Piece on Trump administration getting rid of work authorizations for spouses of H1-B visas, for the Economist.
For the Economist: expectations are up, support for parents isn't.
For The Economist. Secure Communities lowers employment and access to the safety net among US citizens.
Women don't like Donald Trump. They also appear energized to vote. For the Economist.
Family detention centers are harsh and unnecessary. For the Economist.
For The Economist: welfare reform was bad and Trump is doubling down.
A piece for Vox on the barely progressive arguably regressive tax and spending systems of poorer developing countries.
A CGD Working Paper on policy coordination to help meet the SDGs. TLDR: Important, but hard.
This paper discusses the role for policy integration to speed progress towards delivering the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This is required because the goals set very ambitious targets for progress across a range of interlinked areas, encompassing both synergies and tradeoffs. Lessons of policy integration at the national level suggest that it is usually at best partially successful, requiring significant commitment from the highest levels of government. Policy integration regarding foreign affairs has proven even more challenging. This paper suggests a mechanism for prioritizing coordination and the use of coordination tools including regulation, safeguards, taxes, and subsidies. It also suggests re-orienting ministerial responsibilities where possible from input control to achievement of outcomes as well as tools to promote innovation by subnational governments and the private sector.
On the grim economic prospects for black males in the US, for The Economist.
A piece on what Canada could do to further global gender equality for OpenCanada.org.
Welfare works. Me in The Economist.
...and that makes welfare unpopular. Me in The Economist.
Inside the Portfolio of the International Finance Corporation: Does IFC Do Enough in Low-Income Countries? with Jared Kalow and Vijaya Ramachandran is a CGD Policy Paper. Between 2001 and 2016, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) committed $127 billion through 3,343 projects across the developing world. During this period, the bulk of IFC’s portfolio has moved lower middle-income countries to upper middle-income countries. Between 2001 and 2004, IFC’s portfolio was dominated by lower-middle income countries. Between 2013 and 2016, Turkey, China, and Brazil received $3.8, $2.9, and $3.0 billion in investments respectively, making them some of the largest recipients of IFC investment. The portfolio shift from lower-middle to upper-middle income countries is in significant part due to recipient countries graduating out of lower-middle income status. Our analysis shows that IFC’s portfolio is not focused where it could make the most difference. Low income countries are where IFC has the scale to make a considerable difference to development outcomes. These are the countries with the greatest need for investment and (implicit) guarantee mechanisms for private investment. And these are the countries receiving the bulk of advisory services support. While an excessive portfolio shift might imperil IFC’s credit rating, the evidence suggests that there is considerable scope for increasing commitments to low income countries without significant impact to IFC’s credit scores.
Comparing Five Bilateral Development Finance Institutions and the IFC with Jared Kalow , Ben Leo and Vijaya Ramachandran is another policy paper. Development Finance Institutions (DFIs)—which provide financing to private investors in developing economies—have seen rapid expansion over the past few years. A recent estimate is that annual commitments from DFIs as a whole grew from $10 to $70 billion between 2002-2014. Many DFIs have ambitions to play an even greater role going forward, continuing expansion and working more in fragile states. DFIs remain a comparatively under-studied set of development institutions in terms of their activities and impacts. Much of the information about DFIs is presented in forms that make aggregation and comparison difficult and time-consuming. This paper describes and analyses a new dataset covering the five largest bilateral DFIs alongside the IFC which includes project amounts, standardized sectors, instruments, and countries. The aim is to establish the size and scope of DFIs and to compare and contrast them with the IFC.
A working paper for CGD with Mallika Snyder. The Sustainable Development Goals are an ambitious set of targets for global development progress by 2030 that were agreed by the United Nations in 2015. Amongst the 169 targets are a number that call for universal access, universal coverage, or universal eradication. These include ending extreme poverty and malnutrition alongside preventable under-5 deaths, ending a number of epidemics, providing universal access to sexual and reproductive health services, primary and secondary education, a range of infrastructure services, and legal identification. These have often been labeled “zero targets.” A review of the literature on meeting these zero targets suggests very high costs compared to available resources, but also that in many cases there remains a considerable gap between financing known technical solutions and achieving the outcomes called for in the SDGs. In some cases, we (even) lack the technical solutions required to achieve the zero targets, suggesting the need for research and development of new approaches.
Trump's wall: transparently stupid. For the Economist.
