Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

Publications

 

November 1, 2003

Who is not Poor? Proposing a Higher International Standard for Poverty - Working Paper 33

Poverty reduction is now, and quite properly should remain, the primary objective of the World Bank. But, when the World Bank dreams of a world free of poverty—what should it be dreaming? I argue in this essay that the dream should be a bold one, that treats citizens of all nations equally in defining poverty, and that sets a high standard for what eliminating poverty will mean for human well-being.

August 15, 2003

The Anarchy of Numbers: Aid, Development, and Cross-country Empirics - Working Paper 32

*REVISED Version May 2007

Recent literature contains many stories of how foreign aid affects economic growth: aid raises growth in countries with good policies, or in countries with difficult economic environments, or mainly outside the tropics, or on average with diminishing returns. The diversity of these results suggests that many are fragile. I test 7 important aid-growth papers for robustness. The 14 tests are minimally arbi-trary, deriving mainly from differences among the studies themselves. This approach investigates the importance of potentially arbitrary specification choices while minimizing arbitrariness in testing choices. All of the results appear fragile, especially to sample expansion.

July 29, 2003

Economic Policy and Wage Differentials in Latin America - Working Paper 29

This paper applies a new approach to the estimation of the impact of policy, both the levels and the changes, on wage differentials using a new high-quality data set on wage differentials by schooling level for 18 Latin American countries for the period 1977–1998. The results indicate that liberalizing policy changes overall have had a short-run disequalizing effect of expanding wage differentials, although this effect tends to fade away over time.

updated 07/04/2006

Jere R. Behrman and Miguel Székely
May 1, 2003

National Policies and Economic Growth: A Reappraisal - Working Paper 27

National economic policies' effects on growth were over-emphasized in the early literature on endogenous economic growth. Most of the early theoretical models of the new growth literature (and even their new neoclassical counterparts) predicted large policy effects, which was followed by empirical work showing large effects. A re-appraisal finds that the alleged association between growth and policies does not explain many stylized facts of the postwar era, depends on the extreme policy observations, that the association is not robust to different estimation methods (pooled vs. fixed effects vs. cross-section), does not show up as expected in event studies of trade openings and inflation stabilizations, and is driven out by institutional variables in levels regressions.

February 27, 2003

New Data, New Doubts: Revisiting "Aid, Policies, and Growth" - Working Paper 26

The Burnside and Dollar (2000) finding that aid raises growth in a good policy environment has had an important influence on policy and academic debates. We conduct a data gathering exercise that updates their data from 1970-93 to 1970-97, as well as filling in missing data for the original period 1970-93. We find that the BD finding is not robust to the use of this additional data. (JEL F350, O230, O400)

Ross Levine and David Roodman
February 24, 2003

Bootstraps not Band-Aids: Poverty, Equity and Social Policy in Latin America - Working Paper 24

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.

Miguel Székely
February 23, 2003

The Millennium Challenge Account: How Much is Too Much, How Long is Long Enough? - Working Paper 23

The US government's proposed $5 billion Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) could provide upwards of $250-$300m or more per year per country in new development assistance to a small number of poor countries judged to have relatively "good" policies and institutions. Could this assistance be too much of a good thing and strain the absorptive capacity of recipient countries to use the funds effectively? Empirical evidence from the past 40 years of development assistance suggests that in most potential MCA countries, the sheer quantity of MCA money is unlikely to overwhelm the ability of recipients to use it well, if the funds are delivered effectively.

January 1, 2003

Why it Matters Who Runs the IMF and the World Bank - Working Paper 22

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.