TOMS impact evaluation finds zero to negative effects in El Salvador

This is from the Economist:

The first of two studies found that TOMS was not wrecking local markets. On average, for every 20 pairs of shoes donated, people bought just one fewer pair locally—a statistically insignificant effect. The second study also found that the children liked the shoes. Some boys complained they were for “pregnant women” and some mothers griped that they didn’t have laces. But more than 90% of the children wore them.

Unfortunately, the academics failed to find much other good news. They found handing out the free shoes had no effect on overall shoelessness, shoe ownership (older shoes were presumably thrown away), general health, foot health or self-esteem. “We thought we might find at least something,” laments Bruce Wydick, one of the academics. “They were a welcome gift to the children…but they were not transformative.”

More worrying, whereas 66% of the children who were not given the shoes agreed that “others should provide for the needs of my family”, among those who were given the shoes the proportion rose to 79%. “It’s easier to stomach aid-dependency when it comes with tangible impacts,” says Mr Wydick.

For a litany of criticisms of TOMS before the study see here, here, and here. The original study is available here.

Also, would anyone ever think that donating shoes, or even mining hard hats, to rural Kentucky would be “transformative”?

Anyway, huge props to TOMS for daring to scientifically study the impact of their ill-advised in-kind aid initiative.

Why do some people flee civil war and state collapse, while others stay?

Prakash Adhikari has a paper in the AJPS (PDF, gated) that seeks to address this question:

This study investigates circumstances that affect individuals’ decisions of whether or not to flee their homes during civilian conflicts. Building on the “choice-centered” approach to studying forced migration, I test the argument that people make a decision to flee or stay even under highly dangerous circumstances. Using primary data collected through a public opinion survey in Nepal, I test a number of hypotheses regarding the impact of factors such as violence, economic opportunity, physical infrastructure or geographical terrain, and social networks on forced migration, providing an individual-level test of the choice-centered approach to studying forced migration. The empirical results are consistent with the major hypotheses developed in aggregate-level studies and provide better insightsinto the factors that affect individual-level behavior. Beyond conflict, there are a number of significant economic, social, physical, and political factors that affect individuals’ choice to flee.

As expected, the threat of violence and actual experience of violence increases the likelihood that one would flee – by about 8 and 32 percentage points respectively. Economic opportunity, on the other hand, reduces the likelihood of fleeing by 19%. High income individuals are also less likely to flee by about 1-2%. In addition, social ties decrease the likelihood of fleeing, although the effect is not statistically significant in Adhikari’s model.

The paper primarily looks at conflict, but may also apply to cases of overall economic collapse and political turmoil as has plagued Zimbabwe in the last one and a half decades. It is estimated that almost a quarter of Zimbabweans have fled the country. But three quarters remained, through the hyper-inflation and acute restriction of political space and personal freedoms.

In particular, the Zimbabwe case provides a good case for knowing why elites (who presumably can leave if they want) choose to stay in states like Zimbabwe – and thereby continue to provide the means of survival for the regime.

For those who have chosen to stay in Zim it might be that they have a lot to lose by fleeing (they have jobs, own some property, have strong extensive social ties, are too patriotic to leave …..?) or are actually plugged into the patronage system of Robert Mugabe, supported by illicit trade in diamonds, foreign aid, and control of the economy.

H/T Joshua Keating over at War of Ideas