the wall and doors, the public goods in front of which the pictures are made, the election posters to decorate the livingrooms, the children that peer in via the window while the picture is taken, etc. Secondly, look into their eyes. Some show the worry and hardship the Congolese face in their daily lives. But for others the eyes also speak of the extraordinary warmth, the strength among the women and the joy I found among many of them.

I had the honor and pleasure to live closely with these people for an extended period of time, and I hope this is a good way to share these experiences. Click the following link to start the slideshow:

If you want an image in full-size, feel free to send me an email.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

An Idiot Abroad.

No, not a post about myself. A series by Ricky Gervais. Karl is visiting the seven world wonders. Good fun! (h/t Roy).

Friday, August 10, 2012


How to thank the many Congolese for the information they have given me over the last four years so I could learn about their lives, and write a dissertation? How to thank these people with whom I have lived with -- sometimes for months -- while conducting fieldwork in Eastern Congo?

For a lab-in-the-field experiment in which we hope to learn about migrant-native networks (more here) pictures were taken of 420 villagers -- sixteen in six villages and eighteen in eighteen other villagers. These people were randomly selected in (on their turn) randomly selected villages, and are thus the literally representative of the area we work in Eastern Congo. In upcoming days I plan to upload a selection of one hundred of these pictures on my website.

I was inspired to do this by an exhibition Raul -- close friend and way too smart co-author and colleague -- has at the M55 Art Gallery in New York from July 25th to August 11th 2012. During his trips to Congo he makes beautiful pictures, which include the ones he will show at the exhibition (see here). For some other beautiful pictures please have a look here. I am unfortunately in the Netherlands and can't make it to the exhibition, but I strongly recommend going -- tomorrow is the last day.

Before posting the four pictures below (and the other 96 still to come) I thought carefully whether this could be done at all -- the villagers did not give me permission to present them publicly. But... First, I do not connect (sensative) information to these pictures. There is also no way somebody can find these people back in Congo -- I will not tell you their names, or in which villages I collected my data. Secondly, the reason to do this is to say thanks to these villagers, and by doing so provide a glance into their extraordinary lives; something I think is very important people should learn about. I had the honor and pleasure to live closely with these people for an extended period of time, and I hope this is a good way to share these experiences. Finally, although I didn't ask them for permission I have spent much time with many of them and know they would welcome this. If you disagree though and have good reasons, let me know.

Thus, in upcoming days I plan to show a selection of one hundred of the 420 pictures on my website under the title:


Not only are the people in these pictures beautiful, their eyes speak. Some show the worry and hardship the Congolese go through in their daily lives. But for others the eyes also speak of the extraordinary warmth and joy I found among many of them. Hereby a small preview:

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Congo Trip #7: The Voyage.

So I just came back from a 5.5 day trip to Congo -- of which I travelled more than halve. Rather nuts, but the trip was good fun though.
Getting to Bukavu
I had already visited Brussels to get a Congo-visa. And via internet I obtained a Rwandan entry-visa. Monday afternoon around 4pm my little brother dropped me off at Woerden trainstation from where I took a train to Schiphol. And from there by plane: Amsterdam to Frankfurt, to Addis Ababa, to Kigali. The plan was to prepare for my time in the Congo (so much to do), and to sleep as much as possible because I knew the following few days would be tough. I failed miserably. In the plane to Addis I sat next to a very nice girl from Vienna. We talked for the whole flight (more than 6 hours), and had a coffee in Addis while we waited for our next flights (me to Kigali, she to Lusaka). Once in Kigali I got myself a taxi. Normally I take a bus (5,200 Rwandan francs, around $10), but given I had so little time in Bukavu the risk of arriving late at the border could not be taken so the mode of transport was taxi ($180!). Once across the border, I got myself a motorbike and arrived around 8pm at the hotel. 28 hours in total: I think a record.

