15 February 2013

When unintended consequences go... well!

After the disappointment of the blank results from the Duflo study on labour market policy in France, a new CSAE study by Imbert and Papp has some more encouraging results - programme side-effects which go in a positive direction.

They find that the "National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme" (NREGA) in India has a positive impact on private sector wages by bidding up the price of labour. The indirect gains to poor labourers from the higher private sector wages are big - about half of the value of the direct gains to participants from the public works programme. Of course, this increase in wages represents a loss for buyers of labour, but these tend to be people in the top 20%.

A couple of interesting implications that the authors note - first, this is evidence against the Lewis model of surplus labour which can be cheaply tapped for capitalist expansion.

Second - differences in the political power and organisation of landlord farmers may help explain differences in the implementation of the scheme across states.

Finally, a reminder that this is based on nationally representative data in a country of 1.2 billion people, and a programme which spends $9 billion a year and reaches millions of households. Take that, randomistas. 

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