Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

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December 17, 2013

Primary Schooling, Student Learning, and School Quality in Rural Bangladesh - Working Paper 349

This present paper, by Mohammad Niaz Asadullah and Nazmul Chaudhury therefore makes an important contribution to the literature in a key area of CGD concern. Using a representative sample of 2400 households producing data on 3323 children aged 10 to 17 they assess ability to answer simple arithmetic question (either oral or written).

Mohammad Niaz Asadullah and Nazmul Chaudhury
December 2, 2013

Is Anyone Listening? Does US Foreign Assistance Target People’s Top Priorities? - Working Paper 348

The United States government has made repeated declarations over the last decade to align its assistance programs behind developing countries’ priorities. By utilizing public attitude surveys for 42 African and Latin American countries, this paper examines how well the US has implemented this guiding principle. Building upon the Quality of Official Development Assistance Assessment (QuODA) approach, I identify what people cite most frequently as the ‘most pressing problems’ facing their nations and then measure the percentage of US assistance commitments that are directed towards addressing them. 

November 14, 2013

Supplementing REDD+ with Biodiversity Payments: The Paradox of Paying for Multiple Ecosystem Services - Working Paper 347

An international mechanism to reduce emissions from deforestation using carbon payments (REDD+) can be leveraged to make payments for forests’ biodiversity as well. Paradoxically, under conditions consistent with emerging REDD+ programs, money spent on a mixture of carbon payments and biodiversity payments has the potential to incentivize the provision of greater climate benefits than an equal amount of money spent only on carbon payments.  
October 2, 2013

Can Results-Based Payments Reduce Corruption? - Working Paper 345

A common objection to results-based programs is that they are somehow more vulnerable to corruption. This paper explains why results-based approaches to foreign aid may be less vulnerable to corruption than traditional approaches which track inputs and activities. The paper highlights corruption costs associated with failing to generate benefits and outlines the conditions under which one approach or another might be preferable. It concludes that results-based programs may be less vulnerable to corruption costs associated with failure because they limit the capacity of dishonest agents to divert funds unless those agents first improve efficiency and outputs.

September 4, 2013

Planning for Large-Scale Wind and Solar Power in South Africa: Identifying Cost-Effective Deployment Strategies Using Spatiotemporal Modeling - Working Paper 340

South Africa and many other countries hope to aggressively expand wind and solar power (WSP) in coming decades. The challenge is to turn laudable aspirations into concrete plans that minimize costs, maximize benefits, and ensure reliability. Success hinges largely on the question of how and where to deploy intermittent WSP technologies. This study develops a 10-year database of expected hourly power generation for onshore wind, solar photovoltaic, and concentrating solar power technologies across South Africa. A simple power system model simulates the economic and environmental performance of different WSP spatial deployment strategies in 2040, while ensuring a minimum level of system reliability. 

August 27, 2013

Estimating Income / Expenditure Differences across Populations: New Fun with Old Engel’s Law - Working Paper 339

How much larger are the consumption possibilities of an urban US household with per capita expenditures of 1,000 US dollars per month than a rural Indonesian household with per capita expenditures of 1,000,000 Indonesian Rupiah per month? Consumers in different markets face widely different consumption possibilities and prices and hence the conversion of incomes or expenditures to truly comparable units of purchasing power is extremely difficult. We propose a simple supplement to existing purchasing power adjusted currency conversions.

August 14, 2013

Promoting Millennium Development Ideals: The Risks of Defining Development Down - Working Paper 338

The approach of 2015, the target date of the Millennium Development Goals, sets the stage for a global reengagement on the question of “what is development?” We argue that the post-2015 development framework for development should include Millennium Development Ideals which put into measurable form the high aspirations countries have for the well-being of their citizens.

