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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.

 

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.

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.

The United States Can Give Better Aid to Haiti

This commentary also appeared on The Huffington Post and Global Post

Last week at a United Nations conference, donors pledged more than $10 billion to finance reconstruction and development investments in Haiti. The United States promised a hefty $1.15 billion.

But pledging money is the easy part. The United States, the lead donor and friend with the greatest interest in Haiti's future development, can do much more, in two ways: its own aid programs can be more effective; and it can take steps beyond aid that are far more critical to long-run prosperity for Haiti's people.

An Open Letter to Jim Lehrer

To: Jim Lehrer

From: Nancy Birdsall

Subject: Missed opportunity to include development in the foreign policy debate

Dear Jim - How regrettable that the presidential debate on foreign policy and security focused on such a predictably narrow set of topics.