30 August 2012

Do Urban Livelihoods Programmes Work?

Apparently not in Sri Lanka.
The authors conduct a randomized experiment among women in urban Sri Lanka to measure the impact of the most commonly used business training course in developing countries, the Start-and-Improve Your Business program. They work with two representative groups of women: a random sample of women operating subsistence enterprises and a random sample of women who are out of the labor force but interested in starting a business. They track the impacts of two treatments -- training only and training plus a cash grant -- over two years with four follow-up surveys and find that the short and medium-term impacts differ. For women already in business, training alone leads to some changes in business practices but has no impact on business profits, sales or capital stock. In contrast, the combination of training and a grant leads to large and significant improvements in business profitability in the first eight months, but this impact dissipates in the second year. For women interested in starting enterprises, business training speeds up entry but leads to no increase in net business ownership by the final survey round.
Suresh de Mel, David  McKenzie, and Christopher Woodruff , "Business training and female enterprise start-up, growth, and dynamics: experimental evidence from Sri Lanka" (HT: @timothyogden)

Modern Growth and Development in the UK

We may still be coming through the deepest recession in living memory, but we are for the most part incomparably better off than we were in the Silver Jubilee year [1977]. Incomes have doubled on average. We need devote much less of our spending to necessities such as food, leaving us free to spend more on leisure pursuits. As a nation, we are vastly better educated. We have moved decisively away from a manufacturing economy towards one based on services. Many more of us work in professional and whitecollar occupations. Women are much more established in the labour market and have made particularly substantial strides in educational attainment.
From IFS, Jubilees compared: incomes, spending and work in the late 1970s and early 2010s

29 August 2012

The sky is falling!

Amongst dire warning of pending global vegetarianism, the Guardian notes
"The UN predicts that we must increase food production by 70% by mid-century"
What on earth does that mean? Is that a big number or a little number? A little context maybe? Handily I've just finished reading Tyler Cowen's excellent "An Economist Gets Lunch," in which he notes:
"during the period 1949-1990, new technological innovations boosted agricultural productivity by an average of 2.02 percent a year. From 1990 to 2002, this same rate of improvement fell to 0.97 percent"
Where would those rates get us? By my calculation, we would need a roughly 1.35% annual rate to get to that 70% increase target by mid century. A significant increase on the present rate, but certainly achievable in the context of past gains.

(Note also that this is just pure productivity gains from technological innovation - meaning no additional land inputs required)

15 August 2012

The economics of female genital mutilation

We also had a presentation on female genital mutilation, or female circumcision as some insist on calling it, and it seemed to me it could be characterized, at least in part, as a multiple equilibrium, collective action problem with tipping points. So I asked what they knew about tipping points -- the point where the social pressure switches from doing it to not having it done as fewer and fewer have the procedure done to them
From Mark Thoma's recent trip to Kenya.

03 August 2012

Child-focused budgeting

Interesting new briefing note from John Channon here at Oxford Policy Management on his work with UNICEF on "child-focused budgeting." This represents an interesting strategic shift for UNICEF from doing project-based work to getting to grips with government systems and PFM in order to help governments think more clearly about the outcomes and impacts of their programmes in health, education, and social protection, and better achieve their own goals with regards to outcomes for children.

John concludes:
"For donors looking to adopt a similar approach to UNICEF, there is an important underlying message: to achieve the changes in service delivery that many donors want to see – and governments themselves want to make – effective PFM systems must be in place first. These are the foundations for enabling wider, more sustainable social change, as the PFM approach ensures funding is aligned with policy priorities and long-term goals, rather than simply financing short-term projects, however superficially attractive these may be."
See the full note (just 4 pages) here