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May 26, 2017 (links edition #15)

It is universal basic income (UBI) mania: the OECD unleashed a policy brief looking at winners and losers from a UBI reform, and weighing its administrative simplicity against (higher) taxes and (limited) poverty impacts; Bloomberg’s brighter prospects for a UBI in Italy (courtesy of Christian Bodewig); Zuckerberg lends support to UBI as a way to detach welfare from employment (courtesy of Tina George); a fascinating review assessing the US and Canada’s experience with UBI and negative income tax experiments in the 60s and 70s; a Celtic perspective following a UBI event in Glasgow (courtesy of Ian Orton); and a paper from Iran’s nearly-universal cash transfers showing no labor disincentives (courtesy of Arup Banerji).

Three papers on urbanization, with a quantitative piece examining the jobs-poverty linkages by city size, natural resources-induced urbanization in Africa, and a paper discussing the role of semi-formal neighborhood associations – somewhat the urban equivalent of rural community arrangements – in India’s slums (see also neighborhood effects in Mexico).

Many features of current social protection systems are influenced by historical pathways in institutional building and state formation. A new article traces the impact of settlement conditions on institutional development, an effect particularly pronounced among British colonies; in another historical review, Alesina and colleagues examine how states, in an effort to organize armies, started providing public goods and services; an interesting assessment on whether development publications themselves learn from history; and how China’s ‘direct improvisation’ proved key for its institutional development. Bonus: from learning over time to learning across space, with Dave Evans’ blog on how to learn across contexts.

A wave of papers covering more contemporary quandaries of whether the welfare state can keep-up with globalization, if the generosity of welfare programs crowd out informal charity (hint: they don’t), the politics of scaling up social protection in Kenya, distributional effects of growth in Tanzania and Rwanda, the foundational role of identification in Peru, and a couple of regional perspectives on Asia’s middle-class and its challenges for social protection in informal contexts (courtesy of Pip O’Keefe).

New materials on refugees, with the economics of displacement, the final report of CGD’s forced displacement study group (see also the earlier output for the disaster insurance group), and Clemens’ new NBER paper reinforcing previous findings that labor market impacts of immigration on native-born workers are limited.

The two sides of the food equation – on the supply side, an article reviews the post-harvest losses in Africa (food that leaves the farm but never reaches consumers), which is estimated to be anywhere between 4% and 37% pending on method. On the demand or ‘social assistance’ side, an evaluation in Ethiopia finds that complementing on-site school meals with take-home rations can enhance concentration, reading, writing and arithmetic skills among pupils.

A paper on public works programs in St Lucia suggests high involvement of local communities into design and implement participation, but limited engagement in asset maintenance; a few programs are as extensively studies as India’s NREGA (e.g., see recent ones here and here), with a new article finding strong consumption effects on participants.

Some assorted impact and measurement papers, including the consumption impacts of droughts in Ethiopia, the proposal for a ‘societal poverty line’, a hard look at the effects of hunger on wellbeing, the positive impact of a conditional ‘in-kind’ transfer program in Rwanda, and the effectiveness of alternative household assets on child education.


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