Last week, my unit at the Bank organized a workshop on Cost Analysis for Interventions in Human Development. No – this wasn’t a ploy to gather a bunch of accountants in one place to see how many it would really take to change a light bulb.
What are the best things ordinary people living in rich countries can do to help poor people living in developing countries? This is the question the editors of Christianity Today assigned to me for a special issue this month on world poverty. It is a question many people like my parents worry about, people who would like to give money to causes that help poor people overseas, but to put it simply
Typical policies to improve the incomes of poor households and their businesses are based on the sustained provision of services – be it microfinance with multiple loan cycles and regular meetings; conditional cash transfers with regular transfers over a period of years; or business training programs which are based on the idea that capital along is not enough – as in the proverb “give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he can feed himself for life”.
If you are interested in HIV prevention, at some point you are likely to have heard “transactional sex” discussed as one of the issues. However, I find this discussion to usually be awkward and confused, especially among Western audiences: the user is feeling somewhat uncomfortable using the term and the audience is having trouble understanding what it is she exactly means. The frameworks we have in the U.S. are dating on one end and commercial sex work on the other.
Suppose you were investigating the observed wage gap in urban China, where men are paid approximately 30% more than women. The first thing you would like to know is whether the higher wages paid to men are a result of the greater average years of schooling and years in the labor force that men have or whether, instead, men are paid more even after accounting for education and experience. If the latter situation is the case then the difference in wages may at least in part be due to labor market discrimination.
This week I would like to explore more something I saw during my recent visit to Ghana. As I explained in a previous post, a conversation with a rural bank manager made me realize that in Ghana, just like in the United States, people take payday loans.
Mark Rosenzweig and I have just written the preface for a special issue of the Journal of Development Economics focused on measurement and survey design. Rather than just summarize the papers, we tried to draw some lessons/themes of what the 13 papers in the special issue suggest. You can find the preface here.
Here are a couple of the points – read the preface for the full list of lessons:
· People behave more generously in dictator games when there is a white foreigner observing – evidence from Sierra Leone.
To get children to attend school in developing countries, our approach has been primarily to assume that the schooling that is available is worth pursuing, meaning that the problem must be with some barrier to go to school despite a great desire to do so: perhaps the family cannot afford the costs of schooling; perhaps the schools are not good or too far; perhaps the children want to be in school but the parents prefer food today to educated daughter tomorrow; maybe people don’t know the value of schooling, etc.
Quite often the popular press carries stories that compare happiness or life satisfaction across nations (for example see last October’s story: Denmark is Happiest Country). Regular readers of this blog will recognize these reports as summaries of research on subjective well-being (SWB) and would be somewhat skeptical of SWB comparisons across populations with very different characteristics and cultures. Why?