“Tell me where you live, and I can predict how well you’ll do in life.”
Does welfare vary largely across space?
Although I don’t have a crystal ball, I do know for a fact that location is an excellent predictor of one’s welfare. Indeed, a child born in Togo today is expected to live nearly 20 years less than a child born in the United States. Moreover, this child will earn a tiny fraction—less than 3%—of what his or her American counterpart will earn.
Cities in East Asia and the Pacific can be vibrant, exciting, and filled with opportunities. Yet we are always struck by their dichotomies: there are the bright lights, modern skyscrapers, air-conditioned malls, and the hustle and bustle of people coming and going to offices and shops.
And there are also neighborhoods with no safe drinking water, sanitation, or waste collection; where houses flood every time it rains; and where families spend long hours trying to earn enough to feed themselves and keep their children in school.
With an estimated 250 million people living in slums across the East Asia and Pacific region, and much more urbanization to come, prioritizing the delivery of basic services and ensuring opportunities for the urban poor presents an urgent call for action.
: climate change, natural disasters, poverty, water scarcity, food insecurity, global displacement, conflict and violence. These are not the kinds of challenges that will go away on their own—they feed off one another and flourish. The world is responding with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), which lay out a road map to building a more inclusive, peaceful and prosperous world—a better world.
In Part I of our blog —based on a background note we wrote for the World Bank’s 2017–2022 Country Partnership Framework for Ethiopia—we presented our key findings on the spatial or regional distribution of poverty and child malnutrition in Ethiopia.
In Part II of our blog, we look at changes in road density over the ten years from 2006 to 2016, and in nightlights in six cities over four years from 2012 to 2016.
We know that fiscal policy can be harnessed to reduce inequality in low- and middle-income countries, but until now, we knew less about its ability to reduce poverty. Our recent volume looks at the revenue and spending of governments across eight low and middle income countries (Armenia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Indonesia, Jordan, Russia, South Africa and Sri Lanka), and it reveals that fiscal systems, while nearly always reducing inequality, can often worsen poverty.
This April, I had the honor of delivering a TED Talk in Vancouver, Canada. TED Talks aim to inspire and spread ideas, and this year’s theme – The Future Us – explored what lies ahead for the world.
Artificial intelligence, robotics, and other technological advances hold great promise, but these changes are coming at break-neck speed. I’m afraid many of us aren’t ready. There’s still too much poverty and inequality in the world, and we have a lot of work to provide opportunities for everyone.