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Bases, Bullets, and Ballots: The Effect of US Military Aid on Political Conflict in Colombia

Does foreign military assistance strengthen or further weaken fragile states facing internal conflict? Aid may strengthen the state by bolstering its repressive capacity vis-à-vis armed nonstate actors or weaken it if resources are diverted to these very groups. We examine how US military aid affects political violence in Colombia. . . 
Oeindrila Dube, New York University / Suresh Naidu, Columbia University

Site Selection Bias in Program Evaluation

“Site selection bias” can occur when the probability that a program is adopted or evaluated is correlated with its impacts. I test for site selection bias in the context of the Opower energy conservation programs, using 111 randomized control trials involving 8.6 million households across the U.S. Predictions based on rich microdata from the first ten replications substantially overstate efficacy in the next 101 sites...
Hunt Alcott

Incorporating Climate Uncertainty into Estimates of Climate Change Impacts

Quantitative estimates of the impacts of climate change on economic outcomes are important for public policy. We show that the vast majority of estimates fail to account for well-established uncertainty in future temperature and rainfall changes, leading to potentially misleading projections. We reexamine seven well-cited studies and show that accounting for climate uncertainty leads to a much larger range of projected climate impacts and a greater likelihood of worst-case outcomes, an important policy parameter. Incorporating climate uncertainty into future economic impact assessments will be critical for providing the best possible information on potential impacts.
Shanker Satyanath, Marshall Burke, John Dykema, David B. Lobell, Edward Miguel

Renewable Natural Resource Shocks and Conflict Intensity: Findings from India’s Ongoing Maoist Insurgency

An interesting stream of the civil conflict literature has identified an important subset of civil conflicts with disastrous consequences, that is, those that emerge as a consequence of shocks to renewable natural resources like land and water. This literature is, however, reliant on qualitative case studies when claiming a causal relationship leading from renewable resource shocks to conflict. In this article, we seek to advance the literature by drawing out the implications of a well-known formal model of the renewable resources–conflict relationship and then conducting rigorous statistical tests of its implications in the case of a serious ongoing civil conflict in India. We find that a one standard deviation decrease in our measure of renewable resources increases killings by nearly 60 percent over the long run . . . 
Shanker Satyanath, Kishore Gawande, Devesh Kapur

Cross-Border Spillover: U.S. Gun Laws and Violence in Mexico

To what extent, and under what conditions, does access to arms fuel violent crime? To answer this question, we exploit a unique natural experiment: the 2004 expiration of the U.S. Federal Assault Weapons Ban exerted a spillover on gun supply in Mexican municipios near Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico, but not near California, which retained a pre-existing state-level ban. We find first that Mexican municipios located closer to the non-California border states experienced differential increases in homicides, gun-related homicides, and crime gun seizures after 2004 . . . 
Oeindrila Dube

Cultural Change as Learning: The Evolution of Female Labor Force Participation Over a Century.

his paper investigates the role of changes in culture in generating the dramatic increase in married women’s labor force participation over the last century. It develops a dynamic model of culture in which individuals hold heterogeneous beliefs regarding the relative long-run payoffs for women who work in the market versus the home. These beliefs evolve endogenously via an intergenerational learning process. Women are assumed to learn about the long-term payoffs of working by observing (noisy) private and public signals. This process generically generates the S-shaped figure for female labor force participation found in the data . . . 
Raquel Fernandez

Credit Constraints, Job Mobility and Entrepreneurship: Evidence from a Property Reform in China

This paper provides new evidence on the impact of private property rights and employer-provided housing on entrepreneurship. I find an increase in self-employment following a reform in urban China that allowed state employees who were renting state-owned housing the opportunity to buy their homes at subsidized prices. I develop a model of job choice to test two mechanisms that might explain how the reform increased entrepreneurship. I find evidence that the reform reduced labor mobility costs and alleviated credit constraints by allowing households to capitalize on the value of the real estate.
Shing-Yi Wang

