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Month: November 2017

November 17, 2017 (links edition #34)

An usual benchmark for CCTs: bicycles. An AEJ article by Muralidharan and Prakash evaluate a program in Bihar aimed to reduce the gender gap in secondary school enrollment by providing girls with a bicycle to improve access to school (h/t Paul Bance). The program increased girls’ age-appropriate enrollment in secondary school by 32% and reduced the corresponding gender gap by 40%. The study also finds an 18% increase in the number of girls who appear for the high-stakes secondary school certificate exam, and a 12% increase in the number of girls who pass it. The authors conclude that the initiative was more cost effective at increasing girls’ secondary school enrollment than conditional cash transfers (full disclosure: I think that two programs respond to different constraints and aren’t really comparable).

More on cash transfers: in a WD paper on Uruguay, Bergolo and Galvan show that cash-receiving women take greater (perceived) responsibility for decisions in specific spheres of household expenditures. Hammad et al assess how cash-based assistance is supporting the lives of over 650,000 refugees in Jordan, with select findings including the following: the majority of female respondents reported that they control spending (ranging from 67% on food and toiletries to 85% on water, sanitation and hygiene); whereas 26% of households had pulled a child out of school due to financial reasons at baseline (2015), only 5% of the follow-up sample had done so, with similar pattern seen in regard to borrowing money (the frequency declined from 79% to 26%); finally, only 11% of those receiving cash report income from self-employment, and over half of participants reported cash assistance being their sole source of income. Bonus on gender: In Uganda, Sekabira and Qaim show that equal access to mobile phones can contribute to gender equality, food security, and broader social development.

When do energy subsidy reforms stick? Atansah et al ask this compelling question in a new CGD paper. Drawing from India, Nigeria and Iran lessons, they find that lasting reform may depend on: (i) forming a public engagement plan and a comprehensive reform policy that are then clearly communicated to the public in advance of price increases; (ii) phasing in price adjustments over a period of time to ease absorption; (iii) providing targeted compensatory cash transfers; and (iv) capitalizing on favorable global macroeconomic conditions.

A neat stream of IZA papers: Ramos investigates migration drivers among NEETs in selected MENA countries (international migration looms large among individuals experiencing adverse financial conditions and long unemployment spells); an elegant theoretical model by Epstein and Gang examines the political economy of decentralized revenue mobilization and shows how a lobbying system can develop a poverty trap; Xia et al used CHIP data to show that urban inequality in China slightly rose from a Gini of 0.33 in 1995 to 0.36 in 2013. Speaking of jobs, in the US Hahn et al published a new brief on how to foster economic mobility for young people: among five basic ‘ladders’, the one on social protection recommends better access to Medicaid and CHIP, streamline and simplify access to nutrition assistance, expand outreach for the earned income tax credit, simplify and align policies to improve access to child care assistance, implement paid family leave policies, and improve access to the full set of work activation. Some additional handy briefs: Hartmann et al explore if a country’s ability to generate and distribute income determined is determined by its productive structure (hint: economic complexity as measured by the Economic Complexity Index is a significant and negative predictor of income inequality); and Hall takes us on a tour of trade-offs in ‘behavioral diagnosis and design’ in social assistance programs.

Bundy et al have a new Lancet article summarizing 5 key messages on investment in child and adolescent health: first, it takes some 8000 days for a child to develop into an adult. Sensitive phases shape development throughout this period, and age-appropriate and condition-specific support is required throughout if a child is to achieve full potential as an adult. Second, investment in health during the first 1000 days is widely recognized as a high priority, but investments are often neglected in the following 7000 days of middle childhood and adolescence. Third, at least 3 phases are crucial to health and development during the next 7000 days (i.e., 5–9 years, when infection and malnutrition remain key constraints on development, and mortality rates are higher than previously realized; 10–14 years, when body mass increases rapidly and substantial physiological and behavioral changes occur; and 15–19 years, which brings further brain restructuring). Fourth, two cost-effective interventions packages are identified: the first addresses the needs in middle childhood and early adolescence through a school-based approach; the second focuses on older adolescents (15–19 years) through a mixed approach also involving the community, media and health systems. Finally, the potential synergy between health and education is undervalued and the returns on co-investment are rarely optimized.

Random mix: Alwyn Young has an interesting new paper about the shortcomings of instrumental variable analysis, while Muggah’s new TED Talk on fragile cities is now available.

Sadly, Princeton professor Uwe Reinhardt passed away this week – I loved his thought-provoking pieces on the microeconomics of health and in-kind benefits.