Policymakers and commentators are constantly looking for new ways to measure development. This column warns against embracing new composite indices with little guidance from economic or other theories. It provides a critical overview of the strengths and weaknesses of using such “mashup” indices of development.
Martin Ravallion, 14 October 2010
Justin Wolfers , Betsey Stevenson, Daniel Sacks, 11 October 2010
Does money buy happiness? Discussion Paper 8048 examines the relationship between subjective well-being and income along three dimensions: between individuals in the same country, between other countries, and during a country's growth. In each case higher income correlates with higher reported levels of subjective well-being. Higher income, the authors conclude, does in fact make people happier with their lives.
Naren Prasad, Megan Gerecke, 10 October 2010
Financial crises, such as that of 2008-2009, cause GDP to decline, trade to shrink, unemployment to rise, and social problems to increase. What is the link between financial crises and social security spending? This column examines the trends in social security spending in the aftermath of a financial crisis, advising that now is the time for developing countries to expand their social spending.
Indermit Gill, 09 October 2010
Economic development is not evenly spread, and in some places it is still yet to arrive. This column looks at suggestions from the World Bank’s World Development Report to combat this inequality. It argues that economic growth will be unbalanced, and to try to spread it out – too much, too far, or too soon – is to discourage it. Instead, policymakers should focus on economic integration.
Thorsten Beck, Martin Brown, 06 October 2010
Access to financial services is viewed as a key determinant of economic wellbeing, especially for households in low-income countries. This column examines how the banking structure affects access to finance in 29 transition countries. It finds that changing bank ownership, deposit insurance, payment systems, and creditor protection help the wealthiest households and have little effect on the low-income, rural, or minority households.
Leandro Prados de la Escosura, 04 October 2010
As highlighted by the Millennium Development Goals, measuring development is crucial. This column presents a new human development index challenging the UN measure. It shows that the global average level of human development is “low” and that even by 2007 the level of human development outside of the OECD was similar to that of the richest countries in 1938.
Gareth Edwards-Jones, Paul Brenton, Michael F Jensen, 05 September 2010
Is offsetting your carbon footprint always a good thing? This column questions the criteria used to label carbon footprints, arguing they can disadvantage developing countries. It suggests a variety of ways to overcome that problem.
Eric Chaney, 03 September 2010
Eric Chaney of Harvard University talks to Romesh Vaitilingam about his research on the evolution of institutions in the Islamic world and the relationship with economic development. Among other things, they discuss the rise and fall of Muslim science; and the balance of power between ‘church’ and ‘state’ in times of catastrophe. The interview was recorded at the annual congress of the European Economic Association in Glasgow in August 2010.
Jesus Felipe, Utsav Kumar, Arnelyn Abdon, 26 August 2010
Why have China and India been able to grow so quickly? This column argues that while the industrial policies pursued by both countries up until the 1980s led to gross mistakes and inefficiencies, China and India would not be where they are now without them. Their export baskets are far more sophisticated and diversified than expected given their income per capita.
Ernesto Aguayo-Téllez, Jim Airola, Chinhui Juhn, 24 August 2010
Promoting gender equality is a Millennium Development Goal. This column explores the effects of trade liberalisation in Mexico during the 1990s on the country’s gender gap. It finds that trade benefitted sectors of the economy that employ more women, such as textiles and clothing, thereby helping to raise women’s earnings and relative social status.
Lant Pritchett, Martina Viarengo, 20 August 2010
In the World Cup, countries rely not on the average quality of their footballers, but on the quality of their best footballers. Could superstars also be crucial in economic competition? This column reveals that each year Mexico produces fewer than 6,000 world class mathematicians at age 15. If superstars do play any role in economic performance then this is particularly problematic, especially since the dominant policy attention is focused elsewhere.
Ataman Aksoy, Francis Ng, 30 July 2010
This column sketches the changing face of global agricultural trade over the last 20 years. It finds that developing countries have not been able to increase their export shares in agriculture in line with their manufacture shares. What little increase there has been is largely the result of expanding exports to other developing countries.
Jesus Felipe, Utsav Kumar, Arnelyn Abdon, 22 July 2010
This column introduces the Index of Opportunities – a ranking of countries by their capacity to undergo structural transformation and develop. It suggests countries at the bottom are in urgent need of implementing policies that lead to higher diversification and sophistication of exports.
Ejaz Ghani, Lakshmi Iyer, 23 March 2010
Is conflict a cause or a result of underdevelopment? This column presents research on South Asia – the second most violent region in the world. It argues that conflict is both a cause and an effect. To break out of the trap, policymakers need to reduce poverty while at the same time restraining conflict to enable the much needed economic growth.
Milan Brahmbhatt, Otaviano Canuto, 02 March 2010
How important are primary commodities for economic development? This column suggests that primary commodity prices are likely to ease over the next five years. Nevertheless, commodity revenues will remain high, raising challenges that, if not addressed, can harm long-run development. With good governance, however, such revenues can also be a valuable resource to help accelerate overall development.
Ejaz Ghani, 25 February 2010
Which is the best route to development: Manufacturing or services? This column argues that India’s example of a “services revolution” – rapid growth and poverty reduction led by services – provides inspiration for late-comers to development and challenges the conventional wisdom that industrialisation is the only rapid route to economic development.
Matthew Kahn, Siqi Zheng, 19 January 2010
China’s economic growth has profound environmental implications. This column estimates the household carbon emissions of China’s major cities. Even in China’s most polluting city, per household emissions are just one-fifth of those in San Diego, the greenest city in the US.
Jonathan Morduch, 18 December 2009
Jonathan Morduch of New York University talks to Romesh Vaitilingam about his new book, Portfolios of the Poor: How the World’s Poor Live on $2 a Day – co-authored with Daryl Collins, Stuart Rutherford and Orlanda Ruthven – which reports on the yearlong ‘financial diaries’ of villagers and slum dwellers in Bangladesh, India, and South Africa. The interview was recorded in New York in August 2009.
Partha Dasgupta, 27 November 2009
Sir Partha Dasgupta of the University of Cambridge talks to Romesh Vaitilingam about why some countries are rich and others are poor. He argues that trust is the fundamental building block of societies – without it, there can be no basis for cooperation, which in turn leads to progress and economic development. The interview was recorded in Bristol, where he was delivering the Royal Economic Society’s annual public lecture in November 2009.
Alan Winters, 02 April 2009
The crisis, started by rich nations, is now harming developing nations. In this column, Alan Winters – one of the world’s leading trade and development economists and now chief economist of the UK’s Department for International Development – argues that Summit commitments show that development and developing countries are at the heart of G20 leaders’ vision for the twenty-first century.