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Legal empowerment of the poor, education, Africa, evaluating aid effectiveness
Justin Sandefur is a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development. Prior to joining CGD, he spent two years as an adviser to Tanzania's national statistics office and worked as a research officer at Oxford University's Centre for the Study of African Economies. His research focuses on a wide range of topics, including education, poverty reduction, legal reform, and democratic governance.
A commission led by the UN's special envoy for education, Gordon Brown, is calling for a doubling of global aid for education, without any clear reform agenda to raise learning levels in the world's failing school systems. That might be ok: bad schools in poor countries still seem to produce big benefits.
According to The Economist, India's proposal to give every citizen a cash transfer using the digital platform Aadhar could reduce absolute poverty from 22 percent to 0.5 percent. For a country that is home to a third of the world's poor, could Universal Basic Income (UBI) fundamentally change the picture of poverty, health and well-being in India and the world?
Using new data on roads and cities spanning over 50 years in 39 African countries, Remi Jedwab and colleagues document the effect of road construction on city population growth, through the channel of increasing market access. They estimate a 30-year elasticity of city population with respect to market access that is smaller than found in other regions. But they also find heterogeneity in returns within Africa that provides important insights about the potential return to specific transport investments, depending on context.
The city of Bogotá set out to reduce crime and increase state legitimacy by raising state presence on city streets: either increasing police time by two thirds, or delivering clean up and lighting services. In their new paper, Christopher Blattman and his co-authors find that these large and sustained increases in state presence have relatively modest effects on crime, violence, and state legitimacy. They conclude that there may be returns to a more focused approach: increasing and concentrating efforts on the places with the greatest need and least prior state presence.
While Modi has celebrated India’s rapid rise in the Doing Business rankings, the World Bank’s Chief Economist recently resigned amid controversy over methodological changes. Without those changes, India’s “jump” in the rankings looks much more modest.
A couple weeks ago we got to spend two days listening to an all-star line-up of education researchers present the current state of the art in “Research on Improving Systems of Education,” aka RISE. Here’s what we learned.
Internationally comparable test scores play a central role in both research and policy debates on education. However, the main international testing regimes, such as PISA, TIMSS, or PIRLS, include very few low-income countries. For instance, most countries in Southern and Eastern Africa have opted instead for a regional assessment known as SACMEQ. This paper exploits an overlap between the SACMEQ and TIMSS tests—in both country coverage, and questions asked—to assess the feasibility of constructing global learning metrics by equating regional and international scales. I ﬁnd that learning levels in this sample of African countries are consistently (a) low in absolute terms; (b) signiﬁcantly lower than predicted by African per capita GDP levels; and (c) converging slowly, if at all, to the rest of the world during the 2000s. Creating test scores which are truly internationally comparable would be a global public good, requiring more concerted effort at the design stage.
If data wants to be free, then PovcalNet, the world’s leading dataset on global poverty, is happier today because it was recently made available for download in bulk by my guests on this week’s Wonkcast CGD research fellow Justin Sandefur and research assistant Sarah Dykstra.