And back to the Netherlands
The trip back went smoothly as well. I left Bukavu around noon. Given that my plane would leave from Kigali only at 3am I had enough time to buss myself to Kigali. Unfortunately, upon arrival at the Congo-DRC border all busses were full. Shit! Luckily I had met a friendly aid-worker a few minutes before who gave me a lift to the main bus-station of Kamembe, Rwanda, from where I was able to get a bus to Kigali. It was a lovely ride and, because this trip was booked rather abruptly, instead of my field phone I had my smart-phone with me: full with music. Then after waiting for a few hours at Kigali Airport (and working with Macartan and Raul during these hours), it was: Kigali to Addis, to Frankfurt, to Amsterdam. After another train and car-ride, I arrived home around 8pm: 32 hours in total. Again not that bad.

When travelling by road between Kigali and Bukavu you
go through Nyungwe Forest National Park -- East
Africa's largest protected high-altitude rainforest, and
at times breath-taking.
Haji Nyanza: the ultimate place to eat goat brochette!
I'm not joking. When in the plane I already
look forward stopping here (and all busses always do).

Not only the park, but also the seas upon seas of tea before
and after the park are gorgeous.

And don't to forget the African sunsets. How I love this continent!

I've been using Rwanda as transit country for more than three years
now. Say what you want about Rwanda: the lack of freedom of
(political) expression, their involvement in Eastern Congo, etc. I agree. 
BUT each time I'm there the country developed yet another
bit further. This is visible even at that short track
between Kigali and Bukavu. The busses are getting better and better
each year. Work is done on the road throughout, km-signs are
constructed, etc. A new bus-station is build at Kamembe. Haji Nyanza
(that place with great goat brochettes) created proper toilets. And... 
in Kigali there are now small lights build into the roads. Each
time I'm there the country has taken a step forward. How in contrast
to Congo. 
Once in Kigali I had to get to the Airport. Best mode of
transport: Motorbike!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Congo Trip #7: Search for Common Ground

No posts for more than a week. Did nothing interesting happen? On the contrary! Last Saturday evening I came back from a whole 2.5 days in Congo: 1.5 days travel to get there, 2.5 days in-country, and 1.5 days again to get back home. Why?

The reason to be in Bukavu was to work with Search For Common Ground (SFCG). As the readers of this blog know the Congo suffers from high levels of sexual violence and other abuses against civilian populations. The instigators of this violence are rebel armed groups, like the FDLR or local militia, but a major perpetrator is also the national army, the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC). Search is the organization in Congo that works directly with the Congolese military to decrease these abuses. They do this by a set of social norms-changing interventions: cinema, distribution of comic books, sensabilisation sessions that include role-playing games, participatory theater, joint military-civilian activities, etc.

To date, none of the interventions that are intended to directly address abuses against civilian populations has been seriously evaluated (read: RCT). Important questions remain: Is this violence due to lack of community ties? Lack of monitoring? Because soldiers are underpaid? Because of social norms explanations? Lack of access to justice? And the body of evidence accumulated about what works is very weak. However, there exists evidence that social norms-changing interventions can be effective in other contexts, addressing related problems of prejudice (see for example, work by Betsy Paluck). Combined with the importance of the topic SFCG and us (Macartan, Raul and I) thought this to be a potential program for an solid evaluation.

Last Monday (yesterday) there was a deadline for a 3ie grant application -- 3ie is an organization that funds impact evaluations (they for example funded our TUUNGANE study with the International Rescue Committee). To learn about the causal impact of the SFCG program we want to conduct an RCT evaluation (randomly assigning treatment to units) and thus a lot had to be learned on both sides before we could send a successful application to 3ie:
  • What is the treatment? What is the theory of change? Do we and the organization actually belief the program makes a measurable impact, and how is this impact achieved? What are the mechanisms? And can we measure these mechanisms? Do we think some parts of the program to be particularly strong? Does a variation in treatment make sense? 
  • What is the unit of analysis? Search works with the military units, but the outcome is at the population level. Is there geographical overlap between the two?
  • Is there enough statistical power? And at what military unit level should Search work? To have the largest impact possible, but also keeping into account that more treatment units increases statistical power. The more power the more likely false negatives (there is actually an effect but we didn't find it) are avoided.
  • What about spillovers? Many parts of Congo are "military active", and thus military units are moved around a lot. Does this lead to spill-overs? The treatment is information, and that might spread quickly between treatment and control units.
  • How to measure abuses by the military? Asking a soldier "Did you rape last week?" and then comparing treatment with control communities, is not very likely to work. So how to measure civilian abuses. Might we implement an SMS-based monitoring system (a la Voix des Kivus) in hundreds of treatment and control villages to learn about levels of abuse?
  • Are we ethically ok to conduct an RCT? We should not keep control units away from treatment if over the course of the program we find out that some control military units are abusing to an extend larger than some treatment units. Maybe methods different than RCT are better suited (regression discontinuity, process tracing, etc.)?
It were 2.5 very busy days. First for us to learn about the program. Then for Search to learn about evaluations. And then working together (and also with the Congolese army) to answer the above questions. In the end we decided not to go for the 3ie application yet, but probably we will in the future.

