Dominic Rohner, 22 January 2021

As the climate heats up, what does it mean for the number, and the scale, of conflicts in Africa? Dominic Rohner warns Tim Phillips about the impact that climate change has had in the continent already and the danger signs for the future.

Cristian Ugarte, Marcelo Olarreaga, 24 December 2020

By 2025 the UN aims to have eliminated child labour, a practice that affects roughly 10% of the world’s children and severely impedes sustainable development. But reaching that target will require a clear understanding of how global value chains interact with child labour. This column analyses 26 developing countries from 2007–2015 and concludes that countries participating in global value chains experienced reductions in child labour except in cases when an increase in exports was accompanied by additional imported content from third countries.  

Christine Binzel, Andreas Link, Rajesh Ramachandran, 24 December 2020

The use of a language in written and formal contexts that is distinct from the languages used in everyday communication – such as Latin in early modern Europe and Standard Arabic in the Arabic-speaking world, both past and present – comes with benefits, but also with costs. Drawing on publishing data from early modern Europe, this column shows that the Protestant Reformation led to a sudden and sharp rise in vernacular printing, such that by the end of the 16th century, the majority of works were printed in spoken tongues rather than in Latin. This transformation allowed broader segments of society to access knowledge. It also diversified the composition of authors and book content and had long-term consequences for economic development.

Vernon Henderson, Adam Storeygard, David Weil, 19 December 2020

Population density and its effect on economic activity have long been of interest to scholars. This column develops a new measure of land quality which takes into account agricultural productivity, biomes, proximity to the sea, navigable rivers, large lakes, natural harbours, terrain roughness, and elevation. The measure is used to compute quality-adjusted land area as well as population density for each country in the world. Correlating quality-adjusted population density with income per capita, it finds a starkly negative relationship, which is suggested to be the result of differential population growth between poor and rich countries over the last 200 years.

Felipe Barrera-Osorio, Paul Gertler, Nozomi Nakajima, Harry Patrinos, 18 December 2020

Parents play an important role in their children’s educational experiences and outcomes, but they often face challenges when supporting their children through school. This column examines the effects of parental involvement programmes implemented at scale by the national government of Mexico. The results suggest that low-cost, group-based information interventions can increase parental engagement in schools, change parenting behaviour at home, and improve children’s behaviour in school. The impacts were particularly large for indigenous families, suggesting that parental involvement programmes can help improve school-family relationships for the most excluded populations

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