With rigorous economic research and practical policy solutions, we focus on the issues and institutions that are critical to global development. Explore our core themes and topics to learn more about our work.
In timely and incisive analysis, our experts parse the latest development news and devise practical solutions to new and emerging challenges. Our events convene the top thinkers and doers in global development.
Empirical development economics, economic reform, international migration, poverty, social policy and development.
Lant Pritchett is a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development and professor of the practice of international development at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, where he taught from 2000 to 2004 and from 2007 onward. Before rejoining the Kennedy School in 2007, he was lead socio-economist in the social development group of the South Asia region of the World Bank. He occupied various other positions at the World Bank during his tenure there, beginning in 1988. Pritchett was a team member on a number of prominent World Bank publications including Economic Growth in the 1990s: Learning from a Decade of Reforms (2005); Making Services Work for Poor People (World Development Report 2004); Assessing Aid: What Works, What Doesn't and Why (with David Dollar, 1998); and Infrastructure for Development (World Development Report 1994). He has published two books with Center for Global Development, Let Their People Come (2006) and The Rebirth of Education (2013). Pritchett has published over a hundred articles and papers (with more than 25 co-authors) on a wide range of topics, including state capability, labor mobility, and education, among many others. Originally from Idaho, Pritchett is the father of three children and now lives in an empty nest with his wife of 31 years.
President Nancy Birsdall, Senior Fellow Lant Pritchett, and Visiting Fellow Scott Morris are quoted in a New York Times piece on the feasibility of eradicating poverty.
From the article:
At a news conference during the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in late April, Jim Yong Kim held up a piece of paper with the year “2030” scribbled on it in pen. “This is it,” said Kim, the genial American physician who took over as president of the World Bank last summer. “This is the global target to end poverty.”
It sounds like the sort of airy, ambitious goal that is greeted by standing ovations but is ultimately unlikely to ever materialize. Development experts don’t see it that way, though. The end of extreme poverty might very well be within reach. “It’s not by any means pie-in-the-sky,” says Scott Morris, who formerly managed the Obama administration’s relations with development institutions. When I asked Jeffrey Sachs, the development economist, if the target seemed feasible, he said, “I absolutely believe so.” And Nancy Birdsall, president of the Center for Global Development, the powerful Washington policy group, told me, “In many ways, it’s a very modest goal.”
In part, this is because the bar is set very low. The World Bank aims to raise just about everyone on Earth above the $1.25-a-day income threshold. In Zambia, an average person living in such dire poverty might be able to afford, on a given day, two or three plates of cornmeal porridge, a tomato, a mango, a spoonful each of oil and sugar, a bit of chicken or fish, maybe a handful of nuts. But he would have just pocket change to spend on transportation, housing, education and everything else. The 1.2 billion people living in such extreme poverty, according to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, might own land, but they are not very likely to own durable goods or productive assets — things like bicycles — that might help them raise themselves out of poverty. In such families, about half or three-quarters of income goes toward food.
Of course, making it above the $1.25-a-day mark doesn’t guarantee a white picket fence and a Caddy in the driveway — indeed it doesn’t even guarantee a proper meal. For that reason, some economists have criticized the bank for setting its targets too low. “It’s small,” Pritchett says. “It’s penurious. It’s charity-like. It’s not development.” He says that the billions who live on a bit more than $1.25 a day are still deeply impoverished by any reasonable standard. “Why are we focused on a line, above which nothing happens, set by some technocrats in Washington?” Another 1.2 billion live on between $1.25 and $2 a day, an only slightly less dire form of deprivation.
For the poor living in poor countries, particularly the profoundly unstable ones, gains have been harder-fought and slower, a trend that the World Bank’s own economists describe as worrisome. But that is not to play down the successes so far. In 2008, for the first time since the bank started measuring the statistics, the number of people living in dire poverty and the dire-poverty rate fell in every region around the world. Extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa has at last dipped below the 50 percent mark. Still, many within the development world doubt the ability of NGOs to cure the world’s most troubled nations of their woes. “I don’t think we have a recipe for fixing the Congo or South Sudan or Afghanistan,” says Birdsall, of the Center for Global Development.
In an interview, Kim sounded energetic and optimistic about the prospect that the great brute force of growth would keep on lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty — and about the bank’s role in nursing the process along. Given how big the world is, how big the goal is and how diverse economies are, it would take a multipronged approach, he said. For parts of sub-Saharan Africa, it would mean huge electrification projects. For China, it would mean smarter urbanization and clean energy. For India, it would mean enormous infrastructure investments that the World Bank could help finance. It also might mean replicating what has worked for those big, quick-growing emerging economies in poorer, poverty-stricken developing ones.
Read it here.
Most of the world’s children now live in countries on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal of universal primary completion by 2015. Countries have indeed made great progress getting kids in school, but behind that progress is a problem: many children are hardly learning anything in school. Some measures of learning are just dismal. In India, for example, only about one-third of children in grade 5 can perform long division. Nearly one-half cannot read a grade 2 text, and one in five cannot follow a grade 1 text.
What is to be done? Broadly speaking, schools, governments, and donors need to focus more on actual learning goals, not just filling seats. This report of the CGD Study Group on Measuring Learning Outcomes shows how to make some headway in that direction. Governments need to develop comparable, public learning assessments. Civil society should engage at the grassroots to demand accountability. Donors can play a secondary role by pegging funding to results or experimenting with different strategies. And the UN and other multilaterals should set global standards against which national efforts can be measured. One option is to establish a global learning goal as part of the post-2015 development agenda.
The last decade has seen considerable progress enrolling children in schools worldwide: today most people live in countries on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal of 100% primary completion by 2015.
Sadly, enrollment doesn’t necessarily equal learning. A new report by the CGD Study Group on Measuring Learning Outcomes shows a shockingly wide gap between education inputs and learning outcomes – many children finish primary school unable to read, write or do simple addition. The report, Schooling is Not Education: Using Assessment to Change the Politics of Non-Learning, finds the learning crisis reflects systemic issues in education sectors worldwide. It recommends strong assessment regimes as part of the solution.
On May 9, CGD president Nancy Birdsall will chair a conversation on the report with Alice Albright, chair of the Global Partnership for Education; CGD Study Group co-chair Lant Pritchett; Project director Charles Kenny; and other members of the Study Group. They will discuss the findings and implications for education in the post-2015 development agenda.
Here we extend the basic idea of rigorous impact evaluation—the use of a valid counterfactual to make judgments about causality—to emphasize that the techniques of impact evaluation can be directly useful to implementing organizations (as opposed to impact evaluation being seen by implementing organizations as only an external threat to their funding).
The Social Progress Index is an effort of the Social Progress Imperative to create a new and better way to compare the human and social development performance of countries. High on their agenda is to not use GDP per capita or other measures of national development, but rather focus on direct measures of human well-being. Turns out, this new Social Progress Index (SPI) is almost perfectly correlated with national development.
The “just right” approach for the mobility of low-skill labor looks to avoid either “too hard”—expecting countries to make legally binding commitments to a global protocol—or “too soft”—no global mechanisms for reducing restrictions on labor mobility. We propose a “bundled” organization that works with existing bilateral labor agreements and partners as part of an organization capable of analysis and advocacy.
Poverty reduction is now, and quite properly should remain, the primary objective of the World Bank. But, when the World Bank dreams of a world free of poverty—what should it be dreaming? I argue in this essay that the dream should be a bold one, that treats citizens of all nations equally in defining poverty, and that sets a high standard for what eliminating poverty will mean for human well-being.