12 of our favorite development papers of the year
Development Impact, 21 December 2017
Development Impact will now be on break over the next couple of weeks for the holidays, resuming in early January after the AEA annual meetings. Inspired by some of the interesting lists of favorite papers of the year (e.g. Noah Smith, Matt Notowidigdo) we thought we’d each offer three of our favorite development economics papers for the year...
Read the blog by Berk Ozler, David Evans, Markus Goldstein, and David McKenzie.
Migration: The future depends on our actions today
Let’s Talk Development, 18 December 2017
Around 250 million migrants currently live outside their countries of birth, making up approximately 3.5 percent of the world population. Despite the widespread perception of a global migration crisis, this ratio has stayed remarkably stable since the end of the Second World War and lags well behind other major metrics of globalization — international trade, capital flows, tourism etc. A more remarkable statistic is that refugees, at around 15 million, account for 6 percent of the migrant population and only 0.2 percent of world population. In other words, we can fit all refugees in the world in a city with an area of 5000 square kilometers — roughly the size of metropolitan Istanbul or London or Paris — and still have some space left over.
Read the blog by Çağlar Özden.
Populism and development policy
Let’s Talk Development,12 December 2017
Populism — the idea that a particular social group speaks for the nation as a whole, and should be first in the line for social benefits — threatens the core values of the post-World War order. It also challenges the World Bank’s own approach to development policy. As the world prepares for the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with a year-long commemoration, culminating on December 10, 2018, we at the World Bank can use the occasion to reflect on our commitments and uphold them courageously.
Read the blog by Varun Gauri.
Global poverty today, the 1908 winter in St. Petersburg, and ‘controversy bias’
Let’s Talk Development, 11 December 2017
Robert Allen’s recent AER paper on “Absolute Poverty: When Necessity Displaces Desire” is a fascinating read, on many levels. The paper uses linear programming (LP) to compute (four variants of) least-cost diets for twenty countries, using prices from the International Comparisons Project (ICP) microdata. To the resulting least-cost food budgets, estimates of non-food costs covering housing, fuel, lighting, clothing and soap are added, generating “basic need poverty lines” (BNPL) for each country.
The paper makes many interesting claims. One is that, although linear programming algorithms generate unrealistic diets in rich countries, among very poor people in the world’s poorest countries deprivation is so constraining that little latitude is left to taste, and the LP predictions turn out to be reasonable approximations of actual diets. This is an interesting hypothesis, although the actual diets to which the LP predictions are compared are averages for 1961, from the FAO Food Balances Sheets. As Martin Ravallion notes in this comment, it should have been possible to use data for — or near — 2011 and, furthermore, what appears as a reasonable match to Allen can seem like large differences to others.
Read the blog by Francisco Ferreira.
Feeding the appetite for more precise global poverty numbers
Let’s Talk Development, 8 December 2017
Online pundits, hurried journalists and policymakers love precision. They crave numbers. Preferably exact numbers; ranges suggest uncertainty and make them anxious. As a result, they will love the World Poverty Clock (WPC), a new website that claims to track progress towards ending global poverty in real time (see also this blog and Financial Times article (gated)). The website tells you that 632,470,507 people are currently living in extreme poverty — or were, on December 6 at 10:00am… Even more amazingly, the site claims to forecast poverty at any point in the future until 2030, the deadline for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. By scrolling along the elegant timeline on the bottom of the WPC screen you will learn, for example, that in 2028, 459,309,506 people will be living in extreme poverty!
If you pause for a moment to consider the myriad sources of uncertainty about what may happen to our world in the next ten years, this must strike you as a remarkably precise forecast. And it is presented down to the decimal point, with no indication of possible error, or of the margin of confidence viewers should place on it. Because, as its ‘methodology’ tab reluctantly admits, the WPC is based primarily on poverty data from the World Bank’s PovcalNet, with which we are involved, we felt it was probably incumbent on us to clarify a few points.
Read the blog by Francisco Ferreira, Joao Pedro Azeved, and Christoph Lakner.