August 8, 2013

The Strugglers: The New Poor in Latin America? - Working Paper 337

In this paper we identify a group of people in Latin America and other developing countries that are not poor but not middle class either. We define them as the vulnerable “strugglers”, people living in households with daily income per capita between $4 and $10 (at constant 2005 PPP dollar). They are well above the international poverty line, but still vulnerable to falling back into poverty and hence not part of the secure middle class. In a first step, we use long-term growth projections to show that in Latin America about 200 million people will likely be in the struggler group in 2030, accounting for about a third of the total population.

August 7, 2013

Context Matters for Size: Why External Validity Claims and Development Practice Don't Mix - Working Paper 336

In this paper we examine how policymakers and practitioners should interpret the impact evaluation literature when presented with conflicting experimental and non-experimental estimates of the same intervention across varying contexts. We show three things. First, as is well known, non-experimental estimates of a treatment effect comprise a causal treatment effect and a bias term due to endogenous selection into treatment. When non-experimental estimates vary across contexts any claim for external validity of an experimental result must make the assumption that (a) treatment effects are constant across contexts, while (b) selection processes vary across contexts. This assumption is rarely stated or defended in systematic reviews of evidence. Second, as an illustration of these issues, we examine two thoroughly researched literatures in the economics of education—class size effects and gains from private schooling—which provide experimental and non-experimental estimates of causal effects from the same context and across multiple contexts.

July 18, 2013

First Steps toward a Quality of Climate Finance Scorecard (QUODA-CF) - Working Paper 335

Are climate finance contributor countries, multilateral aid  agencies and specialized funds using widely accepted best  practices in foreign assistance? How is it possible to measure and compare international climate finance contributions when there are as yet no established metrics or agreed  definitions of the quality of climate finance? As a subjective  metric, quality can mean different things to different stakeholders, while of donor countries, recipients and institutional  actors may place quality across a broad spectrum of objectives. 

Katherine Sierra , Timmons Roberts , Michele de Nevers , Claire Langley and Cory Smith
July 15, 2013

When Is Prevention More Profitable than Cure? The Impact of Time-Varying Consumer Heterogeneity - Working Paper 334

We argue that in pharmaceutical markets, variation in the arrival time of consumer heterogeneity creates differences between a producer’s ability to extract consumer surplus with preventives and treatments, potentially distorting R&D decisions. If consumers vary only in disease risk, revenue from treatments—sold after the disease is contracted, when disease risk is no longer a source of private information—always exceeds revenue from preventives. The revenue ratio can be arbitrarily high for sufficiently skewed distributions of disease risk. Under some circumstances, heterogeneity in harm from a disease, learned after a disease is contracted, can lead revenue from a treatment to exceed revenue from a preventative. Calibrations suggest that skewness in the U.S. distribution of HIV risk would lead firms to earn only half the revenue from a vaccine as from a drug. Empirical tests are consistent with the predictions of the model that vaccines are less likely to be developed for diseases with substantial disease-risk heterogeneity

Michael Kremer and Christopher M. Snyder
July 11, 2013

Mixed Method Evaluation of a Passive Health Sexual Information Texting Service in Uganda - Working Paper 332

We evaluate the impact of a health information intervention implemented through mobile phones, using a clustered randomized control trial augmented by qualitative interviews. The intervention aimed to improve sexual health knowledge and shift individuals towards safer sexual behavior by providing reliable information about sexual health. The novel technology designed by Google and Grameen Technology Center provided automated searches of an advice database on topics requested by users via SMS. It was offered by MTN Uganda at no cost to users.

Julian Jamison , Dean Karlan and Pia Raffler
July 11, 2013

The Case for Direct Transfers of Resource Revenues in Africa - Working Paper 333

Noting that Africa’s resource-rich countries have not translated their wealth into sustained economic growth and poverty reduction, this paper shows that by transferring a portion of resource-related government revenues uniformly and universally as direct payments to the population, some countries could increase both private consumption and the provision of public goods, and thereby reduce poverty and enhance social welfare. We make the case based on theoretical considerations and explore how these direct dividend payments would look in practice in a group of selected African countries.

Shantayanan Devarajan and Marcelo Giugale

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