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.

Victor Gay, Daniel Hicks, Estefania Santacreu-Vasut, 10 September 2016

Evidence suggests that many forms of gender inequality are higher in countries where the language distinguishes gender. But these patterns could arise spuriously, as languages and other cultural institutions have co-evolved throughout history. This column uses an epidemiological approach to isolate language from other cultural forces and provide direct evidence on whether language matters. The findings suggest how gender roles have been shaped, how they are perpetuated, and, ultimately, how they can be changed.

Lucia Corno, Áureo De Paula, 13 January 2015

Addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic requires an understanding of how risky sexual behaviours change over time. This column observes that, whereas the accuracy of self-reported data depends on the likelihood of people telling the truth, the likelihood of risky behaviours being detected in tests for sexually transmitted infections is equal to the disease transmission rate. Self-reported data may therefore be a more reliable measure of risky behaviours than the prevalence of sexually transmitted infections when the probability of transmission is low.

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