Martin Ravallion, 26 October 2020

At times, ‘ending poverty’ may seem to be nothing more than a ‘symbolic’ goal, with little done to achieve the aim. This column provides a short history of the idea of ending poverty as a ‘motivational’ goal, from the intellectual germ of the modern idea of distributive justice in the late 18th century to the UN’s first Sustainable Development Goal of ending “extreme poverty” globally by 2030. It argues that the path to attaining SDG1 calls for some combination of economic growth, especially when fuelled by pro-poor technical progress, and pro-poor redistribution, but huge challenges lie ahead in how to manage the likely tradeoffs between the ‘social’ and ‘environmental’ SDGs.

Ricardo Hausmann, Ulrich Schetter, 29 August 2020

Fighting COVID-19 has forced countries around the world to make trade-offs between lives and livelihoods. But in countries where many people already live at or close to subsistence, the alternatives are more excruciating yet. This column analyses cases in which the trade-off is actually between lives and lives; in other words, countries that can save their populations from the pandemic or from deprivation, but not both. The authors consider ways to alleviate these trade-offs, as well as their implications for policy – both national and international.

John McLaren, 11 August 2020

In the US, COVID-19 tends to magnify inequalities by disproportionately hitting minorities, particularly African Americans, who suffer from higher COVID-19 mortality rates. Higher rates of infection appear to be the cause rather than factors related to treatment. Using an indirect approach, this column uses census data to identify the socioeconomic factors that cause different racial groups to be differentially exposed to the virus. Very strong racial disparities in COVID-19 mortality rates are seen for African-American and First Nations populations. Occupation, income, poverty rates, or access to healthcare insurance appears to matter little. Pre-COVID-19 use of public transport, however, may be a significant factor.

Caitlin Brown, Martin Ravallion, Dominique van de Walle, 27 June 2020

Recommendations to limit the spread of COVID-19 call for social distancing, washing, and access to information and treatment. However, people need to be in household environments that allow them to follow those recommendations. This column examines the relationship between poverty and the adequacy of the home environment. There is a strong wealth effect both within and between countries, where the poor are less likely to have the kind of dwellings and infrastructure to follow WHO recommendations. Complementary policies to address such inadequate home environments are needed.

Toshihiro Okubo, 25 June 2020

The Japanese government’s policy response to the COVID-19 pandemic was to ask people to refrain from leaving their homes and to encourage teleworking. This column examines the effect of COVID-19 on the uptake of teleworking in a country that has the lowest use among developed countries. Overall, teleworking increased about 4 percentage points from January to March 2020, driven by industries and occupations related to information and located in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Teleworking is not suited to face-to-face services and manual labour, which saw substantial declines in worker incomes.

Stefania Fabrizio, Vivian Malta, Marina M. Tavares, 20 June 2020

The COVID-19 crisis is depressing growth globally, and lockdown measures are causing widespread job losses. This column illustrates that women are amongst the worst affected. Women are vulnerable not only because of their jobs, but also because of gender inequalities within housework division, education, and health. There is an urgent need to support women, repair gender disparities aggravated by crisis, and to reduce women’s vulnerability going forward. Gender-responsive fiscal measures are viable tools that work in the interests of women, as well as supporting economic growth and reducing poverty and inequality.

Ken Mayhew, Samuel Wills, 18 June 2020

Inequality within most developed countries is higher today than it was 30 years ago. Growth in emerging economies has reduced inequality between nations, but the benefits have been unevenly spread within those economies. This column analyses what has happened, why we should care, and what can be done about inequality. Governments have not focused enough on pre-market policies that prevent inequality arising in the first place. Post-market interventions should be seen as too little, too late. Instead, we need a call-to-arms for governments to re-focus on the deep underlying drivers of inequality.

Juan C. Palomino, Juan Gabriel Rodríguez, Raquel Sebastian, 16 June 2020

Enforced social distancing and lockdown measures to contain COVID-19 restrict economic activity, especially among workers in non-essential jobs who cannot ‘telework’. These have implications for inequality and poverty. This column analyses the capacity of individuals in 29 European countries to work under lockdown and the potential impact of a two-month lockdown on wages and inequality levels. There will be substantial and uneven wage losses across the board and poverty will rise. Inequality within countries will worsen, as it will between countries although to a lesser extent.

