Is Development Economics a Good Investment?: Evidence on Scaling Rate and Social Returns


WHEN May 26, 2021
5:30-6:45 PM WHERE Zoom Webinar WHO NYU Abu Dhabi Institute Open to the Public

We develop a method to establish a lower bound on the benefit-cost ratio of development innovation funds by comparing the benefits of a subset of innovations which scaled to the cost of the entire portfolio. Applying the method to the early USAID Development Innovation Ventures portfolio suggests each dollar spent generated at least $17 in social benefits. Predictors of innovation scaling include low unit costs, distribution through existing large business or government, and rigorous A/B tests or Randomized Control Trials (RCTs) in collaboration with development economics researchers. A model accounting for these results suggests that funders seeking social returns can exploit arbitrage opportunities by investing in innovations for which expected social returns likely exceed private returns.

Time: 5:30pm Gulf Standard Time
             9:30am Eastern Daylight Time

  • Arlie Petters, Provost, NYUAD
  • Michael Kremer, Nobel Laureate; University Professor and Director of the Development Innovation Lab, University of Chicago
  • Torsten Figueiredo Walter, Assistant Professor of Economics, NYUAD
  • Yaw Nyarko, Professor of Economics and Director, DevLab, NYUAD

In Collaboration with

NYU Africa House

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