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January 2011

What caused the HIV epidemic in Africa?

Shanta Devarajan's picture

Damien’s earlier post called into question one commonly-held view of the cause of the spread of HIV in Africa, namely male promiscuity. 

A paper by Pauline Leclerc and others (hat tip to Mark Gersovitz) seems to show that there is even greater uncertainty.  Leclerc and co-authors tried to simulate the dynamics of the epidemic in Zambia but found that the parameters needed to fit epidemiological models were beyond what the data would allow. 

In short, thirty years later, it appears as if we still don’t know what caused the disease to spread the way it did on the continent.  Perhaps there is no single set of causes, and that the evolution of the disease is different in different parts of Africa.  Perhaps we should move beyond epidemiological models and look to other disciplines for the answers. 

At any rate, to fight the epidemic effectively, we need to know how and why it became an epidemic.

Seven steps to structural transformation

Shanta Devarajan's picture














My colleagues Justin Lin and Celestin Monga have proposed a six-step plan for identifying industries that could help developing countries industrialize. 

The first step in the plan is to find countries that have a per-capita income that is roughly double yours and have a similar endowment, and observe what they are producing.  These industries would then serve as the basis for possible government intervention to either protect or create, depending on the country’s situation.

However, the six-step plan seems to gloss over the fact that countries, even seemingly successful ones, produce certain goods for political rather than economic reasons.