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Month: December 2017

December 22, 2017 (links edition #38)

Having just returned from Egypt, I couldn’t be more excited about the new IPC Policy in Focus issue dedicated to ‘social protection after the Arab Spring’. Edited by Osorio and Vera Soares, it is super-rich, covering issues such as pensions (p.11), food security (p.34), child-sensitive programs (p.42 and 55), energy subsidies (p.68), and more. Other resources related to MENA: Barden makes the economic case for seeing refugees as an investment, and not as a burden. Which country has history’s most rapid reduction of fertility? Khandan and Pritchett examine the ingredients behind Iran’s top performance largely attained through behavioral change campaigns in family planning.

A paper by Walker presents a number of findings on the impacts of cash transfers on formal and informal taxation in Kenya – among them, it was interesting to see that cash recipients share about 25% more than comparable non-recipients. Although the magnitude of such increase is still less than 1% of the cash transfer value, it casts some light on the often-debated issue on whether cash transfers are shared within households and communities. If in need of a catchy infographics on cash transfers, FAO’s is always a good one — not really new, but always handy (h/t Emily Weedon). I just came across a short process note by Bailey and Harvey that, while produced a couple of months ago, it somewhat didn’t get much visibility and deserves sharing – i.e., they looked at the implementation of the joint DFID-ECHO $85M facility for cash transfers in Lebanon, basically proposing a new business model for cash in humanitarian contexts. This was meant to separating operational functions among agencies, providing independent monitoring, and delivering a single cash transfer by one agency as opposed to multiple ones. Feedback from the field ranged from ‘a logical way to take forward Grand Bargain commitments’ to ‘an attempt by donors to try to force change in ways that undermined the spirit of partnership’.

Speaking of humanitarian issues: once and for all, here is the complete set of case studies, briefs, and other materials out of OPM’s extensive Shock-Responsive Social Protection Systems Research; ODI’s Fast has a briefing note on the concept of ‘localization’ or ‘bottom-up’ humanitarian assistance examined from four perspectives (i.e., non-traditional sources of aid financing, the role of informal and cross-border actors in protecting civilians, dignity in displacement, and capacity and complementarity). Non-state actors (e.g., business and religious leaders, elders, NGOs and militia groups) often work to influence governance in positive and negative ways: drawing on perspectives from Somalia and Mali, a recent event explored the opportunities and challenges of improving accountability through working with non-state actors (45 min video’s available here). On a related issue, Howard and Vadja have an IDS paper analyzing the drivers of inequality and social exclusion, especially discrimination, with a focus on how they intersect at the levels of family, community and local government institutions.

Three technical growth and poverty materials: can satellite images accurately estimate poverty and economic well-being? A paper by Engstrom et al investigates this question by extracting object and texture features from satellite images of Sri Lanka, which are used to estimate poverty rates and average log consumption for 1,291 administrative units. Result: the correlation between satellite derived indicators and economic well-being is remarkably strong (simple linear models explain 61%of the variation in poverty and average log per capita consumption). In another juicy paper, Dang et al review the methods employed to estimate poverty in contexts where household consumption data are unavailable or missing, including a fair degree of pedagogical discussions, empirical illustrations, and detailed instructions on computer to implement the reviewed techniques. On a different note, Martin Ravallion discusses the concept of ‘degrowth fallacy’, namely the fact that some countries have better social outcomes at a given level of mean income doesn’t imply that richer countries can attain the same social outcomes at lower mean income.

A compilation on economic and social integration: the IMF has a new flagship report looking at trade integration, structural transformation, and economic resilience in the Caribbean region; Tunali provides evidence from Turkey that there is a significant group of ‘marginally attached’ individuals who appear to be non-participants in the labor market but are in fact ready for employment when work is available (h/t Ruslan Yemtsov); in a new NBER paper, Galofré-Vilà et al estimate that, based on historical data from Germany, 1 standard deviation increase in austerity policies (which they define as a combination of tax increases and spending cuts) is associated with a 2 to 5 percentage point increase in vote shares for the Nazi parties. Bonus: Rodrik lays out his 20 commandments equally split for economists and non-economists;

Finally, research whiz colleagues have issued their top-3 papers for 2017 – check out what’s in Ozler, McKenzie, Goldstein, and Evans’ list.