Me learning from an army major about the FARDC's hierarchical structure.
Lots to be learned.
Regions, regiments, battalions, companies, pelotons.
And then differences across provinces.
Movements of companies within  regiments: Does
the FARDC keep track of these? How far are
peletons geo-graphically separated from each
other? Etc.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Heading to DRC this Monday and US F1-VISA.

A few hours ago I got myself a plane to Kigali: flying out from Amsterdam this Monday (yes, the day after tomorrow), and arriving Tuesday afternoon. Upon arrival I hope to get myself a bus and head to the Rwanda-Congo border that same day. I'll only be in the Congo for 3 days, I leave again on Friday afternoon (plane leaves early Saturday morning from Kigali). It's a short trip to work together with Search for Common Ground (95% of the time), to give a presentation on how to conduct evaluations, and to meet my team that has been in the field over the last months. Because it's so short I will only stay in Bukavu. No field for me this time. It's a pity, otherwise I could have used the following sleeping back (h/t Simon):

One reason to leave quickly again is because on August 6 I have an appointment at the US Embassy in Amsterdam for my F1-visa -- after 5 years my current visa expired. I already filled out the online application, which included the following questions:
  1. Are you coming to the United States to engage in prostitution or unlawful commercialized vice or have you been engaged in prostitution or procuring prostitutes within the past 10 years?
  2. Have you ever been involved in, or do you seek to engage in, money laundering?
  3. Have you ever committed or conspired to commit a human trafficking offense in the United States or outside the United States?
  4. Are you the spouse, son, or daughter of an individual who has committed or conspired to commit a human trafficking offense in the United States or outside the United States and have you within the last five years, knowingly benefited from the trafficking activities? 
  5. Do you seek to engage in terrorist activities while in the United States or have you ever engaged in terrorist activities?
  6. Have you ever been directly involved in the establishment or enforcement of population controls forcing a woman to undergo an abortion against her free choice or a man or a woman to undergo sterilization against his or her free will?

Friday, July 27, 2012

From Brussels to... Congo?

Yesterday morning 5am. Alarm went off. 530am: on my way to Rotterdam Centraal, and from there to Brussels to get a single-entry, one-month visa for the Congo (I know. Again!? More on this later). Depositing the necessary material is between 9-12pm, and the pick-up is at 430pm. Thus a lot of time in Brussels. Of course I had my laptop with me and the grandiose plan to work. Well that didn't work out at all with me being in a city that I haven't explored a lot yet and the sun shining. So I hired a bike for a day [Genious system btw. They have bikes positioned throughout the city. It costed me $1.60 for a day], and spent a day playing the tourist.

Brussels is a great city.

Brussels' Grote Markt

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race.


