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Charles Kenny is a senior fellow and the director of technology and development at the Center for Global Development. His current work focuses on gender and development, the role of technology in development, governance and anticorruption and the post-2015 development agenda. He has published articles, chapters and books on issues including what we know about the causes of economic growth, the link between economic growth and broader development, the causes of improvements in global health, the link between economic growth and happiness, the end of the Malthusian trap, the role of communications technologies in development, the ‘digital divide,’ corruption, and progress towards the Millennium Development Goals. He is the author of the book "Getting Better: Why Global Development is Succeeding, and How We Can Improve the World Even More" and “The Upside of Down: Why the Rise of the Rest is Great for the West.” He has been a contributing editor at Foreign Policy magazine and a regular contributor to Business Week magazine. Kenny was previously at the World Bank, where his assignments included working with the VP for the Middle East and North Africa Region, coordinating work on governance and anticorruption in infrastructure and natural resources, and managing a number of investment and technical assistance projects covering telecommunications and the Internet.
Under managing director Christine Lagarde, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has become a champion for gender equality. This note examines how much the IMF’s dialogue with its member countries has changed as a result of the labeling of gender as a "macrocritical" issue. In short, there has been increased attention to the issue as reflected in word counts and discussion of women’s labor force participation, but there is still a long way to go.
On October 4, CGD convened a private roundtable on women and financial technology in development alongside Monica Brand Engel, co-founding partner of Quona Capital (which invests in financial technology solutions in the developing world), and Wendy Jagerson Teleki of the International Finance Corporation. An engaged set of participants from MDBs, government, civil society, and the private sector joined Engel and Teleki in exchanging ideas on how to increase women’s representation in financial technology (or “fintech” for short) leadership and improve access to financial services for women.
As Lant Pritchett reports, the World Bank has introduced two new poverty lines: $3.20 for lower middle income countries, and $5.50 for upper middle income countries. I’m with Lant that this is broadly a good thing. But the process by which the World Bank came up with its new poverty lines suggests it might be worth revisiting some of the pitfalls of income thresholds at the individual or national level.
How much innovation will be needed to meet the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals? Our results suggest that (i) best performers are considerably outperforming the average performance at a given income level, suggesting considerable progress could be achieved through policy change but that (ii) the targets set in the SDGs are unlikely to be met by 2030 without very rapid, ubiquitous technological progress alongside economic growth.
Improving rights for gays and lesbians is a critical human rights issue. Even where it is not illegal, gays and lesbians face violence, discrimination, and social stigma. But our research makes clear that in the developing world as a whole, both laws and attitudes are changing for the better, and that legal change is not only a positive step in itself, but it can also help shift attitudes too.
Washington – Today, Center for Global Development Senior Fellow Charles Kenny and Researcher Dev Patel released a new study that finds that just as social attitudes toward gays and lesbians have changed rapidly in the developed world, these attitudes are also changing in the developing world. The study also suggests that the changes in social attitudes often follow and are caused by changes in government policy toward gays and lesbians.
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The study, “Norms and Reform: Legalizing Homosexuality Improves Attitudes” uses public opinion data on this issue from the Gallup World Poll and the World Values Survey and matches changes in attitudes over time with the timeline of laws concerning same-sex decriminalization. The study also includes data visualizations that show legal trends over time and geography.
Legality of homosexuality across the globe
“Improving rights for gays and lesbians is a critical human rights issue. In some countries, people are still imprisoned and even killed because of their sexual orientation. Even where it is not illegal, gays and lesbians face violence, discrimination, and social stigma,” said Charles Kenny. “But our research makes clear that in the developing world as a whole, both laws and attitudes are changing for the better. And legal change is not only a positive step in itself, it can also help shift attitudes.”
The study finds:
As of May 2017, there were 124 countries without any legal penalties for homosexuality, compared to 72 countries that criminalize same-sex sexual activity.
In the last three decades the proportion of the world that report they do not want to live next to a gay or lesbian individual has dropped by about ten percentage points.
International social norms influenced social norms in developing nations. For example, looking at Eastern European Block nations, eyeing admission into the European Union and the international community, attitudes changed quickly to match the EU consensus on gay and lesbian equality.
When examining differing colonial origins of developing nations, former British colonies lag behind in legalizing homosexuality. 56% of countries where homosexuality is illegal are former British colonies, and 71% of former British colonies criminalize homosexuality.
As law change so do social attitudes and norms. That means that those advocating for policy changes are playing an enormous role – changing not just laws but attitudes as well across the globe.
“A number of developing countries were decades ahead of the United States in legalizing homosexual sex and ensuring gay marriage rights, but they aren’t given much credit,” said Kenny. “While there are still disastrous human-rights violating policies in countries like Zimbabwe and Uganda that demand our attention, they are – thankfully – increasingly the exception.”
You can read the full study here.
This analysis examines the relationship between legal reform and social norms surrounding homosexuality. First, about a fifth of the variation in individual preferences can be explained at a country level. Second, using a difference-in-differences strategy, legalizing homosexuality improves how individuals view the tone of their communities. Third, we provide further evidence supporting a legal origins argument by examining former colonies. We conclude that adopting legal reform can improve societal attitudes.
This paper makes the case for publishing the details of government procurement contracts. Publication could improve government decision-making and competition for contracts, with the added benefit of lowering costs and corruption.
The UN is gearing up for discussions about what international development goals should come after the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which expire in 2015. My guest on this week’s Wonkcast is CGD senior fellow Charles Kenny, who recently published a working paper, written jointly with CGD visiting fellow Andy Sumner, that assesses the impact of the MDGs and offers suggestions for what should come next.
Yesterday I was excited to see that the UK Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) had a report out on UK Department for International Development’s (DFID’s) anticorruption activities. It was a great topic for independent analysis by a group that didn’t need to worry about the politically correct thing to say, and could get beyond sloganeering (‘zero tolerance for corruption’) to a careful, evidence-based analysis of how corruption impacts development, what the role is for donors, and how DFID’s existing portfolio stacks up. My excitement didn’t last long—this report is not that analysis. I feel like a kid who got empty wrappers in his trick or treat bag.
This is the latest in a series of CGD blogs suggesting improvements to the SDG targets.
The first target of the first goal of the Sustainable Development Goals is to “eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere” by 2030. The second target is to “reduce at least by half the proportion of…. [people] living in poverty…..according to national definitions.”
Martin Kirk and Jason Hickel published a piece earlier this week on the annual Gates Letter. The core critique is that the letter is too rosy. In particular, Kirk and Hickel say of the Gates' letter: "some of their examples are just wrong." The case they provide in illustration is the idea that poverty has been cut by half since 1990. The Gates "use figures based on a $1.25 a day poverty line, but there is a strong scholarly consensus that this line is far too low." Use other poverty lines, and global poverty "hasn’t been falling. In fact, it has been increasing—dramatically.” (See related pieces by Jason here and here). I don't think this critique holds up.
This paper analyzes six waves of responses from the World Values Survey to understand the determinants of beliefs about women’s roles in society and their relationship with the legal system and outcomes.