NOAA satellite data illuminate oil production trends in Iraq and Syria
CIRES (Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences), 7 December 2017
Technique promises to help in rapid response assessments of oil production anywhere
Between 2014 and 2016, it was taxation and extortion — not oil — that filled the coffers of the militant Islamic group ISIS, according to a new assessment that relied on NOAA satellite data. The publication also describes how anyone can use rapidly updated NOAA data to quickly assess the production status of oil wells around the world.
Quy-Toan Do, a senior economist with the World Bank’s Development Economics Research Group, led the research, which estimated 2012-2016 oil production rates in areas of Iraq and Syria taken over by ISIS, also called ISIL, Daesh or the Islamic State.
Do and his colleagues — including NOAA’s Chris Elvidge and CIRES/University of Colorado Boulder’s Mikhail Zhizhin and Kimberly Baugh — found that production in 43 key sites peaked in 2014 at about 80,000 barrels per day. That figure dropped to about 35,000 in 2015, and plummeted to just 16,000 in 2016.
Read the article.
Didn’t make it to our trade research conference? Here’s what you missed
Let’s Talk Development, 6 December 2017
What would bring together the China trade shock, road blocks in the West Bank, and the Belt and Road initiative? The 6th Annual IMF-World Bank-WTO Trade Research Conference, at which staff of the three institutions presented the results of twelve research projects.
The Conference is over, but the website lives on, and here you can find preliminary versions of papers. To whet your appetite, here are three examples of research that use creative methodologies and raise provocative questions.
Read the blog by Ana Fernandes and Aaditya Mattoo.
Invisible walls? Why Indian men don’t cross borders for work and opportunity
Let’s Talk Development, 5 December 2017
That international borders limit migration is obvious. But why should provincial or state borders prevent people from moving within a country? After all, most countries do not impose restrictions on mobility like the “hukou” system in China. Yet, in an article forthcoming in the Journal of Economic Geography, we find evidence of “invisible walls” between Indian states (Zovanga Louis Kone, Aaditya Mattoo, Çağlar Özden, Siddharth Sharma, 2017). Indians, particularly men seeking education and jobs, display a puzzling reluctance to cross state borders.
On the face of it, internal migrants represented 30 percent of India’s population in 2001. But this number is deceptively large: two-thirds were migrants within districts, and more than half were women migrating for marriage. Figure 1 reveals internal migration rates across states were nearly four times higher in Brazil and China, and more than nine times higher in the United States in the five years ending in 2001. Other researchers found that in a comparison of internal migration in 80 countries, India ranked last (Martin Bell, Elin Charles-Edwards, Philipp Ueffing, John Stillwell, Marek Kupiszewski, Dorota Kupiszewska 2015).
Read the blog by Aaditya Mattoo, Çağlar Özden, and Siddharth Sharma.
Future Development Reads: Surprises, support, and surveys on economics and poverty
Future Development, 2 December 2017
This week, I have been examining a wide variety of literature that offers both support and surprising contradictions to many of the assumptions we take for granted in development economics. Here’s a selection of a few of my favorites.
Read the blog by Shanta Devarajan.
How India’s internal borders inhibit migration
VoxEU, 30 November 2017
Indian men looking for education and jobs display a puzzling reluctance to cross state borders. This column explores the reasons for this surprising migration pattern. A major culprit is India’s system of ‘fragmented entitlements’, whereby welfare benefits are administered at the state level, and state residents get preferential treatment when it comes to higher education and government employment. These administrative rules prevent the more efficient allocation of labour across the country.
Read the article by Zovanga Kone, Maggie Y. Liu, Aaditya Mattoo, Çağlar Özden, and Siddharth Sharma.
China makes inroads in its battle against inequality
Financial Times, 23 November 2017
Xi Jinping’s determination to tackle China’s social inequalities was one of the most trumpeted elements of his marathon three-and-a-half-hour presidential address at this year’s Communist party congress. Less well reported, however, is that inequality in the world’s most populous nation has already been falling since 2008. Moreover, the fall is part of a broader, though far from universal, trend that has seen income inequality decline across emerging markets, led by Latin America, historically the most unequal region on earth.
Since the early 2000s, income inequality, as measured by the Gini coefficient, has fallen significantly in all of the 16 Latin American countries for which the World Bank has a reasonable run of data (it has nothing for Venezuela since 2006).
Read the article (gated).
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