Let’s kick off with a couple of interesting cash transfer papers: Bargu and Morgandi explore the labor supply incentives of the Polish ‘Family 500+’ program – an unconditional cash transfer targeting families with 2 or more children aged 0-17 (PLN 500/month/child) at a cost of about 0.7% of GDP. They find that, especially among low-income households, the program benefit structure creates strong labor supply disincentives. Modeling different tax and transfer combinations, they suggest that a 75% subsidy on childcare costs for children ages 0–3 would restore incentives to enter the labor force. In a WD article, Baucet et al explore how the national CCT program (Bono Juancito Pinto) works among a sample of indigenous societies in Bolivia. Children in rural areas in the Bolivian Amazon indicate that the most marginalized group (Tsimane’) completed 30% fewer grades of schooling than children who participated, with a more pronounced effect for younger children. The most likely mechanism at play seems that returns to formal schooling are lower for the Tsimane’ due to their autarkic, self-sufficient livelihoods. They recommend to increase transfer size, adapt program curriculums, or lift conditionalities (wonder if it’ll be enough).
A set of resilience and conflict-related products. The final OPM shock-responsive synthesis report by O’Brien et al is out. It is a major 104-page piece, with findings and 12 recommendations generally in line with most of the literature, but in this case particularly well structured and informed by a consistent and rich set of case studies carried out over the past 3 years. Slides from yesterday’s e-launch can be found here. Does social structure affect conflict? A piece by Mosona et al suggests a positive relationship between conflict and societal ‘segmentary lineage organization’, i.e., societies characterized by the importance of kin relationships in determining individuals’ social and political allegiances. Those societies experience 84% more deadly conflict incidents than societies without segmentary lineage organization. Bonus: Sieff of the Washington Post spent a year in the Daadab refugee camp in northern Kenya documenting the hopes and heartaches of refugees.
Some new resources on Africa. Is poverty in the continent mostly chronic or transient? According to a JDS paper by Dang and Dabalen, well, it is largely chronic, but probably more transient than expected: 1/3 of the poor escaped poverty during the studied period, which is larger than the proportion of the population that fell into poverty. The region also witnessed a 28% increase in the size of the middle class. A new briefing by Manchester’s ESID compares public sector reforms of Ghana, Uganda and Rwanda by examining the type of political regimes during the period 2000-15. Among the findings, Rwanda is identified as a ‘success story’ of post-conflict state-building largely because of a dominant political coalition that is able to build and control a number of PSR processes.
From Africa to Asia: a Foreign Policy article by Chow argues that at the heart of China’s anti-poverty plan now lies the idea not of attracting rural residents to Eastern Coasts cities, but to second- and third-tier urban areas. To incentivize voluntary moves, the central government is setting out massive infrastructure spending, linking every city with more than 200,000 residents by rail and expressways, and cities with more than 500,000 by high-speed rail. Talking of mobility, the Chetty et al. paper on neighborhood mobility was among the top papers for 2017 as nominated by some top economists (the experiment offered vouchers to low-income families with children to move from high to low poverty neighborhoods). For another nice yearly ranking, see Dave Evans’ top 10 DI blogs.
New materials on mobility. Migration first increases and then decreases as a country experiences economic development – the inverted U-shaped relationship hypothesized by Zelinsky: a new JDE article by Dao et al now takes a hard look at the state of the debate. The recent economic depression in Greece hit the population of Albanian migrants in Greece hard, spurring a wave of return migration which increased the Albanian labor force by 5% in less than 4 years: a paper by Hausmann and Nedelkoska estimates how this return migration affected the employment chances and earnings of local Albanians. Findings? Most returning migrants are significantly more likely than non-migrants to employ others, work as managers and be self-employed. This led to positive effects of return migration on wages of the low-skilled non-migrants which increase with the time-distance from the arrival of the return migrants, with no significant impact on the wages of the skilled non-migrants.
A set of three short, diverse and interesting reads. Ravallion and Chen summarize their ‘old’ paper (August 2017) in a new blog detailing a poverty method combining absolute and relative measures: to recap, they identify absolute measures as a lower bound, while the upper bound is a set of weakly relative lines that rise consistently with national poverty lines – the new welfare-consistent global poverty measure is the one between these bounds (see full NBER paper here); from poverty to the working poor, with the shocking news (at least to me) that 10% of Amazon’s Ohio workforce are on SNAP food stamps; to round-up, an interesting interview with Save the Children’s CEO, Ken Watkins;.
Indulge in a final treat: Stefan Dercon is one of my heros, so hope you will love this slide deck as I do – a brainstorming tour conveying a basic point: the world is a messy place, and this has big implications for planning social protection. To be enjoyed alongside Green’s related blog.