The philanthropy data gap: measuring what matters – Tavneet Suri

MIT Sloan Associate Prof. Tavneet Suri

MIT Sloan Associate Prof. Tavneet Suri

From Financial Times

As philanthropy becomes a common source of finance for poverty-fighting programmes, it is natural for donors to want data about their impact on the people they want to help.

Yet measuring the benefits of philanthropy is surprisingly hard. How can we define and measure “income” in a village of subsistence farmers? Can we ask a street kid enrolled in a violence-prevention programme about his illegal activities? How do we know if a change in nutritional outcomes was the result of a social programme and not some other variable, like a change in food prices? How can we measure non-quantitative or non-monetary outcomes, like women’s empowerment or entrepreneurial motivation?

For many years, aid impact studies were based on anecdotal evidence or fragments of data. Over the past decade, searching for a more rigorous approach, development researchers have applied the “gold standard” of medical research: randomised controlled trials. In an RCT, researchers allocate an intervention, such as a microfinance loan, to a randomly selected test group of people and compare their outcomes with a control group. Read More »

Spender or Saver? The Choice May Not be Yours — Joshua Ackerman

MIT Sloan Asst. Prof. Joshua Ackerman

From WSJ Marketwatch

During a recession, why do some people spend money while others save?

Money issues can be grounds for conflict in relationships. One person may be a spender while the other is a saver. Throw in financial stress such as an economic recession and one person’s preference can seem completely irrational to the other.

How can people be so different when it comes to the “right” decisions? Recent research shows that our childhood economic environments have a lot to do with how we make financial decisions and handle financial risk later in life

Read the full post at Marketwatch

Joshua Ackerman is assistant professor of marketing at the MIT Sloan School of Management and co-author of “When the Economy Falters, Do People Spend or Save? Responses to Resource Scarcity Depend on Childhood Environments,” published in the Feb. 8 issue of Psychological Science.