"Once upon a time in the faraway Baltic region was a tiny nation of Estonia. Newly independent, with a population of 1.3 million, and with 50 percent of its land covered in forests, it was saddled with 50 years of under development. While it was operating with a 1938 telephone exchange, it’s once comparable neighbor across the gulf, Finland, had a 30 times higher GDP per capita and was waltzing its way into new technological advances. Estonia was faced with the challenge of catching-up with the rest of the world. It too embarked upon the technology bandwagon, but revolutionized it’s progression, by creating identity, secured digital Identity for its citizens. And finally, Estonia became a country teeming with cutting-edge technology. The end. “
Strong boy-bias and its consequences for young and unborn girls have been widely documented for Asia. A new World Bank policy research working paper considers a country in Sub-Saharan Africa and finds that parental gender preferences do affect fertility behavior and shape traditional social institutions with negative effects on adult women's health and well-being. Using individual-level data for Nigeria, the paper shows that, compared to women with first-born sons, women with first-born daughters have (and desire) more children and are less likely to use contraceptives. Women with daughters among earlier-born children are also more likely to have shorter birth intervals, a behavior medically known to increase the risk of child and maternal mortality. Moreover, they are more likely to end up in a polygynous union, to be divorced, and to be head of the household. The preference for sons is also supported by child fostering patterns in which daughters are substitutes for foster girls, while the same does not hold for sons and foster boys. These results can partly explain excess female mortality among adult women in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Cash transfers have been demonstrated to improve education and health outcomes and alleviate poverty in various contexts. However, policy makers and others often express concern that poor households will use transfers to buy alcohol, tobacco, or other "temptation goods." The income effect of transfers will increase expenditures if alcohol and tobacco are normal goods, but this may be offset by other effects, including the substitution effect, the effect of social messaging about the appropriate use of transfers, and the effect of shifting dynamics in intra-household bargaining. The net effect is ambiguous. A new paper by David K. Evans and Anna Popova reviews 19 studies with quantitative evidence on the impact of cash transfers on temptation goods, as well as 11 studies that surveyed the number of respondents who reported they used transfers for temptation goods. Almost without exception, studies find either no significant impact or a significant negative impact of transfers on temptation goods. In the only (two, non-experimental) studies with positive significant impacts, the magnitude is small. This result is supported by data from Latin America, Africa, and Asia. A growing number of studies from a range of contexts therefore indicate that concerns about the use of cash transfers for alcohol and tobacco consumption are unfounded.
The period between the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Great Recession saw probably the most profound reshuffle of individual incomes on the global scale since the Industrial Revolution. This was driven by high growth rates of populous and formerly poor or very poor countries like China, Indonesia, and India; and, on the other hand, by the stagnation or decline of incomes in sub-Saharan Africa and post-communist countries as well as among poorer segments of the population in rich countries.
Ana Revenga, soon to be the head of the Bank's Poverty Global Practice, blogs on the importance of starting early when tackling inequality and also links to a new user-friendly inequality dashboard.
From his days as an MIT professor, to his stint as World Bank Chief Economist, #2 at the IMF, and head of Israel's central bank, Stan Fischer is a towering figure in economics circles. He's just been appointed by Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen to be her deputy. Read Dylan Matthew's profile of Stan here.
A recent Policy Research Working Paper “Which World Bank Reports are Widely Read?” garnered a flurry of online coverage over the past week and a half.
Unfortunately, several reports misunderstood the paper’s conclusions. As fellow blogger David Evans pointed out yesterday, a few Tweets and stories implied that most Bank reports are not being used at all. That’s clearly not true. In fact, people across the world downloaded World Bank reports millions of times over the past two years. It is true, however, that certain technical, country-specific, and sector-specific reports (the only ones studied by the working paper) are much less widely read, or were not downloaded via the Documents and Reports database that the authors analyzed. Even if not downloaded, these reports were certainly delivered to the clients who commissioned them, and were often emailed to others, or disseminated the old-fashioned way by printing and hand distribution -- a common practice in many parts of the developing world where we work and where internet access is limited.
Thankfully, we enjoy longer lives than any generation before us. We also have fewer siblings, on average. All of these things add to our quality of life – we have more time to have fun, and we get more attention from mom. But are these changes, which are good for each of us, also good for all of us?
When people live longer and have fewer babies, the average age of the population increases. According to UN calculations, the world’s median age – currently about 29 – is 7 years higher than it was in 1970.
Urbanization deserves urgent attention from policy makers, academics, entrepreneurs, and social reformers of all stripes. Nothing else will create as many opportunities for social and economic progress. The urbanization project began roughly 1,000 years after the transition from the Pleistocene to the milder and more stable Holocene interglacial. In 2010, the urban population in developing countries stood at 2.5 billion. The most important citywide projects -- successes like New York and Shenzhen -- show even more clearly how influential human intention can be. The developing world can accommodate the urban population growth and declining urban density in many ways. One is to have a threefold increase in the average population of its existing cities and a six fold increase in their average built-out area. Another, which will leave the built-out area of existing cities unchanged, will be to develop 625 new cities of 10 million people -- 500 new cities to accommodate the net increase in the urban population and another 125 to accommodate the 1.25 billion people who will have to leave existing cities as average density falls by half.
Since the first industrial revolution, waves of technological improvement have changed the boundary of production and redefined the role of the state. The information and communication technology revolution has not only increased productivity, but has also reinterpreted the function of time and distance—billions of activities are now linked with “one-click,” and new transactions become possible with “just-in-time” delivery. If the technological revolution has made participation in Global Value Chains (GVCs) somewhat inevitable, it has also accentuated both the risks and opportunities associated with this involvement. On the one hand, participation in GVCs creates new opportunities for profits and expands the market horizon; but on the other hand, it exposes the enterprise sector to risks previously shielded by market boundaries and geographic distances, while increasing the scale of information asymmetry.
Looking at the literature on informality, one thing that stands out is the small size of the informal firms. In fact, firm-size is one of the criteria used by ILO and individual researchers to draw the line between formal and informal firms. Many informal firms, however defined, are operated by the owner herself or himself and without any other employees, with few having more than five employees.