A CGD policy note with Tanvi Jaluka and Michael Brown on IMF Article IV negotiations since gender was declared 'macrocritical.' In short, there has been increased attention to the issue as reflected in word counts and discussion of women’s labor force participation, but there is still a long way to go.
A summary of the messages in Results Not Receipts in DevEx.
Estimating the SDGs' Demand for Innovation is a CGD Working Paper written with Dev Patel. How much innovation will be needed to meet the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals? We model shifts in the cross-country relationship between GDP per capita and achievement in key development indicators as “technological gains” and convergence to the best performers at a given income as “policy gains.” Assuming that the United Nations’ income growth projections for low- and middle-income countries are met, we estimate the residual demand for technology and policy innovation needed to meet several critical targets of the SDGs. Our results suggest that (i) best performers are considerably outperforming the average performance at a given income level, suggesting considerable progress could be achieved through policy change but that (ii) the targets set in the SDGs are unlikely to be met by 2030 without very rapid, ubiquitous technological progress alongside economic growth.
Why DACA is good, for the Economist.
A paper by Dev Patel and me for CGD. This analysis examines the relationship between legal reform and social norms surrounding homosexuality. We document three main findings. First, about a fifth of the variation in individual preferences can be explained at a country level. Second, using a difference-in-differences strategy, legalizing homosexuality improves how individuals view the tone of their communities. Third, we provide further evidence supporting a legal origins argument by examining former colonies. Countries that were colonized by the British Empire have significantly worse legal rights for samesex couples than those under other colonial powers. We conclude that adopting legal reform can improve societal attitudes.
A review of The Retreat of Western Liberalism by Edward Luce and The Fate of the West: The Battle to Save the World’s Most Successful Political Idea by Bill Emmott, for Democracy: A Journal of Ideas.
Expanding and Measuring Opportunities is a working paper for the Center for Development and Enterprise. The idea that circumstances and free choice can be neatly divided is open to considerable debate. The [equality of] opportunity framework begs the question, ‘what is in the control of the individual?’ Regardless, equality of opportunity is about ‘birth luck egalitarianism’-minimizing the variance of birth luck-- while maximizing or expanding opportunity is about efficiently raising the average birth luck. One advantage of ‘opportunity expansion’ over ‘opportunity equalization’ is that an accounting between free will and determinism is unnecessary–there is no concern with estimating the impact of genetic or in utero factors on outcomes, for example. However, if we are worried about maximizing or expanding opportunities rather than equality of opportunities, the approach that is appropriate when defining equal opportunity (the state when measured exogenous factors have no bearings on relative outcomes within a country) does not work. This is because we cannot take the stock (or flow) of outcomes as a given or an irrelevance. Empirically, allowing the stock of outcomes to vary suggests a goal of expanding or maximizing opportunity may involve a markedly different set of policies than equalizing opportunities. This is because variance in opportunities within countries is far smaller than variance across countries. That implies a focus on raising national average opportunity may have a far bigger payoff than redistributing opportunities or trying to raise the minimum opportunity to the mean within a country --although greater equality of opportunity is likely to be a method to increase absolute levels of opportunity.
Baumol in the US --for the Economist.
Poor countries aren't a lot more corrupt than rich countries. For Quartz.
In the aftermath of the invasion of Afghanistan, the US Agency for International Development supported the Afghan Ministry of Public Health to deliver basic healthcare to 90 percent of the population, at a cost of $4.50 a head. The program played a vital role in improving the country’s health; the number of children dying before the age of five dropped by 100,000 a year. But accounting standards at the Ministry of Public Health concerned the US Special Investigator General for Afghanistan. There was no evidence of malfeasance, nor argument about the success of the program. For all that the results were fantastic, receipts were not in order. The investigator called for the health program to be suspended because of “financial management deficiencies” at the ministry.
Results Not Receipts: Counting the Right Things in Aid and Corruption explores how an important and justified focus on corruption is damaging the potential for aid to deliver results. Donors treat corruption as an issue they can measure and improve, and from which they can insulate their projects at acceptable costs by controlling processes and monitoring receipts. But our ability to measure corruption is limited, and the link between donors’ preferred measures and development outcomes is weak. Noting the costs of the standard anticorruption tools of fiduciary controls and centralized delivery, Results Not Receipts urges a different approach to tackling corruption in development: focus on outcomes.