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Poverty

This International Women’s Day, 3 things you can take from behavioral science for a more equitable world

Caren Grown's picture

Many insights from behavioral science apply directly towards better understanding and addressing inequalities between men and women, in education and health, ownership of assets, access to more and better jobs, and the capacity to act on one’s own behalf and interests.

Here are three insights that stand out as critical to closing these inequalities by 2030.

Machine learning and the measurement of injustice

Daniel Mahler's picture

Machine learning methods are increasingly applied in the development policy arena. Among many recent policy applications, machine learning has been used to predict poverty, soil properties, and conflicts.

In a recent Policy Research Working Paper by Paolo Brunori, Paul Hufe and Daniel Mahler (BHM hereafter), machine learning methods are utilized to measure a popular understanding of distributional injustice – the amount of unequal opportunities individuals face. Equality of opportunity is an influential political ideal since it combines two powerful principles: individual responsibility and equality. In a world with equal opportunities, all individuals have the same chances to attain social positions and valuable outcomes. They are free to choose how to behave and they are held responsible for the consequences of their choices.

Global poverty today, the 1908 winter in St. Petersburg, and ‘controversy bias’

Francisco Ferreira's picture

Robert Allen’s recent AER paper on “Absolute Poverty: When Necessity Displaces Desire” is a fascinating read, on many levels. The paper uses linear programming (LP) to compute (four variants of) least-cost diets for twenty countries, using prices from the International Comparisons Project (ICP) microdata. To the resulting least-cost food budgets, estimates of non-food costs covering housing, fuel, lighting, clothing and soap are added, generating “basic need poverty lines” (BNPL) for each country.

Feeding the craving for precision on global poverty

Francisco Ferreira's picture

Online pundits, hurried journalists and policymakers love precision. They crave numbers. Preferably exact numbers; ranges suggest uncertainty and make them anxious. As a result, they will love the World Poverty Clock (WPC), a new website that claims to track progress towards ending global poverty in real time (see also this blog and Financial Times article). The website tells you that 632,470,507 people are currently living in extreme poverty - or were, on December 6 at 10:00am… Even more amazingly, the site claims to forecast poverty at any point in the future until 2030, the deadline for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. By scrolling along the elegant timeline on the bottom of the WPC screen you will learn, for example, that in 2028, 459,309,506 people will be living in extreme poverty!

What motivates charitable giving?

Abigail Dalton's picture

As behavioral scientists to the World Bank, we at the Mind, Behavior, and Development (eMBeD) Unit tend to see behavioral science everywhere. With the holiday season fast approaching, it’s no surprise that we can apply behavioral science to any number of seasonally appropriate channels, including charitable giving. Reciprocity, it turns out, affects us at every age, and can be a good lesson for charitable giving campaigns.

“Nudge units” – where they came from and what they can do

Zeina Afif's picture

You could say that the first one began in 2009, when the US government recruited Cass Sunstein to head The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) to streamline regulations. In 2010, the UK established the first Behavioural Insights Unit (BIT) on a trial basis, under the Cabinet Office. Other countries followed suit, including the US, Australia, Canada, Netherlands, and Germany. Shortly after, countries such as India, Indonesia, Peru, Singapore, and many others started exploring the application of behavioral insights to their policies and programs. International institutions such as the World Bank, UN agencies, OECD, and EU have also established behavioral insights units to support their programs. And just this month, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland launched its own Behavioral Economics Unit.

Against the tide: A look at the countries where poverty has been on the rise, despite falling global numbers

Francisco Ferreira's picture

The last quarter century saw remarkable progress against extreme poverty, globally. Between 1990 and 2013, the percentage of the world’s population living at or under $1.90/day fell from 35.3% to 10.7% - that is, from more than one in three people to approximately one in ten, planet-wide. Even in the shorter period between 2002 and 2013, the reduction was from 25.8% to 10.7%, meaning that about 850 million people moved out of extreme poverty during that decade alone.

The 2017 global poverty update from the World Bank

Francisco Ferreira's picture
This year’s global poverty update from the World Bank is a minor one. Until reference year 2008, the World Bank published new poverty estimates every three years, and between 2010 and 2013 we released new numbers every year (see here).

A richer array of international poverty lines

Francisco Ferreira's picture

Is poverty absolute or relative? When we think of (one-dimensional) income poverty, should we define the threshold that separates the poor from the non-poor as the cost of purchasing a fixed basket of goods and services that allows people to meet their basic needs?  Or should we instead think of it as relative deprivation: as earning or consuming less than some given proportion of the country’s average living standard?

A celebration of Richard Thaler’s Nobel Prize and a new field – Behavioral Development Economics

Karla Hoff's picture

Could a parent’s decision to vaccinate a child depend on a free bag of lentils?  The premise seems implausible:immunization can be a matter of life and death, and a bag of lentils is worth only a dollar.  Yet a randomized controlled trial in India showed that a gift to parents of a 1 kg bag of lentils and a set of plates can dramatically raise the percentage of children protected against major disease (Banerjee et al. 2010).  Providing a quality immunization camp alone increased the percentage of fully immunized children from 6% to 18%.  The addition of the lentil and plate ‘incentives’ raised the figure to a whopping 39%.  How can we explain the outsize effect of a gift of everyday household items?

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