To science we owe dramatic changes in our smug self-image. Astronomy taught us that our earth isn't the center of the universe but merely one of billions of heavenly bodies. From biology we learned that we weren't specially created by God but evolved along with millions of other species. Now archaeology is demolishing another sacred belief: that human history over the past million years has been a long tale of progress. In particular, recent discoveries suggest that the adoption of agriculture, supposedly our most decisive step toward a better life, was in many ways a catastrophe from which we have never recovered. With agriculture came the gross social and sexual inequality, the disease and despotism, that curse our existence. 
One straight forward example of what paleopathologists have learned from skeletons concerns historical changes in height. Skeletons from Greece and Turkey show that the average height of hunger-gatherers toward the end of the ice ages was a generous 5' 9'' for men, 5' 5'' for women. With the adoption of agriculture, height crashed, and by 3000 B. C. had reached a low of only 5' 3'' for men, 5' for women. By classical times heights were very slowly on the rise again, but modern Greeks and Turks have still not regained the average height of their distant ancestors. 
There are at least three sets of reasons to explain the findings that agriculture was bad for health. First, hunter-gatherers enjoyed a varied diet, while early fanners obtained most of their food from one or a few starchy crops. The farmers gained cheap calories at the cost of poor nutrition, (today just three high-carbohydrate plants -- wheat, rice, and corn -- provide the bulk of the calories consumed by the human species, yet each one is deficient in certain vitamins or amino acids essential to life.) Second, because of dependence on a limited number of crops, farmers ran the risk of starvation if one crop failed. Finally, the mere fact that agriculture encouraged people to clump together in crowded societies, many of which then carried on trade with other crowded societies, led to the spread of parasites and infectious disease. (Some archaeologists think it was the crowding, rather than agriculture, that promoted disease, but this is a chicken-and-egg argument, because crowding encourages agriculture and vice versa.) Epidemics couldn't take hold when populations were scattered in small bands that constantly shifted camp. Tuberculosis and diarrheal disease had to await the rise of farming, measles and bubonic plague the appearnce of large cities. 
Besides malnutrition, starvation, and epidemic diseases, farming helped bring another curse upon humanity: deep class divisions. Hunter-gatherers have little or no stored food, and no concentrated food sources, like an orchard or a herd of cows: they live off the wild plants and animals they obtain each day. Therefore, there can be no kings, no class of social parasites who grow fat on food seized from others. Only in a farming population could a healthy, non-producing elite set itself above the disease-ridden masses. Skeletons from Greek tombs at Mycenae c. 1500 B. C. suggest that royals enjoyed a better diet than commoners, since the royal skeletons were two or three inches taller and had better teeth (on the average, one instead of six cavities or missing teeth). Among Chilean mummies from c. A. D. 1000, the elite were distinguished not only by ornaments and gold hair clips but also by a fourfold lower rate of bone lesions caused by disease.

From an 1987 article by Jarod Diamond. Not sure how it fits in with his "Guns, Germs and Steel".

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Their Brussels, Our Netherlands. Wrong!

On 12 September 2012 we'll have, yet again, elections in the Netherlands. Today I read the program of the Partij Voor de Vrijheid (PVV) - indeed, the infamous Dutch right-wing party of Geert Wilders. The people that read this blog know that I'm against almost all that this party stands for: anti-Islam, anti-immigration, anti-development aid, anti-Europe, etc.

"Party for Freedom. Their Brussels, our Netherlands"

Their program can be found here (only in Dutch). It's quite painful to read. It's very populistic. An important topic again is "Islam = Evil". But this time the over-arching theme is "Europe = Evil". In brief, the party program read like: Let's-all-put-our-heads-in-the-sand-build-a-big-fence-around-the-Netherlands-and-not-acknowledge-what-has-happened-in-the-world-over-the-last-decades.

This is not a party for the future.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Verandering van Spijs Doet Eten.

In line with the Dutch saying (literally translated): "Change of food makes one eat"[1], I just changed the layout of my blog. Also, it was about time after 3 years. It has a bit more serious appearance. I do not think this will lead to more serious posts though. :)

[1] Originally from "Varietas delectat" (variety delights). 

Just Post It.

I argue that journals should require authors to post the raw data supporting their published results. I illustrate some of the benefits of doing so by describing two cases of fraud I identified exclusively through statistical analysis of reported means and standard deviations. Analyses of the raw data provided important confirmation of the initial suspicions, ruling out benign explanations (e.g., reporting errors; unusual distributions), identifying additional signs of fabrication, and also ruling out one of the suspected fraudster’s explanations for his anomalous results. If we want to reduce fraud, we need to require authors to post their raw data.
A new working paper by Uri Simonsohn: "Just Post it: The Lesson from Two Cases of Fabricated Data Detected by Statistics Alone". Please find a link to the paper here

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Bla bla bla.

