The two economic developments that have garnered the most attention in recent years are the concentration of massive wealth in the richest one percent of the world’s population and the tremendous, growth-driven decline in extreme poverty in the developing world, especially in China. But just as important has been the emergence of large middle classes in developing countries around the planet. This phenomenon—the result of more than two decades of nearly continuous fast-paced global economic growth—has been good not only for economies but also for governance. After all, history suggests that a large and secure middle class is a solid foundation on which to build and sustain an effective, democratic state. Middle classes not only have the wherewithal to finance vital services such as roads and public education through taxes; they also demand regulations, the fair enforcement of contracts, and the rule of law more generally—public goods that create a level social and economic playing field on which all can prosper.
The current size of the income-secure middle class and its likely future growth, suggest that optimism is indeed warranted for many of today’s middle-income countries. But it is not warranted for all of them, and especially not for most of the low-income countries of South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa — even if they continue to grow at the relatively healthy rates they have enjoyed in the last decade and more.
Reliance on natural resource revenues, particularly oil, is often associated with bad governance, corruption, and poverty. Worried about the effect of oil on Alaska, Governor Jay Hammond had a simple yet revolutionary idea: let citizens have a direct stake. Thirty years later, Hammond’s vision is still influencing oil policies throughout the world.
In this speech delivered to the UN General Assembly, Nancy Birdsall argues that in the absence of an activist global political entity to address these issues, global citizens should press their own governments to adopt policies that address these problems, domestically and internationally.
This course introduces students to the relations among growth, inequality and globalization of economic markets, with a focus on implications for the developing world.
The White House and the World: A Global Development Agenda for the Next U.S. President shows how modest changes in U.S. policies could greatly improve the lives of poor people in developing countries, thus fostering greater stability, security, and prosperity globally and at home. Center for Global Development experts offer fresh perspectives and practical advice on trade policy, migration, foreign aid, climate change and more. In an introductory essay, CGD President Nancy Birdsall explains why and how the next U.S. president must lead in the creation of a better, safer world.
In an increasingly globalized world, inequality is an issue of rising concern, especially in Latin America, home to many of the world's most unequal societies. This new book, co-published by the Center for Global Development and the Inter-American Dialogue, describes the links between recent growth trends, changing patterns of inequality, and rising cynicism and frustration with the political leadership across the region. The authors, Nancy Birdsall, Augusto de la Torre, and Rachel Menezes, present a dozen economic policy tools to make life fairer for the great majority of people--without sacrificing economic growth.
Does aid to Africa undermine the emergence of a robust African middle class? If so, what can be done about it? In this new working paper, CGD president Nancy Birdsall argues that high and unpredictable aid flows could be making life harder for Africa's small and medium-sized businesses by, for example, inflating wages and making governments less reliant on domestic revenue—and hence less accountable to taxpayers. She urges that donors systematically monitor such impacts in aid-dependent countries and suggests ways that aid could help to bolster Africa's crucial but fragile middle-income groups. Learn more
Although nearly all poor countries are classified by the World Bank as IDA-only, Nigeria stands out as a notable exception. Indeed, Africa’s most populous country is the poorest country in the world that is not classified as IDA-only. Under the World Bank’s own criteria, however, Nigeria has a strong case for reclassification. IDA-only status would have two potential benefits for Nigeria. First, it would expand Nigeria’s access to IDA resources and make the country eligible for grants. Second, it would strengthen Nigeria’s case for debt reduction. With a renewed economic reform effort getting under way and the emerging use of debt reduction as a tool for assisting economic and political transitions, the UK, the US, and other official creditors should support such a move as part of a broader strategy for encouraging progress in one of Africa’s most important countries.
Education is an end in itself, a human right, and a vital part of the capacity of individuals to lead lives they value. It gives people in developing countries the skills they need to improve their own lives and to help transform their societies. Women and men with better education earn more throughout their lives and participate more fully in the civic and political lives of their communities and countries. Particularly for women, education confers the skills and behaviors that lead to healthier lives. Education that reaches women, the poor, and marginalized ethnic groups not only benefits them directly; it contributes to a more equitable and just society.
his policy brief proposes a new job-based social contract, geared to the aspirations of the region’s vast majority of near-poor “middle” households, whose participation is key to achieving growth and strengthening democracy.
After a decade of economic reforms that dramatically altered the structure of economies in Latin America, making them more open and more competitive, and a decade of substantial increases in public spending on education, health and other social programs in virtually all countries, poverty and high inequality remain deeply entrenched. In this paper we ask the question whether some fundamentally different approach to what we call "social policy" in Latin America could make a difference — both in increasing growth and in directly reducing poverty. We propose a more explicitly "bootstraps"-style social policy, focused on enhancing productivity via better distribution of assets. We set out how this broader social policy could address the underlying causes and not just the symptoms of the region's unhappy combination of high poverty and inequality with low growth.
In this paper I set out the economic logic for why good global economic governance matters for reducing poverty and inequality and argue that a step towards better global governance would be better representation of developing countries in global and regional financial institutions.
I suggest in this paper the logic of going beyond the standard, poverty-targeted, elements of good social policy to a modern social contract adapted to the demands and the constraints of an open economy. Such a contract would be explicitly based on broad job-based growth. Second, it would be politically and economically directed not only at the currently poor but at the near-poor and economically insecure middle-income strata.
The paper sets out two views of the facts about the effects of globalization on world poverty and inequality. The bottom line: globalization is not the cause, but neither is it the solution to world poverty and inequality. The paper then explores why and how the global economy is stacked against the poor, making globalization asymmetric, at least up to now. It concludes with some ideas about a new agenda of good global politics, an agenda to shape a future global economy and society that is less poor and less unequal—not only because it is more global and competitive, but also because it is more fair and more politically representative.
At the end of the 1990s the future of Latin America seemed grim in the face of four devastating problems—slow and unsteady economic growth, persistent poverty, social injustice, and personal insecurity. For 10 years Latin America had pursued—with considerable vigor—the 10 economic policies that make up the Washington Consensus, the growth formula promoted by the U.S. Treasury and the international financial institutions. But performance fell far short of expectations, and a new approach was needed.