Romina Gambacorta, Alfonso Rosolia, Francesca Zanichelli, 15 April 2020

Household incomes are bound to be severely hit by the lockdowns imposed across the world in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This column uses survey data on European households’ balance sheets to demonstrate that across European countries there are large (and similar) shares of the population that are likely to suffer from the economic fallout of containment measures – albeit through different channels – and that, were the lockdowns to last three months, might not have sufficient financial resources to maintain a minimum threshold of wellbeing.

Kevin Bryan, 29 October 2019

The 2019 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences has been awarded jointly to Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, and Michael Kremer “for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty”. This column outlines their impact on development economics research and practical action to reduce poverty. It also considers some of the critiques of randomised controlled trials as an approach to development.

Kacie Dragan, Ingrid Gould Ellen, Sherry Glied, 19 September 2019

The pace of gentrification in US cities has accelerated, but little evidence exists on its impact on low-income children. This column uses Medicaid claims data to examine how gentrification affects children’s health and wellbeing in New York City. It finds that low-income children born in areas that gentrify are no more likely to move than those born in areas that don't gentrify, and those that do move tend to end up living in areas of lower poverty. Moreover, gentrification does not appear to dramatically alter the health status or health-system utilisation of children by age 9–11, although children growing up in gentrifying areas show somewhat elevated levels of anxiety and depression.

Michael Reich, 23 August 2019

The US has an epidemic of "deaths of despair". Michael Reich tells Tim Phillips that new research implies that a $15 minimum wage doesn't just cut poverty, it also saves lives. But is Congress listening?

William H. Dow, Anna Godøy, Chris Lowenstein, Michael Reich, 07 July 2019

Policymakers and researchers have sought to understand the causes of and effective policy responses to recent increases in mortality due to alcohol, drugs, and suicide in the US. This column examines the role of the minimum wage and the earned income tax credit – the two most important policy levers for raising incomes for low-wage workers – as tools to combat these trends. It finds that both policies significantly reduce non-drug suicides among adults without a college degree, and that the effect is stronger among women. The findings point to the role of economic policies as important determinants of health. 

Martin Ravallion, 15 April 2019

It is 50 years since the Sino-Malay race riots in Kuala Lumpur prompted a policy effort to reduce Malaysia’s longstanding ethnic inequalities. This column argues that while reduced ethnic/racial disparities in living standards has played an important role in the country's ability to manage overall relative inequality and in its impressive progress against poverty over the last 50 years, overall economic growth has been more important. However, the potential gains to poor Malaysians from progress toward ethnic equality do not appear to have been exhausted yet. 

Sendhil Mullainathan, 19 October 2018

Sendhil Mullainathan of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business discusses the psychology of scarcity and how it applies to the poor. The interview was recorded at the RES conference in 2014.

Tim Besley, 03 October 2018

Tim Besley of the LSE-Oxford Commission on State Fragility, Growth and Development talks about the Commission's recent report on escaping the fragility trap.

Jayson Beckman, Carmen Estrades, Manuel Flores, Angel Aguiar, 03 October 2018

Export taxes are the most commonly employed form of export restrictions on agricultural products, but they receive relatively little scrutiny in multilateral trade negotiations. This column demonstrates that taxes have a positive effect on prices, with effects generally detectable in the same year that the taxes are implemented. The removal of export taxes does not affect international prices, but can lead to small decreases in domestic poverty.

Paul Hufe, Ravi Kanbur, Andreas Peichl, 28 September 2018

Rising income and wealth inequality have come into sharp focus since the Global Crisis. Using US and European data, this column explores the factors contributing to unfair inequality, focusing on equality of opportunity and freedom from poverty. The results show that unfair inequality is greater in the US than anywhere in Europe, and that it has been increasing over time. The findings also show that relying solely on measures of equality of opportunity will severely underestimate unfair inequality. 

Linda Yueh, 05 August 2018

Between 1960 and 2008, only a dozen or so middle-income countries became prosperous. This column explores the factors affecting how and why some countries become prosperous, while others fail. Consistent with the theories of New Institutional Economics, economies that adopted the economic policies and institutional reforms of successful countries enjoyed the largest increases in prosperity. These successes point to the advantages of looking beyond the economic staples of capital, labour, and technology in fashioning growth policies.

Ambar Narayan, Roy Van der Weide, 02 July 2018

Intergenerational mobility is important for both fairness and economic efficiency in a society. This column uses data from a new global study spanning five decades to show that average relative mobility is lower in developing economies, with no sign that the gap with developed countries is getting smaller. In addition, income mobility in several developing economies is much lower than their levels of educational mobility would lead us to expect. Labour market deficiencies appear to be contributing to this gap between mobility in education and income. 

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