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In timely and incisive analysis, our experts parse the latest development news and devise practical solutions to new and emerging challenges. Our events convene the top thinkers and doers in global development.
Legal empowerment of the poor, education, Africa, evaluating aid effectiveness
Justin Sandefur is a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development. Prior to joining CGD, he spent two years as an adviser to Tanzania's national statistics office and worked as a research officer at Oxford University's Centre for the Study of African Economies. His research focuses on a wide range of topics, including education, poverty reduction, legal reform, and democratic governance.
Numerous studies find that child health suffers when children are exposed to conflict, and armed conflicts are more likely to occur in poor countries with weak states. Nigeria is among the most conflict-prone countries in the world, experiencing the highest number of conflict-related deaths of all Sub-Saharan African countries in many of the years since 2000, with a peak in 2012. In this paper, researchers at the Urban Institute and the Center for Global Development are studying the relationship between child health and conflict in Nigeria by combining geo-coded data from the Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) of 2013 and the Social Conflict Analysis Database. In both urban and rural areas of Nigeria, they find significant increases in child wasting (acute malnutrition) in 2013 associated with proximity to violent conflict in 2012. In urban areas, infant mortality also increased significantly in 2003-2013, when the mother was exposed to conflict during pregnancy. They will discuss these findings and their implications, as well as some of the challenges to studying health in conflict-torn places.
One of the mysteries of development economics is why more people in subsistence agriculture don't migrate to cities where incomes are much, much higher. New data suggests one answer: when they move, their incomes may not go up as much as we thought.
As economic indicators deteriorate, the Tanzanian government has jailed an opposition leader for questioning the Bank of Tanzania's growth statistics. It's time for the World Bank and the IMF to speak up. If it's illegal to question a government's statistics, why should anyone trust them?
Transactional sex (sex for money) is a common risk-coping behavior in sub-Saharan Africa and is believed to be a leading driver of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In her upcoming paper, Kelly Jones and her coauthors examine whether access to precautionary savings can mitigate the use of transactional sex as a response to negative shocks. In a field experiment in Kenya, half of the over 600 vulnerable women participants were randomly assigned a savings intervention that consists of opening a mobile banking savings account labeled for emergency expenses and individual goals. They find that the intervention led to an increase in total mobile savings, reductions in transactional sex as a risk-coping response to shocks, and a decrease in symptoms of sexually transmitted infections.
"There are better ways to improve test scores," "food is expensive," "most kids would eat anyway," and other counterarguments contain some truth, but fail to overturn the basic economic logic of free, universal school feeding in poor countries.
Can teacher quality explain the low learning levels observed in many African countries? Survey data spanning seven countries in sub-Saharan African shows that after four years of schooling, the majority of students fail to master tasks covered in the second year curriculum. In their new paper, Tessa Bold and her co-authors show these low learning levels can be partly explained by teachers’ limited knowledge of curriculum content. Many teachers struggle with tasks that their students should master in lower primary. If all students had been taught by teachers who had mastered the lower secondary curriculum, students would have acquired the equivalent of an additional three quarters of a year of schooling after four years, and the observed gap in effective education after four years would have been reduced by one third.
Across multiple African countries, discrepancies between administrative data and independent household surveys suggest official statistics systematically exaggerate development progress. We provide evidence for two distinct explanations of these discrepancies.
After one year, public schools managed by private contractors in Liberia raised student learning by 60 percent, compared to standard public schools. But costs were high, performance varied across contractors, and contracts authorized the largest contractor to push excess pupils and underperforming teachers onto other government schools.
Somewhere in a village in Nigeria, a young girl is sitting in school today, just like she does every day, packed onto a crowded wooden bench in a faded school uniform. She represents a victory in the global effort to get all children learning, and her presence will be recorded as progress in the global databases maintained by UNESCO and the World Bank. There's just one catch. She's not learning anything.
New results from a famous experiment in Kenya have sparked heated debate over whether lump-sum cash transfers have any long-term benefits for those who get them, or even do harm to neighbors who don’t.