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May 25, 2018 (links edition #58)

Poor people are sometimes hurt twice: Kenny and Sandefur have a CGD commentary replicating CEQ analysis and showing that tax-transfer systems reduce inequality in the rich world, but often exacerbate poverty in the poorest countries. Because governments tax much more than they transfer overall, on net, poor people lose a similar proportion of their income to the government as do rich people. That means the impact of government can increase poverty rates. In 4 of the 5 sub-Saharan African countries where CEQ data is available, the net effect of taxes and transfers is to increase the number of people living below the absolute poverty line. In Tanzania, poverty is nearly 20 percent higher due to taxes and transfers. The blog may help popularize the CEQ work, but it may a bit oversimply the narrative, “… rich countries give poor people money, while poor countries give them schools with no teachers”.

Narayan et al have a rich new report on concepts, trends and drivers of intergenerational mobility (h/t Robert Palacios). Based on data from 150 countries, they analyze both absolute mobility (the share of individuals who succeed in securing a standard of living or educational attainment that exceeds those of their parents), and relative one (the extent to which a person’s position in the economic scale is independent from his or her parents’ position). Evidence suggests that both forms of mobility are lower in low and middle-income countries than in high-income setting – i.e., 46/50 of countries with the lowest rate of mobility in education are in the developing world. In those contexts improvements in mobility has stalled since the 1960s. However, lack of mobility is not inevitable—greater mobility is associated with higher public spending, especially with investments in better schooling.  Bonus on another measure of inequality: a great working paper by Ferreira et al finds that over 2008–13, mean incomes for the poorest 40 percent rose in 60 of 83 countries. In 49 of them, accounting for 65 percent of the sampled population, it rose faster than overall average incomes.

A tour of materials on human development: Evans has a handy blog on recent paper on the economics of human capital (with reference to a paper shared some links editions ago, “… conditional cash transfers in Jamaica resulted in better test performance at the end of primary school and better secondary school placement for boys, but not for girls, Stampini et al.). An ECDC article by Betancourt et al evaluated the impact of Rwanda’s Sugira Muryango program. In particular, they found that a home-visiting intervention positively affected early childhood development, parenting and shared decision-making. For instance, OMCI (an indicator responsive behaviors observed during a 5 min structured activity exploring a picture book) improved for 4.8% of mother-child dyads at post-intervention and 19% at follow-up, while HOME Inventory scores, which measure the quality and extent of stimulation available to a child in the home environment, improved for 9.5% and 14.3% of dyads at post-intervention and follow-up, respectively.

Let’s move to jobs: as the jobs guarantee debate (aka public works for anyone who wants to participate) unfolds, Kelton’s view that financing is not a big issue has raised curiosity about her branch of ‘modern monetary theory’. The OECD-ILO report, Building trust in a changing world of work, examines the state of social dialogue and industrial relations. Among the highlights, approximately half of the world’s working population is not covered by two international labor instruments protecting their freedom of association and collective bargaining (i.e., ILO Conventions no.87 and 98). Since I mentioned trust, an IIED post by the urban policy wonk Satterthwaite calls development agencies to develop relationships of trust, accountability, transparency with organized poor urban groups. More on urban development, with an IDA working paper by Turok and Visagie examining key issues for the agenda in South Africa.

If you are looking for an exciting development book, Wydick reviews Andrew Leigh’s Randomistas: How Radical Researchers Changed Our World chronicling the widespread incorporation of RCTs into the mainstream of social sciences. If time to read is scarce, then check out this video/podcast with Hulme and Banks discussing with ESID’s Pablo Yanguas, author of new book, ‘Why We Lie about Aid: Development and the Messy Politics of Change’, and Daniel Honig of Johns Hopkins University, author of new book, ‘Navigation by Judgement: Why and When Top Down Management of Foreign Aid Doesn’t Work. Bonus on foreign aid: should it be taxes? Steel et al lay out the pros and cons in an ODI piece.

Final assortment: will Africa’s disaster risk financing see a private sector boost? Apparently so, according so some news outlets. In a FP2P post, Rehman reflects on gender, disability and displacement of Syrian refugees in Jordan, including providing a vivid, first-hand account of

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