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January 19, 2018 (links edition #41)

Let’s begin with three interesting gender papers. In a 90-page working paper, Van De Walle and Djuikom investigate whether women who suffered a marital shock have lower welfare levels relative to married women in their first union: their analysis across 20 African countries point to significantly lower nutritional status for Africa’s widows and divorcees aged 15-49. Botea et al show that female migration in Lesotho is primarily driven by economic “push” (rather than “pull”) factors, like job losses, death in the household, or crop failures; the study also finds evidence that women’s employment in sectors dominated by migrants is strongly correlated with HIV (55% of women working in garment factories and 38% of domestic workers are HIV positive). Finally, an NBER paper by Neumark and Shirley assessed the long-run effects of the US Earned Income Tax Credit program on women’s earnings (the EITC is an indirect cash transfer with higher generosity as people work more). They find, among others, that EITC for young women who were unmarried and had young (pre-school) children leads to higher earnings and hours worked as mature adults.

This week witnessed plenty of new resources on Africa. A new Brookings report, “Foresight Africa: Top priorities for Africa in 2018”, offers a juicy set of discussions around the need for domestic resource mobilization (p.24), urbanization pathways (p.37-40), Shanta’s viewpoint on UBI (p.45), poverty projections (48-49), and migration (p.55) – on the latter, it is worth noting that while in Northern Africa about half of migration occurs toward other continents, in the rest of the region migration patterns are mostly intra-African. In a new article, Bhalla et al evaluate the impact of the Zimbabwe Harmonized Social Cash Transfer program on food security: among the 1740 households in the treatment group, they significant impacts on dietary diversity, i.e., 13 percentage point (pp) increase in the number of households consuming fruits, 16 pp increase for pulses and legumes, 13 pp for dairy, 15 pp for fats, and 6 pp for non-alcoholic beverages and condiments. However, the program had no impact on domestic food consumption (likely reflecting changing food purchase habits away from home). Basis risk is widely acknowledged as the Achilles heel of index insurance, with Jensen et al showing how such risk affects the uptake of index based livestock insurance in Kenya. Finally, while peacebuilding and statemaking are often portrayed as synonymous, a JDS article by Balthasar identifies a set of trade-offs between these concepts with an application to Somaliland.

Some materials on identification and data management: in a great new CGD book, Gelb and Diofasi Metz examine the opportunities and risks of digital ID systems (see book’s blog, brief and introductory chapter); a handy infographic on social registries is available from DFAT (h/t Changqing Sun); and an IRIN article discusses SCOPE’s data protection challenges (h/t Anush Bezhanyan).

Ever heard of ‘social impact bonds’? These are a variant of performance-based financing instruments that harness private capital for social services, and encourage outcome achievement by making repayment contingent upon success (but with initial financing provided upfront). As Gustafsson-Wright and Boggild-Jones argue, SIBs are now growing fast, with 108 interventions in 25 countries, and an invested upfront capital for over $300 million. Among others, SIBs are being applied to contexts like Colombia, including for skills training, psychosocial support, and intermediation services for poor people scoring below 41.74 on SISBEN  (a poverty measure), were registered in Red Unidos (the extreme poor), or who were victims of displacement due to armed conflict. Talking of finance, Dani Rodrik presents Gabrel’s latest volume as one that “… fundamentally changes the way you look at certain things”. The book, which is a reinterpretation of developments in global finance since the Asian financial crisis of 1997–1998, is available here.

Some past and future events: select sessions of the recent AEA gathering in Philly were webcast, e.g., watch here the 2-hour panel on global inequality featuring, among others, Piketty and Saez; and watch out for the forthcoming ODI events on humanitarian outlook (Jan 24) and cash transfers (Feb 1).

Final mix: three short posts take stock of and reflect on Harvard’s PDIA, which basically advocates for a trial-and-error approach to solve development quandaries (see here, here and here); an MSF report takes on user fees in health (h/t Paul Bance); Ball from ODI asks what is evidence-informed policymaking; and the ever-positive Kenny says that 2017 was a great year for humanity.