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Behavioral economics and social justice: A perspective from poverty and equity

James Walsh's picture

It has been almost ten years since Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein wrote Nudge, but the revolution in behavioral policymaking is still unfolding.
 
Around the world, behavioral economists and policymakers strive to show that a richer model of human behavior can improve both individual and social welfare in virtually all domains of society.

How long should the week be?

Maya Eden's picture

As agrarian economies modernize, a need emerges for coordination in production. In most countries, production is organized around a seven-day cycle in which five days are designated as workdays and two days are designated as a weekend. Indeed, in the United States, the vast majority of employed persons work during workdays and not during weekends.

Market impacts of patent reforms in developing countries

Aparajita Goyal's picture

Intellectual property (IP) protection is a heavily debated issue particularly in the developing world, as many formerly poor countries have experienced rapid economic growth and now represent potentially profitable markets for innovating firms. Partly because of this growing importance, members of the World Trade Organization were required to adopt the Trade Related Intellectual Property Standards (TRIPS) intended to establish uniform IP standards including a product patent system in all fields of technology. Many developing countries such as India, China, and Brazil have recently begun creating these systems (and these policies are currently being considered in many African countries). As a result, little is known about the effects of these policies in the developing world.

Should cash transfers be systematically paid to mothers?

Damien de Walque's picture

When I was a high school student in Belgium, our history textbook included a reproduction of a painting entitled “The Drunkard” by Eugène Laermans. The painting was included in the section describing the history of the labor movement in the country and its achievements in passing legislation aimed at improving the situation of the working class. In particular, the painting was meant to illustrate why the Belgian law introducing child benefits – monthly transfers to all families raising children until age 18 (or until age 25 as long as they are still students) - stipulates that these benefits are paid to the mother. The law still holds today, even if it allows for exceptions when the mother is not present in the household.

Uncertainty in groundwater supply may limit the adoption of water-saving technology in India

Hanan Jacoby's picture

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.

Do social factors determine “who we are” as well as the choice sets we have?

Karla Hoff's picture

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.

Are we travelling on a sustainable development path?

Augusto Lopez-Claros's picture

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.

Labor market polarization in developing countries: challenges ahead

Indhira Santos's picture

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.

There is enough evidence on humanitarian cash transfers. Or perhaps not?

Ugo Gentilini's picture

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.

Implementing the WDR: Shifting norms with youth

Blair Glencorse's picture

“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.

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