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Views from the Center

CGD experts offer ideas and analysis to improve international development policy. Also check out our Global Health blog and US Development Policy blog.


Two Views on Fighting World Poverty

Yesterday, Lant Pritchett expressed his bewilderment at my open letter to Bill Gates advocating cash for the poor rather than chickens. I think Lant’s right and he’s wrong. We have to focus on the big picture and economic growth as a society, but I think there’s a strong argument for directly tackling the worst poverty now.

Getting Kinky with Chickens

“Chickens versus cash” might be the “best investment” for a very narrow question, but I argue it probably isn’t in the top 100 value for money research questions in development economics.

Really, Global Poverty *Is* Falling. Honest.

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.

On Inequality, Redistribution, and Wishful Thinking

A key goal of tax-and-spending policies is to alleviate poverty by redistributing income from the haves to the have-nots. The extent that this is possible depends on the balance between the number of higher earners and the number of poor people, and the efficiency of the mechanisms used.