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Empirical development economics, economic reform, international migration, poverty, social policy and development.
Lant Pritchett is a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development and professor of the practice of international development at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, where he taught from 2000 to 2004 and from 2007 onward. Before rejoining the Kennedy School in 2007, he was lead socio-economist in the social development group of the South Asia region of the World Bank. He occupied various other positions at the World Bank during his tenure there, beginning in 1988. Pritchett was a team member on a number of prominent World Bank publications including Economic Growth in the 1990s: Learning from a Decade of Reforms (2005); Making Services Work for Poor People (World Development Report 2004); Assessing Aid: What Works, What Doesn't and Why (with David Dollar, 1998); and Infrastructure for Development (World Development Report 1994). He has published two books with Center for Global Development, Let Their People Come (2006) and The Rebirth of Education (2013). Pritchett has published over a hundred articles and papers (with more than 25 co-authors) on a wide range of topics, including state capability, labor mobility, and education, among many others. Originally from Idaho, Pritchett is the father of three children and now lives in an empty nest with his wife of 31 years.
The release of the World Bank’s World Development Report (WDR) is a milestone in the struggle to prepare the youth of today for the challenges of the world they will face. The report focuses on both the need to “get education right” and how to reform education systems to meet the challenge of preparing today’s youth to be tomorrow’s citizens, parents, community members, workers, and leaders. As we outline below, the WDR and our RISE programme share many core themes.
On August 2, the White House unveiled a plan to make drastic cuts to legal immigration. CGD experts have written and researched extensively on this hot topic, and have been quoted widely in recent media coverage. Spoiler alert: immigration has an overwhelmingly net positive effect on the US economy.
Even if there were a robust and credible negative impact on wages of non-Hispanic male natives without a high school degree from low skill migrant arrivals (which there isn’t), this would not justify limiting immigration as there are better instruments to achieve the same objectives, with much less cost.
George Borjas has a 2015 paper on the Mariel boatlift experience arguing that, although the large and rapid influx of migrants did not affect average wages or low-skill wages, a small, demographically arbitrary, group experienced large negative wage impacts. In this blog post I want to address two technical points about this finding and then address more conceptual points about the policy implications of this general type of finding of distributional impacts in Part Two.
RISE is a large scale, multi-country research programme developed to answer the question: “How can education systems be reformed to deliver better learning for all?” The objective of this year’s conference is to bring together high profile academics and policy makers to discuss the RISE research agenda. The conference will feature a range of invited and contributed talks and panels, as well as three sessions focused on our six Country Research Teams (CRTs), including the announcement of our two newest CRTs. The RISE Programme is a collaboration between the Center for Global Development in Washington DC, the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford, and Oxford Policy Management in Oxford, UK, and our CRTs include Tanzania, India, Pakistan, and Vietnam, with two further countries to be announced shortly.
Most research starts from wanting to explain the causes of effects. A different approach to research is “x-centric” or “effects of causes,” which is to start from an X that is under some agent’s active control and ask: “What is the impulse response function of Y with respect to purposive variations in X?”
Imagine you are a Guatemalan living and working in the United States without the proper documents. Almost certainly (because it is legally required) there is a poster in the place where you work—most likely in English and Spanish—that “Equal Opportunity is the Law” and that you are protected from discrimination “on the basis of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), or national origin.”
This controversial book argues that irresistible demographic forces for greater international labor mobility are being checked by immovable anti-immigration ideas of rich-country citizens. Pritchett proposes breaking the gridlock through policies that support development while also being politically acceptable in rich countries. These include greater use of temporary worker permits, permit rationing, reliance on bilateral rather than multilateral agreements, and protection of migrants' fundamental human rights.
Most of the world’s children now live in countries on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal of universal primary completion by 2015. Countries have indeed made great progress getting kids in school, but behind that progress is a problem: many children are hardly learning anything in school. Some measures of learning are just dismal. In India, for example, only about one-third of children in grade 5 can perform long division. Nearly one-half cannot read a grade 2 text, and one in five cannot follow a grade 1 text.
