On September 23rd 2013, Gary Becker spoke about inequality and government policy here at the World Bank. In introducing him, Kaushik Basu, the Chief Economist at the World Bank, paid him the highest tribute, calling him one of the most towering figures in our profession. “There are people who describe themselves as Beckerian and that is important,” Kaushik said. “But Gary Becker is much more than that. Many years ago at a conference, someone came to me and said, ‘You know, I am non-Beckerian’. It is one thing to have a school. But to have a school that is identified as ‘non-you’ is truly remarkable. We do hear of the non-Euclidean school and a few others, but this puts you in a special category.”
An April briefing paper from 'Global Humanitarian Assistance' analyzes where humanitarian aid comes from and finds that private donors contributed US$4.1 billion in 2012, representing 24% of the total international response. Over a quarter of all international humanitarian assistance came from private donors between 2008 and 2012. The role of these private donors clearly goes beyond purely financial donations. There is an acknowledged rise for example in corporate partnerships, where expertise, human resources and goods are a given.
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Yesterday the International Comparison Program released the summary results and findings of the 2011 ICP covering 199 economies. FT economics editor Chris Giles explains the uses and limitations of PPPs in this video, plus he discusses the results of his own calculations regarding the estimated standing of the US and other big economies for 2014. Clearly the world is changing fast. There is also a useful 'explainer' blog by Data Group Director Haishan Fu on the Open Data blog.
There is mounting consensus that gender equality generates both substantial equity and efficiency gains. However, there is still much to uncover about both the current state of gender equality in developing economies and the accompanying measures that should receive attention. Should the focus be on simple labor participation, or wages? Do any of these measures capture female empowerment? Data availability plays a substantial role in these decisions. For instance, given the dearth of gender wage data in developing economies, a lot of attention may shift to labor force participation as a convenient measure. A primary concern in the feminist literature regarding participation measures is that even though more females may join the labor market there may be little improvement in their livelihoods. There is some evidence that women tend to be employed in the informal sectors which tend to have low wages and are more economically vulnerable. Thus a more informative measure could be one that attempts to capture female economic empowerment. Using this measure, the interesting question would then be for example, in what sectors of the economy are women typically more empowered?
The following post is a part of a series that discusses 'mind and culture,' the theme of the World Bank’s upcoming World Development Report 2015.
When it comes to development, one size doesn’t fit all. It is about mindsets that can be transformed to see and do things differently. Taking a cue from this, The Hunger Project believes in empowering people to end their own hunger versus providing them with service delivery. The Let’s Talk team caught up with John Coonrod, Executive Vice President, The Hunger Project, to know more about building self-reliant communities.
'Our goal: Defeat malaria forever' is the title of a Path blog to commemorate World Malaria Day. Written by Dr. Carlos C. (Kent) Campbell and Bindiya Patel to commemorate World Malaria Day, it stresses that malaria control alone won't be enough to stop the disease.
Meanwhile, the economics world continues to be rocked by Piketty. His powerpoint on Capital in the 21st Century, presented recently at an IMF event where Martin Ravallion played the role of discussant, can be downloaded here. Ravallion provided his own take on historic inequality trends and explained why he thinks there is still hope that extreme poverty in the developing world will continue to fall, thanks in no small part to growth and other factors.
Social welfare functions that assign weights to individuals based on their income levels can be used to document the relative importance of growth and inequality changes for changes in social welfare. This method is applied in a new working paper by David Dollar, Tatjana Kleineberg, and Aart Kraay. They find that, in a large panel of industrial and developing countries over the past 40 years, most of the cross-country and over-time variation in changes in social welfare is due to changes in average incomes. In contrast, the changes in inequality observed during this period are on average much smaller than changes in average incomes, are uncorrelated with changes in average incomes, and have contributed relatively little to changes in social welfare.
In recent years, much has been written about the benefits of teacher incentive schemes for improving education in both developed and developing countries, but little is known about teachers’ opinions of incentives. Teachers’ opinions could vary as widely as the types of incentive schemes, since the schemes themselves can be as different as apples and oranges: differing in terms of what behavior is rewarded, whether an individual teacher or group of teachers is rewarded, and whether or not the incentive involves competition. Theoretically, teacher incentives motivate teacher behaviors that improve student learning and reward teachers who demonstrate desired behaviors or whose students show improved learning. But the empirical literature – especially from developing countries—is far from conclusive regarding these effects. Moreover, some research suggests that extrinsic rewards, such as salary bonuses, actually reduce motivation rather than stimulate it.
A new book by Puja Dutta, Rinku Murgai, Martin Ravallion, and Dominique van de Walle looks at how successful India’s 2005 National Rural Employment Guarantee Act has been in creating 100 days of wage employment per year to all rural households whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work in public works projects at a stipulated minimum wage. The bulk of the study focuses on the scheme’s performance in one of India’s poorest states, Bihar. There the scheme seems to be falling well short of its potential impact on poverty. Workers are not getting all the work they want and they are not getting the full wages due. Many report that they had to give up some other income-earning activity when they took up work. The unmet demand for work is the single most important policy-relevant factor in accounting for the gap between actual performance and the scheme’s potential impact on poverty. The book suggests that supply-side constraints must be addressed in addition to raising public awareness, and identifies a number of specific supply-side constraints to work, including poor implementation capacity, weak financial management and monitoring systems.
The proliferation of new financial products and services continues to outpace the capacity of individuals and families to make informed financial choices. Financial education geared toward adults has shown low uptake, so the focus has shifted to introducing financial literacy during the schooling years. This research looks at a comprehensive financial education program spanning six states, 868 schools, and approximately 20,000 high school students in Brazil through a randomized control trial. The program increased student financial knowledge by a quarter of a standard deviation and led to a 1.4 percentage point increase in saving for purchases, better likelihood of financial planning, and greater participation in household financial decisions. “Trickle-up” impacts showed improvements in parental financial knowledge, savings, and spending behavior. The evidence suggests the program affected students’ preferences and attitudes about financial decisions well beyond the schooling years. Read the entire paper here.