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January 26, 2018 (links edition #42)

Some interesting papers coming out of the Davos hype – among them, I would single out Pantuliano’s piece on connecting humanitarian and private sector funds, including in the context of the $1.9 billion of international humanitarian assistance devoted to cash transfers, or 7% of the total; the reskilling revolution report, which uses big data analytics of online job postings to discover reskilling pathways and job transition opportunities; the inclusive development index, a composite index with 12 dimensions (see nice country summaries p.7-11), and the 2018 edition of the global risks report (focusing on environmental degradation, cybersecurity breaches, economic strains, and geopolitical tensions).

Since I mentioned humanitarian issues, a range of new products on the theme were released in the past week. Currently, only 58% of the $24 billion of humanitarian assistance requirements are being met (for countries like Senegal, the rate goes down to 18%): because of such scarcity in resources, Aladysheva makes the case in a SIPRI piece for more impact evaluation in the humanitarian space (h/t Mattias Lundberg). In a similar but perhaps more holistic vein, a 140-page paper by ODI reimagines humanitarian action using ‘design thinking’ techniques. Svoboda et al examine the issue of humanitarian access in Syria and Ukraine, i.e., how bureaucratic impediments, restrictions on the type of aid programming permitted, widespread and sustained insecurity as well as counter-terrorism legislation inhibits assistance from reaching beneficiaries (see full report and 4-page brief); and an interesting note by Abdenur and Druelle reflects on lessons from Colombia and Somalia in integrating ex-combatants into public works such as demining.

A Bloomberg piece on the Finnish version of a UBI, with a journalist documenting how some families participating in the experiments fared over the first year of implementation. Bottom line: no major jobs breakthrough, but while the UBI amount was even lower than previous benefits, its predictability and decoupling from labor provided a sense of stability and freedom to invest in education, trainings and social care (h/t Raiden Dillard).

In a new DI blog post, Gibson and Zezza conduct a neat review of survey design issues around food consumption, including diary versus recall (and the appropriate reference period); food away from the home and pre-prepared foods; individual versus household consumption; food acquisitions versus food consumption; and length and specificity of food lists in recall surveys. See also full FP journal article here.

Some jobs related materials. Why is the US productivity more than 30 times larger than some sub-Saharan African countries? Using a 15-year survey of 12,000 firms across 34 countries, MIT’s Van Reenen argues that firms management practices explain a large share of productivity gaps between countries and between firms. Speaking of gaps, what drives the gender pay gap? Using a decade of annual wage and productivity data from New Zealand, an IZA paper by Sin et al finds taste-based discrimination is the key driver of the earnings differential, that is, employers discriminate against women for either own preference, not for statistical reasons such as expected productivity.

More on gender: what is the impact of social mobilization on health outcomes and service delivery? An RCT from Pakistan by Gine et al found large improvements in pregnancy and well-baby visits by lady health workers, as well as increased utilization of pre- and post-natal care by pregnant women.

Finally, Calvo-Gonzalez et al have a super interesting paper exploring how public debates shape poverty narrative and spending in LAC. Using a Latent Dirichlet Allocation algorithm, the authors assesses whether the prevalence of poverty and inequality in 900 presidential speeches correlates with measures such as social public spending, as well as national poverty and inequality levels. It finds that during the 2000s, the countries that discussed poverty and inequality at greater length were also the ones that increased social spending and reduced poverty and inequality the most. Final-final bonus: Flabbi and Gatti have a handy primer on human capital theory and empirics.

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