The previous post reminded me of the training Raul and I did in the Congo in the summer of 2010 (more here). During the training the students used a wide variety of ways to start a sentence. Anyone who has worked in the DRC knows about this: there are often a lot of words necessary before getting to the point. You're ready? Here we go: 
  • "Je  voudrais donner un petit clarification… XXXX"
  •  "Merci pour me donner le parole… XXXX"
  •  "J'ai un petit preoccupation… XXXX"
  •  "Je voudrais savoir dans le cadre de … XXXX"
  •  "Je suis dans un confusion total… XXXX"
  •  "Ca me complique un peu... XXXX"
  •  "Je voudrais me assure un chose… XXXX"
  •  "Je me nager dans l'eau"
  •  "C'est un engagement pikante"
  •  "C'est un question que a demande beaucoup de tactique… XXXX"
  •  "C'est un question que necessite des problemes… XXXX"
  •  "Je veux simplement eclaircir la nuit"
  •  "Cette question n'a pas de raison d'etre"'
  •  "Le question risque de avoir un petit probleme au  niveau… XXXX"

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Fun Things With Data Entry.

As you know from the previous post I'm entering data. Part of this data is information about the lab-in-the-field experiments I am conducting in Eastern Congo. Normally for such experiments the players are explicitly selected so that they are not acquainted with each other, or this is assumed, or the players play the games anonymously. Researchers do this so as to single out a particular mechanism that impacts a player's strategic behavior. Now of course the real-life strategic behavior of individuals is very much influenced by the context and whom one is interacting with. What is important are often things different than only 'observables'; people make decisions towards others based on things such as frequency of interaction and shared experiences. "We are member of the same church", "He is family", et cetera. In contrast to most lab-in-the-field experiments, our games in Eastern Congo take the player's natural context -- his underlying, latent network so to say -- at heart. To do so we take polaroid pictures of each of the 18 players and have them make strategic decisions toward each of the other 17 players. From the information that this gives we can construct trust and benevolence networks (see here for more information). We then ask to each of the 18 players questions about each of the other 17 players, such as "Are you family of this person?", "Are you friends with this person?", etc. This provides us the latent-network information -- information that is not observable. From combining these two we can thus learn what is important for levels of trust and benevolence. Maybe being member of the same church is important for levels of trust. Maybe having been displaced together is crucially important for levels of benevolence. Et cetera.

Eustache at work: showing the picture of
one of the players, to another player.

So what is important for people to contribute to others? I have not yet combined the network information with the trust and benevolence networks for two reasons. First, I want to pre-register the hypotheses before looking at the data so that I cannot cherry-pick my results. Together with collegue Neelan we are about to finish a paper in which we present our hypothesis and present results based on fake data. We expect to register this soon. Second, I have only entered data for 2 villages up to now. However, some interesting things I already would like to share via this blogpost. After each game we do an in-depth debriefing with each player to understand why the players played as they did. I've now filled out only two villages but this already gives a potential 2*18*17 = 612 reasons.

So what are reasons for people to contribute to each other? [Do note that you should take this with a grain of salt because this is what people say; it is thus not necessarily the truth. People for example might be unwilling to say "I don't contribute to him because he/she is from a different ethnic group". Indeed this is exactly the reason in the first place why we conduct lab-in-the-field experiments, and the data from the network questions will shed light on this in due time. However, this might already be very informative.] Common reasons not to give are "He/she is arrogant", "He/she is hypocritical", "Not from my generation", etc. Often-mentioned reasons to give include "he gives me advice", "we are both migrants", etc. Now of course the great thing of just asking why a person contributes is that one also receives more exotic reasons for (non)contribution. Hereby a small selection (I translated this from French), note that I added whatever is in square brackets:
  • "Once he paid the school fees for my son."
  • "When I'm alone at home, she will collect firewood for me."
  • "He always buys drinks (alchohol), but without giving anything to me."
  • "We were caught by the Interhamwe [a rebel group in Eastern Congo] but he freed me."
  • "She assists my child by giving food in my absence."
  • "He is a miner and therefore his family is not social."
  • "He reminds me of my father who died. And I therefore like him."
  • "My daughter married his son."
  • "He gave me food when I came from the forest and was famished."
  • "If my house would catch fire he would help."
  • "He put me in prison."
  • "I need the points to buy a pen."
  • "He is ANR [The Congolese security service]."
  • "He tells bad stories about me to the other villagers."
  • "He never pays his debts. He owes me a lot of money."
  • "He is a sorcerer, and I am sure he placed a spell on me."
  • "He does't salut me when we pass on the street"
As expected, it is likely that latent (unobservable, but measurable) networks are going to be very important to understand the trust and benevolence networks in Congolese villages. Also, this reminded me of a great reply from one of our enumerators for the evaluation I'm conducting with Macartan and Raul in Eastern Congo. The question was "Where was the person in 2006?". Below is the raw input by the enumerators into their PDA. We make use of codes: "-8" for example means "not applicable" and therefore appears very often. However, some enumerators are more complete and write things such as "-8, was not born yet". Two replies are specifically great. I highlighted them in yellow below. Translated in English the person in 2006 was "Still in the belly of his/her mother". Brilliant! (h/t Raul).
tab qf019_location_2006_1

