Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

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.


Strugglers: The New Poor of the 21st Century

Mohamed Bouazizi is the man whose protest sparked the Arab Spring in December 2010. Bouazizi was a typical “struggler,” as in the title of my keynote speech at the Australasian Aid conference several weeks ago: “Strugglers: This Century’s New Development Challenge.” Below is a rough summary of my talk.

The IMF on Protecting the Poor during Fiscal “Consolidations”: Better Late Than Never

Inequality and inclusive growth were high on the agenda of the Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank earlier this month. We are glad about that, but the under-reported story here is that this prominence marks a dramatic shift in the IMF over the last two decades in the IMF’s approach to the relevant challenges for the poorest countries, including on the issue of social safety nets and social expenditures.

Finding Up-to-Date Median Income Data Just Got Much Easier (Thanks, PovcalNet!)

We have long advocated for more widespread use of median income or median consumption to compare individuals’ material well-being between countries and its development over time, and we are happy to report that the World Bank team that manages the (impressive) PovcalNet database has come through: as of October 1, the median monthly per capita income or consumption for each country is now part of the standard indicators displayed for any country query on PovcalNet.

The World Bank’s Poverty Statistics Lack Median Income Data, So We Filled In the Gap Ourselves — Download Available

PovcalNet, the World Bank’s global poverty database, provides all kinds of country statistics, including mean income, the share (and number) of the population living in absolute poverty ($1.90), the poverty gap and several measures of income inequality, such as the Gini coefficient. But one thing it doesn’t provide is median income or consumption. The median is a better measure of “typical” well-being than the mean, which is always skewed to the right.

We’ve been waiting for the World Bank to add these medians to its PovcalNet database, but we got impatient and did it ourselves. By manually running a few hundred queries in PovcalNet, we now have (and can share with you) the latest median income/consumption data for 144 countries (using 2011 PPPs — more on our methods below).

Where Is Life Better…?

Last week, we sat down with Lawrence to record a Wonkcast on our new working paper The Median is the Message: A Good-Enough Measure of Material Well-Being and Shared Development Progress. In the paper, we argue that survey-based median household consumption expenditure (or income) per capita should be incorporated into standard development indicators, as a simple, robust, and durable indicator of typical individual material well-being in a country.

Why Ending Poverty Requires Ending Everyday Violence Against the Poor

When middle class households opt out en masse of public schools —  as in India and Brazil and the inner cities of USA— it’s bad news for the children of the poor majority.  That’s now a familiar and important argument for radical new thinking about school systems. But it’s even worse for poor people when the middle class and rich give up on basic public security, protecting themselves instead with private guards, gated communities and bullet-proof cars.