During the dry season, N. S. Reddy, a farmer in Kadapa district of Andhra Pradesh, cultivates groundnut on two acres using water from his own borewell, which he runs for the six hours every day that his village gets electricity. His neighbor, J. R. Prasad, owning a borewell of similar capacity, fully cultivates his single acre of land, but also sells water to A. R. Murthy to grow sunflower. At the end of the season, Mr. Murthy gives Mr. Prasad 3000 Rupees as payment on his contract for irrigating this half acre. In a different village, a similar scenario plays out, but here the borewell owner, K. Chandra, sells M. S. Krishna five irrigations, one-at-a-time throughout the season, at 1000 Rupees apiece.
The World Bank’s conference on “The State of Economics, the State of the World” was an opportunity to take stock of the emergence of new paradigms for understanding economic development. Following Ken Arrow’s talk on the history of the neoclassical model and Shanta Devarajan’s comments on this model’s centrality in the Bank’s work, I had the opportunity to discuss two paradigms of how individuals make decisions that have recently emerged in economics, drawing on psychology, sociology, and anthropology.
Global development as a universal objective to improve people’s social and economic wellbeing is a relatively recent concept.
It was first embodied in the United Nations Charter, signed in San Francisco 71 years ago this week, which stated: “the United Nations shall promote higher standards of living, full employment, and conditions of economic and social progress and development.” In time, at least among practicing economists in academia and policymakers in government, “development” came to be seen as improved economic opportunity through the accumulation of capital and rising productivity.
There is increasing evidence that labor markets in developed countries are polarizing or hollowing out. On the one hand, the share of employment in high-skilled, high-paying occupations (managers, professionals and technicians) and low-skilled, low-paying occupations (elementary, service, and sales workers) is growing. On the other hand, the share of employment in middle-skilled, middle-paying occupations (clerks, plant and machine operators) is being squeezed. There is ample evidence of polarization in the United States (see Acemoglu and Autor, 2011; Autor and Dorn, 2013; and Autor (2014) for a less technical discussion), and also in Western Europe (Goos, Manning, and Salomons, 2014). Harrigan, Reshef and Toubal (2016), more recently, document the same phenomenon in France, using firm-level data.
Take these two numbers: 165 and 1. The former is the number of children in millions who are chronically malnourished or ‘stunted’; the latter is the number of robust impact evaluations comparing cash and in-kind transfers on malnutrition.
I emphasize ‘comparing’ since there is plenty of evidence on individual cash and in-kind (and voucher) programs, but very few studies deliberately assessing them under the same context, design parameters, and evaluation framework.
“What good is the law if laws are ignored or never enforced?” a young civil society activist asked us as part of a group discussion recently. We began to explain that the law should provide a framework through which power can be constrained and policies implemented- but the conversation had already moved on to a loud and frustrated debate about the myriad ways that lawmakers abuse their positions, steal public money and undermine governance through the law itself.
Cerro de Pasco sits in the middle of the Peruvian Andes, at 4,300 meters above sea level. The department of Pasco is among the eight poorest departments in Peru, and a quarter of its children are chronically malnourished. The only paved road that reaches Cerro de Pasco from the coast is the Carretera Central, a crowded, winding, single-lane road that goes from Lima to 4,800 meters above sea level, where it crosses the Ticlio pass. From there, a deserted road crosses the Junin plateau, inhabited by alpacas, vicunas and a few, scattered residents.