   QF019_LOCATION_2006_1 |      Freq.     Percent        Cum.
    n'etaitpas encore ne |          1        0.00        0.00
                      -8 |          2        0.00        0.01
                      +8 |          1        0.00        0.01
                     --8 |          2        0.00        0.01
                      -0 |          1        0.00        0.02
                      -5 |          1        0.00        0.02
                      -7 |          1        0.00        0.02
                      -8 |      3,508        7.89        7.91
       -8   PAS  VIVANTE |          1        0.00        7.92
     -8  PAS  ENCORE  NE |          1        0.00        7.92
                     -8. |          2        0.00        7.92
                      -9 |         10        0.02        7.95
                     .-8 |         30        0.07        8.01
                    ..-8 |          1        0.00        8.02
                       0 |         31        0.07        8.09
                    1720 |          1        0.00        8.09
                      50 |          4        0.01        8.10
                    7010 |         45        0.10        8.20
                    7020 |         10        0.02        8.22
                    7030 |          1        0.00        8.22
                    7052 |          3        0.01        8.23
                    7053 |          3        0.01        8.24
                    7054 |          4        0.01        8.25
                    7065 |          1        0.00        8.25
                    7071 |          6        0.01        8.26
                   70710 |          1        0.00        8.26
                    7073 |          9        0.02        8.28
                    7074 |          8        0.02        8.30
                    7075 |          1        0.00        8.30
                    7076 |          8        0.02        8.32
                    7090 |         10        0.02        8.34
                    7094 |          4        0.01        8.35
                       8 |          2        0.00        8.36
                     A-8 |          2        0.00        8.36
                      A0 |          3        0.01        8.37
                      A1 |     37,165       83.64       92.01
                    A1-8 |          1        0.00       92.01
                     A1. |          8        0.02       92.03
                   A1... |          1        0.00       92.03
                     A1… |          1        0.00       92.03
                      A2 |      1,962        4.42       96.45
                      A3 |        401        0.90       97.35
                      A4 |         94        0.21       97.56
                      A5 |         41        0.09       97.66
                      A6 |        740        1.67       99.32
                      A7 |         55        0.12       99.44
Dans  leventre  desamere |          1        0.00       99.45
      N'etait encore nee |          1        0.00       99.45
  N'etait pas  encore ne |          1        0.00       99.45
   N'etait pas encore ne |          5        0.01       99.46
  N'etait pas encore nee |          1        0.00       99.46
   N'etait pas encore né |          1        0.00       99.47
       N'était encore né |          1        0.00       99.47
   N'était pas encore né |          3        0.01       99.48
                     NON |          4        0.01       99.48
                       O |          1        0.00       99.49
     PAS  NE  EN  2007   |          1        0.00       99.49
           PAS ENCORE NE |          2        0.00       99.49
                   Pa ne |          2        0.00       99.50
                 Pas  ne |          1        0.00       99.50
              Pas encore |          1        0.00       99.50
           Pas encore ne |          5        0.01       99.51
                  Pas ne |        159        0.36       99.87
                  Pas né |          1        0.00       99.87
                   Pasne |          1        0.00       99.88
                  Ventre |          1        0.00       99.88
                      _8 |          1        0.00       99.88
                  pas ne |         49        0.11       99.99
                  pas né |          1        0.00       99.99
                   pasne |          3        0.01      100.00
                   Total |     44,435      100.00