Syndicate content

August 2014

Re-thinking Economics Education: How New 'Core' Curriculum Hopes to Better Prepare Students

Miles McKenna's picture

Is it time for more pluralistic approaches to economic problems?Summer is almost over and the fall semester is about to begin for young economics students. But this semester could be the start of something much larger at University College London (UCL) and the University of Massachusetts in Boston.  
 
These two schools are among the first to pilot a fundamentally new approach to the way economics is taught in higher education. Others including the University of Sydney, Sciences Po (Paris), and the University of Chile will follow in early 2015.
 
This new approach is based on the CORE project of the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET) at the Oxford Martin School, part of a global call for an overhaul of the economics curriculum commonly taught to undergraduates. True to its name, the CORE project has developed a new, interactive core curriculum—all delivered through an online virtual learning environment, and completely open to the public.
 

A Step Toward Formalization: The Charter for Cross-Border Traders

Carmine Soprano's picture

Women carrying firewood to sell at a local market in Kaduna, Nigeria. Photo - ©IFPRI/Ian Masias.If you are woman in Sub-Saharan Africa and you live and work in a rural area, you are probably a trader. You are likely to be carrying a variety of goods across the border several times per day or week, and to rely on that as a major source of income to your household. You’re probably facing high duties, complex procedures, and corrupted officials at the border – the latter, in some cases, might want to harass you before they let you go through.  You may not be able to read or understand what duties apply to the goods you are trading. In this scenario, what is your incentive to go through the formal border post?

It’s probably easier, cheaper, and faster to cross the border informally.

Does Your Country Export What It Should?

Siddhesh Kaushik's picture

Customs reforms have made trade easier in Georgia. Photo - Irakli Tabagari / World Bank.One of the core principles of trade economics is that of “comparative advantage.” First described by David Ricardo, the theory says that countries are best off if they specialize in products that they can make relatively more efficiently – with lower opportunity cost – than other countries. If this happens, the theory goes, global welfare will increase. This concept is more difficult than it sounds, however – as Paul Krugman has pointed out quite eloquently – and benefits from illustration.

Basketball genius Michael Jordan stars in one example sometimes used in textbooks and classrooms: If Jordan mows his lawn faster than anyone else in the neighborhood, he has an absolute advantage in lawn mowing. But that doesn’t mean that he should mow his neighbor John Smith’s lawn, because that would come at an opportunity cost: in the same two hours it would take Jordan to cut the grass, he could earn much more by playing basketball or making a commercial.

While it is difficult to measure comparative advantage in world trade, one indicator is something called “Revealed Comparative Advantage” (RCA). This is a measure of how a country’s exports compare to those of a bigger group, such as a region or the rest of the world. For example, if a country’s RCA in wheat is high (typically greater than one), that means wheat makes up a higher share of that country’s total exports than it does of the world’s exports. This suggests that that country is a more efficient wheat-producer than the average country.

But countries don’t always produce the products in which they have a revealed comparative advantage. Sometimes Michael Jordan mows the lawn. Let’s take a look at a couple of examples from this new data visualization tool.

Competitiveness is Key to Trade and Development in Africa

Anabel Gonzalez's picture
Textile factories are an important source of employment in Lesotho, which benefits from the AGOA agreement. Photo credit: John Hogg / World Bank. As World Bank President Jim Kim told the African leaders who gathered in Washington for the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit this week: African countries have enormous potential to increase trade, drive growth, reduce poverty, and deliver jobs. They face constraints, to be sure, but the World Bank Group is working with our African partners daily to improve the competitiveness of their industries and boost the volume and diversity of their trade with the rest of the world.

At a high-level meeting at the World Bank on Monday, African ministers and delegations representing 51 countries had a pressing concern: the renewal and modernization of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). A preferential program that enhances the access of qualifying African countries to the US market, the law is due to expire in September 2015.