These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Worth Every Cent
In a Foreign Affairs article last year, we wrote what we hoped would be a provocative argument: “Cash grants to the poor are as good as or better than many traditional forms of aid when it comes to reducing poverty.” Cash grants are cheaper to administer and effective at giving recipients what they want, rather than what experts think they need. That argument seems less radical by the day. Experimental impact evaluations continue to show strong results for cash grants large or small. In August, David McKenzie of the World Bank reported results from a study of grants of $50,000 on average to entrepreneurs in Nigeria that showed large positive impacts on business creation, survival, profits, sales, and employment, including an increase of more than 20 percent in the likelihood of a firm having more than ten employees.
No, Deaton’s Nobel prize win isn’t a victory for aid sceptics
A lot of fuss has been made this week about the latest winner of the Nobel prize in economics, British-born economist Angus Deaton, and his apparent aversion to foreign aid. Predictably, much of the press has taken his victory as a vindication of their suspicions on aid. It’s worth getting a few things straight though. Deaton did not win the Nobel prize for his criticism of aid. He was awarded the prize for his analysis of inequality and creation of better tools with which to analyse living standards amongst the poorest people in the world. Deaton is, in fact, more of a critic than an opponent of aid. In the same way that a film critic doesn’t hate all films (although it sometimes seems they do), Deaton doesn’t hate all aid.
The Rise of the World’s Poorest Countries
Journal of Democracy
For more than two decades now, the majority of the world’s poorest countries have been making some of the fastest and biggest development gains in history. The momentous progress achieved since the early 1990s is unprecedented. One-billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty, the child death rate has been cut in half, life expectancy has increased significantly, millions more girls are enrolled in school, deaths in civil wars have dropped by three-quarters, average incomes have almost doubled, food production has increased by half, and democracy has spread like never before in the world’s poorest countries, notwithstanding with many setbacks, obstacles, and imperfections along the way. Some of these gains—especially the declines in poverty and child mortality—rank among the greatest achievements in human history. Yet few people are aware that this progress is even happening.
Women’s Rights Online: Translating Access into Empowerment
World Wide Web Foundation
New research by the Web Foundation shows that the dramatic spread of mobile phones is not enough to get women online, or to achieve empowerment of women through technology. The study, based on a survey of thousands of poor urban men and women across nine developing countries*, found that while nearly all women and men own a phone, women are still nearly 50% less likely to access the Internet than men in the same communities, with Internet use reported by just 37% of women surveyed. Once online, women are 30-50% less likely than men to use the Internet to increase their income or participate in public life.
The Failure of Refugee Camps
Europe is currently encountering the arrival of tens of thousands of refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, and North Africa, who are braving the seas in rickety boats, streaming around fences, and occupying train stations in their quest to resettle. It is being called a “crisis,” but the term suggests a problem that will end. Thanks to more frequent and savage civil wars around the world, the global population of displaced people has more than tripled in the last ten years, from 20 million to more than 60 million, a population almost the size of the United Kingdom. European politicians may not want to admit it, but they are struggling with the central problem of twenty-first century global politics. Climate change, political instability, and other factors virtually guarantee that this century will see many more people made into refugees or economic migrants.
Measuring The Millennium Development Goals: The Quest To End Extreme Poverty
As we reach the 15-year deadline for the MDGs, we're taking stock of how close we came to hitting them. Up first: Halve the number of people living on less than $1.25 a day. Extreme poverty is the most obvious and visible indication that our society is unequal, and that the amazing benefits that technology and development have bestowed on some of us are not trickling down and helping people in the poorer parts of the world. So when the UN launched its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000, with the mission to achieve benchmarks in improving the conditions of people around the world, poverty was the first item on the list.