“Individuality is the product of both biological inheritance and personal experience,” said Professor Charles A. Nelson during a recent presentation at the World Bank. Professor Nelson has been studying neurobiological development and the effect of adversity on the brain for some time now (e.g., here and here). So we asked him to open the black box of brain development for us and help us understand what it all means to those of us working on ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity. Below are some highlights from his talk.
Philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates cited “time poverty” as a top priority in their 2016 Annual Letter, referring to the unpaid work that disproportionately falls on women and shining a spotlight on one of the most vexing challenges economists and statisticians face: how to accurately measure women’s work.
New choruses demanding a data revolution to gauge progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals better than their predecessors, the Millennium Development Goals, are welcome—and indeed some challenges on the data front are new. Others, however, are very, very old. Accurate measurement of women’s work and contribution to productivity remains one of the latter.
Policymakers operate with a truncated view of the economy—with little idea of how growth impacts, or is affected by, women’s work. For the most part they fail to incorporate this work into their labour market policies.
Currently around 43.2 million people or 30% of the population of Bangladesh live in poverty. Alarmingly, this figure includes 24.4 million extremely poor who are not even able to meet the basic needs of food expenditure. These numbers will be even higher if we do not address climate change. Preparation for climate change is essential for poverty alleviation to be sustainable.
Concentration of poor in climate-vulnerable coastal region
In densely populated and land scarce Bangladesh, poor households are disadvantaged with regards to land access, and many end up settling in low-lying regions close to the coast. The poverty map developed by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, World Food Program and the World Bank identifies a high incidence of poverty near the coast, where 11.8 million poor are located in 19 coastal districts in 2010.
One of the primary goals of the Enterprise Surveys is to provide high quality data about the business environment based on establishments’ actual day-to-day experiences. This provides much needed information given how little is known about what businesses experience in developing economies. To raise awareness of the recently released Bangladesh 2013 Enterprise Survey, we provide a few highlights of the surveys below.
With a virtual certainty that sea-level rise (SLR) will continue beyond 2100 even if greenhouse gas emissions were stabilized today, it is essential that we gain understanding of the potential impacts of SLR and begin planning adaptation, especially for countries with major risk of SLR. The urgency of responding to the growing alarm over climate change effects worldwide is hitting headlines this week, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) just released its Climate Change 2014 report warning that climate change is already having widespread effects on every continent and throughout the world’s oceans.
The economic liberalization during the last couple of decades led to impressive economic growth and poverty reduction in many developing countries. This period has also witnessed worsening of income inequality and widening of spatial disparity (World Development Report (2009); Kanbur and Venables (2005); Kim (2008)). There is considerable worry among policy makers about the extent to which this rise in spatial inequality is due to increasing disparity in opportunities in terms of provision of basic infrastructure and services. The recent growth and poverty reduction experience places Bangladesh as an exception to this trend of increasing spatial inequality. Bangladesh made significant strides in poverty reduction between 2000 and 2010 with incidence of poverty falling from 48.9 percent to 31.5 percent. During the same period, the incidence of poverty declined more than proportionately in traditionally poorer regions, reducing welfare gaps across regions. There is also no evidence of significant change in overall inequality over the same period. What made spatial disparity in Bangladesh to decline while its economic growth accelerated substantially? What were the sources of decline in spatial disparity in welfare?
In the policy discussions related to hunger, malnutrition, poverty and wellbeing, calorie intake is often the focus. Increasingly, however, micronutrient malnutrition appears to be a critical problem in many developing countries. Women and children are most vulnerable to micronutrient malnutrition due to their elevated micronutrient requirements for reproduction and growth. According to some estimates, nearly three billion people (including 56% of the pregnant and 44% of the nonpregnant women) suffer from iron deficiency anemia (IDA), and one-third of the world's population suffer from zinc deficiency. Twenty percent of the maternal deaths in Africa and Asia are due to IDA. One in every three preschool-aged children in the developing countries is malnourished. Undernutrition, coupled with infectious diseases, accounts for an estimated 3.5 million deaths annually. At levels of malnutrition found in South Asia, approximately 5% of GNP is lost each year due to debilitating effects of iron, vitamin A, and iodine deficiencies alone.
The potentially deleterious effects of gender disparities on growth and poverty reduction have been receiving progressively more policy attention (reflected, for instance, in the inclusion of the promotion of gender parity amongst the Millennium Development Goals and the 2012 World Development Report). Inequities in labor market opportunities are of particular concern since labor earnings are the most important source of income for the poor in the vast majority of developing countries.
Although the vast majority of the poor live in rural areas and rural non-farm enterprises account for about 35-50% of rural income and roughly a third of rural employment in developing countries, relatively little is known about gender inequities in rural non-agricultural labor market outcomes due to data-limitations. This is unfortunate given the proliferation and diversification of rural non-farm activities and their potential to alleviate poverty, especially in countries where the importance of agriculture as an employer is likely to diminish.
The seasonality of poverty and food deprivation is a common feature of rural livelihood in Bangladesh, but it is more marked in the northwest region of Rangpur. The recently launched policy interventions in the region provide a test case of what works and what does not in combating seasonal hunger.
The analysis of Bangladesh’s experience with seasonal hunger vis-à-vis year-round poverty shows a clear distinction between what is observed and what is excluded from placement and evaluation of poverty-mitigation policies, based on official poverty statistics. The key recommendations from this analysis are as follows: