Christiane Baumeister, Lutz Kilian, 30 November 2013

Recently, there has been great concern among policymakers worldwide about rising food prices and increased food-price volatility. It is widely believed that oil and food prices have become closely linked after 2006, owing in part to a shift in US biofuel policies. This column presents evidence that challenges this conventional wisdom.

David Dollar, Tatjana Kleineberg, Aart Kraay, 19 November 2013

A key Millennium Development Goal was to halve the number of people living on less than $1.25 a day. This was met five years ahead of schedule, and the World Bank is promoting a new goal of ‘shared prosperity’ defined in terms of the growth rate of incomes in the bottom 40% of households. This column discusses research showing that there is a strong one-for-one relationship between overall growth and average income growth in the poorest quintiles. Overall growth is thus still important.

James Fenske, 09 November 2013

Several theories link polygamy to poverty. Polygamy is concentrated in west Africa and has declined in recent decades. Geographic variation in women’s agricultural productivity does not predict differences in the prevalence of polygamy, but historical inequality and exposure to the slave trade do. Although contemporary female education does not reduce polygamy, areas with more educational investment in the past have less polygamy today. Conflict and lower rainfall lead to small increases in polygamy, whereas lower child mortality leads to a large decrease. National policies appear to have little effect.

Martin Ravallion, 13 August 2013

Poverty is in ascendency as a policy issue – but it has not always been that way. This column, based on the author’s “The Idea of Antipoverty Policy”, recounts how mainstream thinking until well into the 19th century saw little scope for fighting widespread chronic poverty. The revolution came with a deeper understanding of how market and governmental failures interact with inequality to both perpetuate poverty and retard development more broadly. New policies for fighting poverty emerged and now extreme absolute poverty is at an historic low. History suggests, however, that continued progress is not assured.

Kym Anderson, Maros Ivanic, William Martin, 03 August 2013

Food prices in international markets have spiked three times in the past five years. Most governments responded by altering trade restrictions to insulate the domestic market. Did this work? This column presents new research suggesting that altering trade restrictions has less impact than is commonly thought. Since there are other options – such as conditional cash transfers – that could better, more efficiently and more equitably protect against poverty, it is time we sought a multilateral agreement to desist from changing restrictions on trade when international food prices spike.

John Gibson, Chao Li, 09 August 2012

Many an economist will tell you they base their decisions on evidence. But what if the evidence is based on incorrect or irrelevant data? This column asks what this might mean for our view on regional inequality in China.

Ejaz Ghani, Lakshmi Iyer, Saurabh Mishra, 09 March 2012

While the rate of economic growth in India and other South Asian countries is impressive, it does raise the question of whether this growth is inclusive. This column looks at a range of poverty measures over time and finds that while not all extremely poor people in the world are trapped in poverty, in India and South Asia the poorest are not catching up with the richest fast enough.

Dennis Snower, 29 July 2011

The first Global Economic Symposium (GES) took place in the early autumn of 2008. Dennis Snower, President of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy and GES Director, talks to Romesh Vaitilingam about its continuing efforts to bring together people from many professions, nations and cultures to develop solutions to a wide range of global challenges, including financial crises, climate change, poverty and such ‘tragedy of the commons’ phenomena as deforestation and overfishing. The interview was recorded in July 2011.

Martin Ravallion, 14 February 2011

For how long have we cared about poverty? Tracing the number of references to the word “poverty” in books published since 1700, this column shows that there was marked increase between 1740 and 1790, culminating in a “Poverty Enlightenment”. Attention then faded through the 19th and 20th centuries, leaving room for the second Poverty Enlightenment in 1960 – and interest in poverty still rising.

Xavier Sala-i-Martin, Maxim Pinkovskiy, 06 December 2010

Sub-Saharan Africa has made little progress in reducing extreme poverty, according to the latest Millennium Development Report. This column presents evidence from 1970 to 2006 to the contrary.

Ataman Aksoy, Bernard Hoekman, 08 October 2010

The contributions in this latest book from CEPR and the World Bank review trends in international prices and trade patterns of key food commodities, and assess the incidence of food price changes in a number of developing countries using household level data on sources of incomes and consumption patterns.

Bilal Habib, Ambar Narayan, Sergio Olivieri, Carolina Sanchez-Paramo, 19 April 2010

A shortage of real-time data hinders evaluations of the impact of the global crisis on developing countries. This column uses a “microsimulation” approach to assess the poverty and distributional effects in Bangladesh, Mexico, and the Philippines. It finds that poverty will increase by well over a million, and that the crisis has been hardest for middle-income households.

Naotaka Sugawara, Victor Sulla, Ashley Taylor, Erwin Tiongson, 14 April 2010

The global crisis threatens the welfare of over 160 million people living around the poverty line in Europe and Central Asia. This column reports the findings of a recent World Bank analysis in the region. It estimates that the crisis will result in close to 35 million more people living around the poverty line.

Carol Graham, 30 January 2010

What measures of human wellbeing are the most accurate benchmarks of economic progress and human development? This column presents new research suggesting that while people can adapt to be happy at low levels of income, they are far less happy when there is uncertainty over their future wealth. This may help explain why different societies tolerate such different levels of health, crime, and governance, and why US happiness plummeted during the global financial crisis but has since been restored despite incomes remaining lower.

Xavier Sala-i-Martin, Maxim Pinkovskiy, 22 January 2010

World poverty is falling. This column presents new estimates of the world’s income distribution and suggests that world poverty is disappearing faster than previously thought. From 1970 to 2006, poverty fell by 86% in South Asia, 73% in Latin America, 39% in the Middle East, and 20% in Africa. Barring a catastrophe, there will never be more than a billion people in poverty in the future history of the world.

Jonathan Morduch, 18 December 2009

Jonathan Morduch of New York University talks to Romesh Vaitilingam about his new book, Portfolios of the Poor: How the World’s Poor Live on $2 a Day – co-authored with Daryl Collins, Stuart Rutherford and Orlanda Ruthven – which reports on the yearlong ‘financial diaries’ of villagers and slum dwellers in Bangladesh, India, and South Africa. The interview was recorded in New York in August 2009.

Partha Dasgupta, 27 November 2009

Sir Partha Dasgupta of the University of Cambridge talks to Romesh Vaitilingam about why some countries are rich and others are poor. He argues that trust is the fundamental building block of societies – without it, there can be no basis for cooperation, which in turn leads to progress and economic development. The interview was recorded in Bristol, where he was delivering the Royal Economic Society’s annual public lecture in November 2009.

Martin Ravallion, Shaohua Chen, 30 April 2009

Will the financial crisis reverse the trend of declining global poverty? This column estimates that the crisis will add 64 million people to the population living under $2 a day. It predicts that the global poverty rate will fall from 42% to 39% in 2009, while the pre-crisis trajectory would have brought the poverty rate down to 38%.

Antonio Ciccone, 02 January 2009

Does poverty cause civil conflict? This column presents the latest evidence, which shows that droughts in Sub-Saharan Africa that reduce income raise the likelihood of violence.

Raymond Fisman, Edward Miguel, 29 November 2008

This column suggests that in Africa an income drop of 5%—a large but altogether common deterioration in economic conditions—increases the risk of civil conflict in the following year to nearly 30%. This suggests that aid agencies could help prevent war by targeting short-term emergency aid towards countries hard-hit by adverse commodity price movements or weather shocks.

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