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. 

Susan W. Parker, Tom Vogl, 30 June 2018

The short-term success of cash transfers as a form of direct aid has been well recognised in recent research. This column combines Mexican census data with data on a major conditional cash transfer programme to analyse the longer-term effects on the subsequent generation. It finds that such programmes had important positive effects on education and labour market outcomes for men and women, suggesting conditional transfer programmes are successful in raising the children of recipients out of poverty.

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.

Martin Ravallion, Shaohua Chen, 15 September 2017

Past studies have measured poverty in either relative terms (mostly in the developed countries) or absolute terms (the developing world). This column presents a new unified approach to global poverty that assumes that people care about both their own income and their income relative to others in their country of residence. The study finds that global poverty has declined more in absolute terms than in relative terms. The vast bulk of the relatively poor now live in the developing world. The advanced countries have seen little progress against poverty, unlike the developing world.

Sandra Sequeira, Nathan Nunn, Nancy Qian, 17 May 2017

Recent empirical studies of the effects of immigration have tended to focus on short-run outcomes. This column considers the longer run by examining how mass migration at the turn of the 20th century has affected US outcomes today. Higher historical immigration between 1860 and 1920 is found to result in significantly better social and economic outcomes today. The results suggest that the long-run benefits of immigration can be large, can persist across time, and need not come at a high social cost.

Don Fullerton, Nirupama Rao, 03 May 2017

In the 2012 US presidential election, Mitt Romney famously asserted that 47% of the population were long-term dependents of the government – ‘takers’, not ‘givers’ to the system. This column examines this claim using long-spanning household-level data. Even though many households find themselves not paying tax or receiving public benefits in at least some years, only a small fraction consistently pay no tax or consistently receive public transfers.

Karen Clay, Jeff Lingwall, Melvin Stephens, 22 April 2017

The exact causes of (and lessons from) the Great Compression – the decline in US income inequality in the mid-20th century – remain unclear. This column uses census data and changes in law to examine the effect of education across the complete distribution of income. Policies that increased attendance for young children in the late 19th and early 20th centuries appear to have had long-term implications for earnings and inequality, with returns to schooling highest among those at the lower end of the income distribution.

Caitlin Brown, Dominique van de Walle, Martin Ravallion, 30 March 2017

Policymakers face challenges when trying to identify the right targets for antipoverty programmes. This column assesses whether the data typically available to policymakers in sub-Saharan Africa are up to the task. Commonly used proxy means tests are found to perform worse than simpler methods in identifying poor households. Moreover, analyses of nutritional status reveal substantial inequality within households, suggesting that household-based measures are not very effective in identifying disadvantaged individuals.

Pushkar Maitra, Sandip Mitra, Dilip Mookherjee, Alberto Motta, Sujata Visaria, 14 December 2016

Lack of access to credit in developing countries traps farmers in poverty. At the same time, there is a lack of evidence that microfinance raises the incomes of the poor while maintaining high repayment rates. Using a field experiment in West Bengal, this column argues that incentivising local intermediaries to select loan recipients improves both average income growth and crop yields compared to traditional microfinance. There is no evidence that this strategy lowers equity, although some disadvantaged groups performed better in the existing system.

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