Jonathan D. Ostry, Andrew Berg, Siddharth Kothari, 19 February 2018

While there is consensus that structural reforms can increase growth, there is also a fear that certain reforms can exacerbate inequality. This column argues – based on a dataset covering financial, institutional, and real sector reforms – that certain reforms do indeed increase inequality but despite this, the net effect on growth remains positive.

Olivier Sterck, Max Roser, Mthuli Ncube, Stefan Thewissen, 16 February 2018

Large multilateral organisations like WHO and the UN rely heavily on average income data in determining eligibility for, and the allocation of, development assistance for health. This column tests this paradigm by analysing the determinants of health outcomes for 99 countries. A country’s epidemiological surroundings, poverty gap, and institutional capacity appear to be much better predictors of health outcomes than gross national income. These findings suggest alternative metrics that could be leveraged in allocating development assistance for health.

Susanne Frick, Andrés Rodríguez-Pose, 14 February 2018

Urban concentration is typically deemed to lead to greater national economic growth. This column challenges this view, using an original dataset covering 68 countries over the past three decades. Urban concentration levels have decreased or remained stable on average, though these averages hide widely diverging trends across countries. Although concentration has been beneficial for high-income countries, this hasn’t been the case for for developing countries.

Jutta Bolt, Robert Inklaar, Herman de Jong, Jan Luiten van Zanden, 25 January 2018

Research on long-run economic development has relied heavily on the database compiled by Angus Maddison. This column presents a new version of the Maddison Project Database based on historical growth data, but also incorporating historical cross-country income comparisons. The revisions shed new light on patterns of long-term development and cross-country income convergence.

Vito Amendolagine, Andrea Presbitero, Roberta Rabellotti, Marco Sanfilippo, 24 January 2018

A new wave of foreign direct investment has swept sub-Saharan African countries, with inflows becoming more diversified both geographically and sectorally. This column presents an analysis that shows a high degree of complementarity between involvement in global value chains and FDI. Policies supporting the entry and upgrading of countries in such chains – especially via a strong institutional setting and a well-educated labour force – can help maximise the spillovers from foreign investment.

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