Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

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November 20, 2015

Changes in Funding Patterns by Latin American Banking Systems: How Large? How Risky? - Working Paper 420

This paper investigates the shifts in Latin American banks’ funding patterns in the post-global financial crisis period. To this end, we introduce a new measure of exposure of local banking systems to international debt markets that we term: International Debt Issuances by Locally Supervised Institutions. In contrast to well-known BIS measures, our new metric includes all entities that fall under the supervisory purview of the local authority.

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October 19, 2015

Asking What the People Want: Using Mobile Phone Surveys to Identify Citizen Priorities - Working Paper 418

Using an experimental design, we assess the feasibility of interactive voice recognition (IVR) surveys for gauging citizens’ development priorities. Our project focuses on four low-income countries (Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe). We find that mobile phone-based approaches may be an effective tool for gathering information about citizen priorities.

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September 16, 2015

Toward Better Global Poverty Measures - Working Paper 417

The paper discusses three problems in measuring global poverty: (i) how to allow for social effects on welfare, recognizing the identification issues involved; (ii) the need to monitor progress in raising the consumption floor above its biological level; and (iii) addressing the longstanding concerns about prevailing approaches to making inter-country comparisons of price levels facing poor people.

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August 31, 2015

Taxes: Price of Civilization or Tribute to Leviathan? - Working Paper 412

There are two dominant narratives about taxation.  In one, taxes are the “price we pay for a civilized society” (Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.).  In this view taxes are not a necessary evil (as in the pairing of “death and taxes” as inevitable) but a positive good: more taxes buy more “civilization.” The other view is that taxes are “tribute to Leviathan”—a pure involuntary extraction from those engaged in economic production to those who control coercive power producing no reciprocal benefit.  In this view taxes are a bane of the civilized.   We consider the question of taxes as price versus tribute for contemporary India.

Lant Pritchett and Yamini Aiyar
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August 21, 2015

Inequality and Fiscal Redistribution in Middle Income Countries: Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Indonesia, Mexico, Peru and South Africa - Working Paper 410

This paper examines the redistributive impact of fiscal policy for Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Indonesia, Mexico, Peru and South Africa using comparable fiscal incidence analysis with data from around 2010. The largest redistributive effect is in South Africa and the smallest in Indonesia. While fiscal policy always reduces inequality, this is not the case with poverty.

June 10, 2015

Manufacturing or Services? An Indian Illustration of a Development Dilemma - Working Paper 409

Manufacturing has historically offered the fastest path out of poverty, but there is mounting evidence that this path may be all but closed to developing countries today. Some have suggested that services might provide a new path forward, while others have expressed skepticism about this claim and consequent pessimism over the future growth trajectories of developing countries. We contribute to debate this by using a multi-sector growth framework to establish five important criteria that any sector must exhibit in order to lead an economy to rapid, sustained, and inclusive development. 

Amrit Amirapu and Arvind Subramanian
The Health Consequences of Aerial Spraying of Illicit Crops: The Case of Colombia
June 1, 2015

The Health Consequences of Aerial Spraying of Illicit Crops: The Case of Colombia - Working Paper 408

A joint US-Colombia antinarcotics program sprayed hundreds of thousands of acres of illicit crops in Colombia with the herbicide glyphosate over several years. The recent classification of glyphosate as a likely carcinogen raises questions about the health effects of that spraying campaign. In this study, two economists from Colombia’s Los Andes University, combine data on aerial spraying from 2003 to 2007 with comprehensive individual-level data on every visit to public health facilities during that period. They find that aerial spraying raised the incidence of miscarriages, skin conditions, and respiratory problems.

Adriana Camacho and Daniel Mejia
Call Me Educated: Evidence from a Mobile Monitoring Experiment in Niger - Working Paper 406
May 21, 2015

Call Me Educated: Evidence from a Mobile Monitoring Experiment in Niger - Working Paper 406

In rural areas of developing countries, education programs are often implemented through community teachers. While teachers are a crucial part of the education production function, observing their effort remains a challenge for the public sector. This paper tests whether a simple monitoring system, implemented via the mobile phone, can improve student learning as part of an adult education program. 

Jenny C. Aker and Christopher Ksoll
Can a Poverty-Reducing and Progressive Tax and Transfer System Hurt the Poor? - Working Paper 405
May 21, 2015

Can a Poverty-Reducing and Progressive Tax and Transfer System Hurt the Poor? - Working Paper 405

Whether the poor are helped or hurt by taxes and transfers is generally determined by comparing income distributions before and after fiscal policy using stochastic dominance tests and measures of progressivity and horizontal inequity. We formally show that these tools can fail to capture an important aspect: that a substantial proportion of the poor are made poorer (or non-poor made poor) by the tax and transfer system.

Sean Higgins and Nora Lustig

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