Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity



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.

Cover of From Social Assistance to Social Development: Targeted Education Subsidies in Developing Countries
September 1, 2003

From Social Assistance to Social Development: Targeted Education Subsidies in Developing Countries

The book compiles a vast amount of unpublished and published material on existing CTE programs and their impact on poverty. Groundbreaking case studies and detailed evaluations of programs in Mexico, Brazil, Bangladesh, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Chile add up to an unusual and surprising success story for skeptics of development and foreign aid.

Samuel Morley and David Coady
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.

August 1, 2003

Privatization in Latin America - Working Paper 31

In Latin America, privatization started earlier and spread farther and more rapidly than in almost any other part of the world. Despite positive microeconomic results, privatization is highly and increasingly unpopular in the region. While privatization may be winning the economic battle it is losing the political war: The benefits are spread widely, small for each affected consumer or taxpayer, and occur (or accrue) in the medium-term. In contrast, the costs are large for those concerned, who tend to be visible, vocal, urban and organized, a potent political combination.

John Nellis
July 30, 2003

The Surprise Party: An Analysis of US ODA Flows to Africa - Working Paper 30

Conventional wisdom about US foreign policy toward Africa contains two popular assumptions. First, Democrats are widely considered the party most inclined to care about Africa and the most willing to spend resources on assistance to the continent. Second, the end of the Cold War was widely thought to have led to a gradual disengagement of the US from Africa and reduced American attention toward the continent. This paper analyzes OECD data on US foreign assistance flows from 1961-2000 and finds that neither of these assumptions is true.

Markus P. Goldstein and Todd J. Moss
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
Cover of The Other War: Global Poverty and the Millennium Challenge Account
June 1, 2003

The Other War: Global Poverty and the Millennium Challenge Account

This book tackles head on the tension between foreign policy and development goals that chronically afflicts U.S. foreign assistance; the danger of being dismissed as one more instance of the United States going it alone instead of buttressing international cooperation; and the risk of exacerbating confusion among the myriad overlapping U.S. policies, agencies, and programs targeted at developing nations, particularly USAID.

Lael Brainard , Nigel Purvis , Steven Radelet and Gayle Smith
Cover of Challenging Foreign Aid: A Policymaker's Guide to the Millennium Challenge Account
May 1, 2003

Challenging Foreign Aid: A Policymaker's Guide to the Millennium Challenge Account

In this study, Steven Radelet examines the MCA's potential promise and possible pitfalls. He offers a rigorous analysis of the MCA’s central challenge: making foreign aid more effective in supporting economic growth and poverty reduction in the poor countries. He systematically explores what makes the MCA different and pinpoints the critical issues that will determine its success or failure.

April 1, 2003

From Promise to Performance: How Rich Countries Can Help Poor Countries Help Themselves

At the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000 the nations of the world committed to join forces to meet a set of measurable targets for reducing world poverty, disease, illiteracy and other indicators of human misery—all by the year 2015. These targets, later named the Millennium Development Goals, include seven measures of human development in poor countries. At the same summit, world leaders took on several qualitative targets applicable to rich countries, later collected in an eighth Goal. The key elements of the eighth Goal, pledge financial support and policy changes in trade, debt relief, and other areas to assist poor countries'domestic efforts to meet the first seven Goals. Combined, the eight Goals constitute a global compact between poor and rich to work today toward their mutual interests to secure a prosperous future.

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 25, 2003

Privatization in Africa: What has Happened? What is to be Done? - Working Paper 25

Sub-Saharan African states urgently need expanded and more dynamic private sectors, more efficient and effective infrastructure/utility provision, and increased investment from both domestic and foreign sources. The long-run and difficult solution is the creation and reinforcement of the institutions that underpin and guide proper market operations. In the interim, African governments and donors have little choice but to continue to experiment with the use of externally supplied substitutes for gaps in local regulatory and legal systems.

John Nellis
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.