In 1999, when a few enthusiasts agreed to meet annually in an effort to base interventions on land, on solid empirical evidence rather than ideology, few would have expected this effort to have such a lasting impact. Twenty years on, the small gathering has morphed into a conference, bringing together over 1,500 participants from governments, academics, civil society and the private sector to discuss the latest research and innovations in policies and good practice on land governance around the world.
Amidst all the noise of the 24-hour news cycle and current events competing for our attention there lurks a danger that we lose sight of our mission: the fundamental issues in development that we are committed to solve remain urgent and obviously relevant. Now more than ever, the World Bank and DEC (home to the Bank’s research unit) in particular should focus on core research questions whose answers can help end poverty and improve countless lives. These questions rise above the ebb and flow of the political tide and are deeply important to the millions of people that we strive to raise up.
What we (don’t) know about gender gaps in multidimensional poverty …
Gender gaps are pervasive in many dimensions of well-being. Globally, almost two-thirds of the world’s illiterate adults are women, because of past (and sometimes present) gender inequalities in access to schooling. Women are also often more “time poor” than men due to the double burden of labor market activities and domestic chores and more “asset poor” due to gender biased laws, traditions and institutions.
To design effective and durable relief programs for refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs), it is essential to understand the nature and context of the challenges the people living in these situations face. That’s why we have recently started to measure consumption and estimate rates of poverty among displaced populations. Through understanding the most acute challenges that vulnerable populations face, relief can be targeted to where support is needed most.
Thirty years ago, 1 in 7 of the world’s extreme poor – those living on less than $1.90 a day – were in Sub-Saharan Africa. Over the years, as other regions successfully reduced their poverty levels, this number has increased and by 2015, 4 in 7 of the global poor were living in Sub-Saharan Africa. The newly published Poverty and Shared Prosperity Report warns that as many as 9 in 10 of the world’s poor may live in this region by 2030 if current trends continue.
Poverty is a complex concept. A widespread view argues that important aspects of poverty cannot be measured in monetary terms – in fact, to successfully address poverty, we need to measure it in all its facets. The recent release of the 2018 edition of the Poverty and Shared Prosperity Report contains Global measures of multidimensional poverty have a rich history, a prominent example being the annual Global MPI produced by the United Nations Development Programme with the Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative.
Last week we had World Food Day on October 16 and World Poverty Day on October 17. The good news from World Poverty Day is that there is global progress on reducing extreme poverty. Based on the latest available data, it is estimated that in 2015 there were 736 million people living on less than US$1.90/day, which compares very favorably to the 1,895 million people living in extreme poverty in 1990. And while the world’s population grew from 5.3 billion in 1990 to 7.4 billion in 2015, the poverty rate fell from 36 percent to 10 percent or 1 percentage point per year on average over this period.
Along with the Center for Experimental Social Science at Nuffield College at Oxford, eMBeD co-organized a conference called “Measuring the Tricky Things.” The lineup included Susan Fiske presenting a magisterial overview of her decades-long work on the stereotype content model, Armin Falk on his groundbreaking study of time, risk, and social preferences among 80,000 individuals in 65 countries, Karla Hoff on using lab in field experiments to identify the honor ethic among higher caste villagers in North India, Ryan Enos on measuring racial attitudes, Rachel Glennerster on measuring women’s empowerment, Julian Jamison on how and why to use item count techniques to mitigate social desirability bias, Henry Travers on debiasing estimates of wildlife survival, Amandi Mani on assessing the effect of financial worry on cognitive performance with cell phones, and Sheheryar Banuri on using videos to probe the effect of pro-poor bonuses on doctor’s decisions on which patients to see. My eMBeD co-head Renos Vakis assessed the strengths and weaknesses of World Bank surveys on socio-emotional skills. I discussed the reliability and validity of measurements of social norms with respect to women’s labor force participation in Jordan.
The 2018 Poverty and Shared Prosperity Report shows how poverty is changing and introduces improved ways to monitor our progress toward ending it.
The landscape of extreme poverty is now split in two. While most of the world has seen extreme poverty fall to below 3 percent of the population, Sub-Saharan Africa is experiencing extreme poverty rates affecting more than 40 percent of people. The lamentable distinction of being home to the most people living in extreme poverty has shifted, or will soon shift, from India to Nigeria, symbolizing the increased concentration of poverty in Africa.
Last week, I attended a conference at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. It was BAD, and it was primarily about gender. (By BAD, I of course mean it was about “Behavioral Approaches to Diversity”.) The topic is obviously relevant to World Bank goals, both internally and for our clients, and to the work of the Mind, Behavior, and Development Unit (eMBeD). Here are some selected highlights.