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A quarter-century after the empirical growth literature set out to explain why poor countries aren’t catching up with rich ones, cross-country regressions have mercifully gone out of fashion. But in the interim, the core facts have changed.
The world’s poorest people have been getting richer recently. But they remain incredibly poor. The 10 percent of the world’s population still consuming $1.90 or less a day are subsisting on a small fraction of the resources available to people at the US poverty line. So you’d hope that the governments of the countries where they live would be trying to raise their consumption levels. But the reality is more complex.
New results from a famous experiment in Kenya have sparked heated debate over whether lump-sum cash transfers have any long-term benefits for those who get them, or even do harm to neighbors who don’t.
While I think it's silly to argue we spend too much on girls' education, perhaps it's reasonable to ask whether a concern with gender equality and a cold hard look at recent data would lead anyone to put their marginal dollar into girls' schooling over, say, campaigning for gender quotas (which seem to work well in Indian politics, at least) or even subsidized childcare (which has boosted female labor force participation in Latin America).
Teachers in poor countries earn far more, in relative terms, than teachers in the OECD—and several recent studies suggest their pay isn’t linked to skills or performance. But we also have growing evidence that high-quality teachers generate huge economic returns. The question is how to ensure high pay attracts high quality.
Reasonable people can disagree about the usefulness of the World Bank’s country rankings. But after the Chief Economist resigned amidst a controversy about the index, the Bank has made a number of misleading claims, including defending numbers in the press that its researchers have quietly repudiated.
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.