What is to be done? Broadly speaking, schools, governments, and donors need to focus more on actual learning goals, not just filling seats. This report of the CGD Study Group on Measuring Learning Outcomes shows how to make some headway in that direction. Governments need to develop comparable, public learning assessments. Civil society should engage at the grassroots to demand accountability. Donors can play a secondary role by pegging funding to results or experimenting with different strategies. And the UN and other multilaterals should set global standards against which national efforts can be measured. One option is to establish a global learning goal as part of the post-2015 development agenda.
The welfare of the poor turns in large measure not only on technocratic development "policies", but the effective delivery of key public services, core elements of which require thousands of face-to-face discretionary transactions ("practices") by service providers. This paper presents eight current proposals for improving service delivery, on the basis of a principal-agent model of incentives that explores how these various proposals change flows of resources, information, decision-making, delivery mechanisms, and accountability.
In this paper we examine how policymakers and practitioners should interpret the impact evaluation literature when presented with conflicting experimental and non-experimental estimates of the same intervention across varying contexts. We show three things. First, as is well known, non-experimental estimates of a treatment effect comprise a causal treatment effect and a bias term due to endogenous selection into treatment. When non-experimental estimates vary across contexts any claim for external validity of an experimental result must make the assumption that (a) treatment effects are constant across contexts, while (b) selection processes vary across contexts. This assumption is rarely stated or defended in systematic reviews of evidence. Second, as an illustration of these issues, we examine two thoroughly researched literatures in the economics of education—class size effects and gains from private schooling—which provide experimental and non-experimental estimates of causal effects from the same context and across multiple contexts.
Here we extend the basic idea of rigorous impact evaluation—the use of a valid counterfactual to make judgments about causality—to emphasize that the techniques of impact evaluation can be directly useful to implementing organizations (as opposed to impact evaluation being seen by implementing organizations as only an external threat to their funding).
The authors argue that many reform initiatives in developing countries fail to achieve sustained improvements in performance because they are merely isomorphic mimicry. They present a new framework for breaking out of capability traps.
Lant Pritchett and Amanda Beatty argue that many education systems are attempting to push children through curricular material faster than their teachers can teach it and their students can learn it. Students fall behind and eventually stop learning. The authors provide a formal model of this phenomenon and provide empirical evidence on its implications.
Economic growth is one aspect of development; state capability is another. This paper shows that many countries remain in “state capability traps” and suggests ways to sabotage persistent techniques of failure.
Efforts to decentralize educational systems often arouse fears that the quality of schooling will become less equal as a result. But what’s the evidence? CGD non-resident fellow Lant Pritchett and co-author Martina Viarengo show in a new CGD working paper that the supposedly greater equality of centralized systems is often little more than the illusion of a bureaucracy blinded to local realities.
Are your wages determined by what you know, or where you are? This paper estimates how the wages of workers in 42 developing countries would change if the same people could work in the United States. It uses a rich new database on over two million workers around the world. A worker from the median country would earn about 2.7 times as much in the US as at home. This means that (1) for many countries, the wage gaps caused by barriers to movement across international borders are among the largest known forms of wage discrimination; (2) these gaps represent one of the largest remaining price distortions in any global market; and (3) simply allowing labor mobility can reduce a given household’s poverty to a much greater degree than most known antipoverty interventions inside developing countries.
Data on the average income of a resident of Ecuador is easy to find. But until now there has been no data on the average income of a person born in Ecuador, regardless of where she or he lives. In this paper, research fellow Michael Clemens and non-resident fellow Lant Pritchett introduce a new dataset, income per natural: the mean annual income of persons born in a given country regardless of residence. Turns out that defining things this way makes a big difference, and not just for tiny nations. Income per natural differs by more than 10% from income per resident for dozens of countries including Vietnam, Kenya and Morocco. In other words, one of the largest sources of increased income for people in many parts of the developing world is moving to another country.