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Cover of Working Paper 554
October 12, 2020

Is the World Bank’s COVID Crisis Lending Big Enough, Fast Enough? New Evidence on Loan Disbursements

We compile a new data set, combining official sources with transaction-level records scraped from the World Bank website, spanning all commitments, disbursements, and payments on all World Bank loans from before the 2008-09 Global Financial Crisis through August 2020, allowing us to compare the Bank’s COVID response to the last comparable global crisis. We find that lending has indeed accelerated in 2020, but the Bank appears to be on track to fulfill only half of its own target of $160 billion in new lending by June 2021.

Working Paper 550 cover
September 15, 2020

A Rosetta Stone for Human Capital

How can we accurately measure the global distribution of skills when people in different countries take different tests? We develop a new methodology to non-parametrically link scores from distinct populations. By administering an exam combining items from different assessments to 2,300 primary students in India, we estimate conversion functions among four of the world’s largest standardized tests spanning 80 countries.

Cover of working paper 535
June 12, 2020

Predicted COVID-19 Fatality Rates Based on Age, Sex, Comorbidities, and Health System Capacity

Early reports suggest the fatality rate from COVID-19 varies greatly across countries, but it's impossible to directly estimate the infection fatality rate in many low- and middle-income countries. To fill this gap, we estimate the adjustments required to extrapolate estimates of the IFR from high- to lower-income regions.

Cover of Working Paper 533
May 14, 2020

The IMF’s Growth Forecasts for Poor Countries Don’t Match Its COVID Narrative

The IMF’s forecasts of GDP growth in 2020 suggest a substantially muted impact of the COVID crisis for developing countries compared to advanced economies. We hope that the relative optimism will not induce complacency and elicit a less-than-forceful response by countries themselves nor legitimize an ungenerous, conditionality-addled response on the part of the international community in the face of an unprecedented calamity.

Cover of Working Paper 521
December 15, 2019

Beyond Short-term Learning Gains: The Impact of Outsourcing Schools in Liberia after Three Years

After one year, outsourcing the management of ninety-three randomly-selected government primary schools in Liberia to eight private operators led to modest learning gains. In this paper, we revisit the program two years later. Despite facing similar contracts and settings, some providers produced uniformly positive results, while others present stark trade-offs between learning gains, access to education, child safety, and financial sustainability.

September 7, 2017

Can a Public-Private Partnership Improve Liberia’s Schools?

After one year, public schools managed by private operators raised student learning by 60 percent compared to standard public schools. But costs were high, performance varied across operators, and contracts authorized the largest operator to push excess pupils and under-performing teachers into other government schools.

Mauricio Romero , Justin Sandefur and Wayne Aaron Sandholtz
June 21, 2017

Measuring Rents from Public Employment: Regression Discontinuity Evidence from Kenya - Working Paper 457

Public employees in many developing economies earn much higher wages than similar private-sector workers. These wage premia may reflect an efficient return to effort or unobserved skills, or an inefficient rent causing labor misallocation. To distinguish these explanations, we exploit the Kenyan government’s algorithm for hiring eighteen-thousand new teachers in 2010 in a regression discontinuity design. Fuzzy regression discontinuity estimates yield a civil-service wage premium of over 100 percent (not attributable to observed or unobserved skills), but no effect on motivation, suggesting rent-sharing as the most plausible explanation for the wage premium.

Nicholas Barton , Tessa Bold and Justin Sandefur
December 2, 2016

Internationally Comparable Mathematics Scores for Fourteen African Countries - Working Paper 444

Internationally comparable test scores play a central role in both research and policy debates on education. However, the main international testing regimes, such as PISA, TIMSS, or PIRLS, include very few low-income countries. For instance, most countries in Southern and Eastern Africa have opted instead for a regional assessment known as SACMEQ. This paper exploits an overlap between the SACMEQ and TIMSS tests—in both country coverage, and questions asked—to assess the feasibility of constructing global learning metrics by equating regional and international scales. I find that learning levels in this sample of African countries are consistently (a) low in absolute terms; (b) significantly lower than predicted by African per capita GDP levels; and (c) converging slowly, if at all, to the rest of the world during the 2000s. Creating test scores which are truly internationally comparable would be a global public good, requiring more concerted effort at the design stage.

Refocusing Gavi CGD brief
February 9, 2015

Refocusing Gavi for Greater Impact

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, pools donor funds to increase immunization rates in developing countries. Vaccines have saved millions of lives. Results from new research at the Center for Global Development suggest Gavi could save more lives by shifting support away from lower-cost vaccines provided to middle-income countries toward more underused vaccines and support to the poorest countries.