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Toward Better Global Poverty Measures - Working Paper 417


The paper discusses three problems in measuring global poverty: (i) how to allow for social effects on welfare, recognizing the identification issues involved; (ii) the need to monitor progress in raising the consumption floor above its biological level; and (iii) addressing the longstanding concerns about prevailing approaches to making inter-country comparisons of price levels facing poor people.


Doing Cash Differently: How Cash Transfers Can Transform Humanitarian Aid

The High Level Panel on Humanitarian Cash Transfers

The Report of the High Level Panel on Humanitarian Cash Transfers shows why giving aid directly in the form of cash is often a highly effective way to reduce suffering and to make limited humanitarian aid budgets go further. We urge the humanitarian community to give more aid as cash, and to make cash central to future emergency response planning.


Taxes: Price of Civilization or Tribute to Leviathan? - Working Paper 412

Lant Pritchett and Yamini Aiyar

There are two dominant narratives about taxation.  In one, taxes are the “price we pay for a civilized society” (Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.).  In this view taxes are not a necessary evil (as in the pairing of “death and taxes” as inevitable) but a positive good: more taxes buy more “civilization.” The other view is that taxes are “tribute to Leviathan”—a pure involuntary extraction from those engaged in economic production to those who control coercive power producing no reciprocal benefit.  In this view taxes are a bane of the civilized.   We consider the question of taxes as price versus tribute for contemporary India.


Inequality and Fiscal Redistribution in Middle Income Countries: Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Indonesia, Mexico, Peru and South Africa - Working Paper 410


This paper examines the redistributive impact of fiscal policy for Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Indonesia, Mexico, Peru and South Africa using comparable fiscal incidence analysis with data from around 2010. The largest redistributive effect is in South Africa and the smallest in Indonesia. While fiscal policy always reduces inequality, this is not the case with poverty.

flickr user Cho Wah Ye / cc bit.ly/1KEFu1s

Food Security Post-2015: What Countries Need to Do So That Regional Collaboration Can Be Effective


To explain why ending hunger has been so hard, Peter Timmer highlights four main themes: the complex role of markets, the importance of government policies, the historical process of structural transformation, and the need to identify the appropriate time horizon for analysis and interventions. These themes are not new, but integrating them into a coherent approach to ending hunger seems to be original

Bringing US Development Finance into the 21st Century


The future of development policy is in development finance. Developing countries need aid less and less as their incomes rise and economies grow. What they need now is private investment and finance. US development policy, however, has failed to bring its development finance tools in line with this reality. Related US efforts have not been deployed in an efficient or strategic manner because authorities are outdated, staff resources are insufficient, and tools are dispersed across multiple agencies.

Other players are doing more. Well-established European development finance institutions (DFIs) are providing integrated services for businesses, and these services cover debt and equity financing, risk mitigation, and technical assistance. Moreover, emerging-market actors — including China, India, Brazil, and Malaysia — have dramatically increased financing activities in developing regions such as Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Modernizing US Migration Policy for Domestic and Development Gains


US development policy was built for a world that no longer exists. When the US Agency for International Development (USAID) was created in 1961, foreign aid was by far the most important flow of resources to developing countries. Today, aid is a relative sideshow. International migrants send roughly four times more money home to developing countries (close to $500 billion per year) than all donors disburse in global aid (roughly $130 billion per year). Remittances sent from the United States to Latin America and the Caribbean ($32 billion per year) are more than five times the combined US economic and military assistance to the same countries (less than $6 billion per year). Individuals earn much more in the United States than in their home countries, and they develop valuable skills through migration, often transmitting useful ideas and technologies back to their home countries.

Taking the Lead on Trade and Development


The United States is not using trade as effectively as it might to promote development. The executive and legislative branches of the US government have long recognized that trade can be an important tool to help poorer countries generate resources, create jobs, and reduce poverty. They also recognize that growth in developing countries contributes to global prosperity and growing markets for US exporters as well. Despite that, the few significant US trade barriers that remain often target agricultural and labor-intensive products in which developing countries have a comparative advantage.

Protecting Tropical Forests, Global Prosperity, and Climatic Stability


Climate change is a threat not only to prosperity in the United States but also to national security, foreign policy, and development objectives throughout the world. Hurricane Sandy served as a reminder of the destruction to life and property from extreme weather events, which are likely to become more frequent and severe. Likewise, extended drought in the Southwest illustrates how climate change could affect agriculture, energy, recreation, and other major sectors of the US economy. The implications of climate change for the development prospects of poor countries are even worse. Lacking infrastructure, financial assets, insurance mechanisms, or strong institutions to cushion the impacts, developing societies remain highly vulnerable to natural disasters, including those resulting from increasingly irregular climatic conditions. The poorest households are most vulnerable — their houses often perch on steep, landslide-prone hillsides around cities or in coastal floodplains, and smallholder farmers lack irrigation and depend on increasingly erratic seasonal rains.

Powering Up US Policy to Promote Energy Access


As late as 1930, only 1 in 10 rural Americans had access to electricity. In subsequent years, rapidly increasing power generation and growing the electrical grid across the country became major pillars of the American battle against domestic poverty and a foundation for decades of economic growth and wealth creation. Today, energy access is universal in the United States. Reliable and affordable electricity is considered a basic necessity of life, an indispensable input to almost every aspect of modern living.

That same transformation is possible today in large parts of the developing world, where lack of access to modern energy harms quality of life and constrains economic growth. A concerted policy effort by the United States could help unleash tremendous human and market potential around the world. Pushing to promote electricity generation and access could significantly contribute to doing good in developing countries — and doing well for the United States.






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