Xavier Sala-i-Martin, Maxim Pinkovskiy, 06 December 2010

Sub-Saharan Africa has made little progress in reducing extreme poverty, according to the latest Millennium Development Report. This column presents evidence from 1970 to 2006 to the contrary.

David Cuberes, 01 December 2010

How do cities develop and grow? This column presents historical data from a large number of cities in several countries. It finds that there are a few cities that grow much faster than the rest; the first cities to grow quickly are the largest; and this pattern of sequential city growth is more pronounced in periods of rapid growth in urban population.

Axel Dreher, Peter Nunnenkamp, Hannes Öhler, 26 November 2010

Performance-based aid provides a promising alternative to the failed traditional approach but hardly any empirical evidence exists on its effectiveness in inducing reforms. This column provides new evidence from the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s impact on corruption. It suggests performance-based aid can lead to reforms but only if uncertainty about the timeliness and amount of aid rewards is avoided.

Nauro Campos, Fabrizio Coricelli, 22 November 2010

Conditional cash transfer programmes are now a central part of the debate on social protection policies. So far the emphasis has been on “conditional”. This column focuses on the “cash” and suggests that it might benefit financial development – and that this possibility should be explored at the very least.

Jose Enrique Garcilazo, Joaquim Oliveira Martins, William Tompson, 20 November 2010

The World Bank's Indermit Gill recently argued that economic growth will naturally be spatially unbalanced and that to try to spread it out – too thinly or too soon – would discourage it. This column responds by pointing out that economic concentration is neither necessary nor sufficient for growth.

Lisa Chauvet, Paul Collier, Marguerite Duponchel, 16 November 2010

The end of war is the beginning of a new set of challenges for aid workers. This column asks whether this is the best time to start aid projects. Examining project-level data from the World Bank, it finds that post-conflict aid is more effective, though this is not true for all projects and the advantage erodes over time.

Elias Papaioannou, Stelios Michalopoulos, 15 November 2010

How much influence did colonisation have on Africa’s development? This column examines data from before colonisation up to the modern day and argues that differences in colonial institutions do not explain differences in regional economic performance. Instead, it finds that pre-colonial political centralisation and ethnic class stratification have a significantly positive impact on local development.

Andrew Mold, 24 October 2010

Developing countries have enjoyed strong economic performance over the past decade – often growing twice as fast as OECD economies. This column asks whether developing countries will continue to outpace rich countries over the coming two decades. Updating Angus Maddison’s famous projections, it forecasts a world starkly different from today’s. The worlds’ poor countries will account for nearly 70% of global GDP in 2030.

Daniel Lederman, Lixin Colin Xu, 17 October 2010

Foreign direct investment has been an important component in development success stories around the world. This column explores why southern African countries have not been part of this story. Using newly available data it finds that FDI can help development and provide positive spillovers to the local economy. But Africa must have strong fundamentals to attract investment – in particular, greater openness to trade.

Martin Ravallion, 14 October 2010

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.

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.

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