Commercial Imperialism? Political Influence During the Cold War

We provide evidence that increased political influence, arising from CIA interventions during the Cold War, was used to create a larger foreign market for American products. Following CIA interventions, imports from the US increased dramatically, while total exports to the US were unaffected. The surge in imports was concentrated in industries in which the US had a comparative disadvantage, not a comparative advantage. Our analysis is able to rule out decreased trade costs, changing political ideology, and an increase in US loans and grants as alternative explanations . . . 
Daniel Berger, William Easterly, Nathan Nunn, Shanker Satyanath

Indicators as a Technology of Global Governance

The use of indicators is a prominent feature of contemporary global governance. Indicators are used to compare and rank states for purposes as varied as deciding how to allocate foreign aid or investment and determining whether states have complied with their treaty obligations. This article defines the concept of an indicator, analyzes distinctive features of indicators as technologies of governance, and identifies various ways in which the use of indicators has the potential to alter the topology and dynamics of global governance. Particular attention is paid to how indicators can affect processes of standard setting, decisionmaking, and contestation in global governance. The World Bank Doing Business indicators and the United Nations Human Development Index are analyzed as case studies.
Kevin E. Davis, Benedict Kingsbury, Sally Engle Merry

Ethnicity and Conflict: Theory and Facts

Over the second half of the twentieth century, conflicts within national boundaries have become increasingly dominant. One third of all countries have experienced civil conflict. Many (if not most) such conflicts involve violence along ethnic lines. Based on recent theoretical and empirical research, this paper provides evidence that pre-existing ethnic divisions do influence social conflict. The analysis also points to particular channels of influence. Specifically, it is shown that two different measures of ethnic division — polarization and fractionalization — jointly influence conflict, the former more so when the winners enjoy a “public” prize (such as political power or religious hegemony), the latter more so when the prize is “private” (such as looted resources, government subsidies or infrastructures). The available data appear to stand in strong support of existing theories of inter-group conflict. Our argument also provides indirect evidence that ethnic conflicts are likely to be instrumental, rather than driven by primordial hatreds.
Laura Mayoral, Joan Esteban, Debraj Ray

Dignity and Development

This paper explores how expanding the notion of informal institutions in the broader institutional framework provides a more complete explanation for development. Specifically, I incorporate McCloskey’s notion of ‘dignity and liberty’ as part of the institutional nexus. By doing so, a richer explanation and understanding of the importance of institutions in explaining different economic outcomes is offered. Focusing on bourgeois dignity offers a precise mechanism to explain how institutions matter to support economic growth. In addition, analyzing the changing attitudes towards the bourgeoisie provides a specific example of mechanisms that can lead to institutional change.
Claudia R. Williamson

Reconstructing Empire in British and French Africa. Past and Present

It was indeed empire that European leaders at the end of World War II needed to reconstruct. They had come very close to losing a struggle with another form of empire, the Nazi Reich, and in South East Asia they had lost valued territories to a country that had dared to play the empire-game with them— Japan. At the same time, both British and French leaders felt, with some reason, that they had been saved by their empires: by the resources in men and material contributed by the dominions and colonies of Great Britain and by the symbolic importance of French Equatorial Africa’s refusal to follow Vichy, followed by the contributions of North African territories and diverse African people to the reconquest of European France from the Mediterranean . . . 
Frederick Cooper

Does Regulatory Supervision Curtail Microfinance Profitability and Outreach?

Regulation allows microfinance institutions to take deposits and expand their banking functions, but complying with regulation can be costly. We examine implications for institutions’ profitability and their outreach to small-scale borrowers and women, using a newly-constructed dataset on 245 leading institutions. Controlling for the non-random assignment of supervision via treatment effects and instrumental variables regressions, we find evidence consistent with the hypothesis that profit-oriented microfinance institutions respond to supervision by maintaining profit rates but curtailing outreach to women and customers that are costly to reach. Institutions with a weaker commercial focus instead tend to reduce profitability but maintain outreach.
Jonathan Morduch, Robert Cull, and Asli Demirgüç-Kunt

Re-examining Economics Shocks and Civil Conflict.

Miguel, Satyanath, and Ernest Sergenti (2004), henceforth MSS, show that economic growth is negatively related to civil conflict in Africa, using annual rainfall variation as an IV for growth. Antonio Ciccone (2011) argues that thanks to rainfall’s mean-reverting nature, rainfall levels are preferable to annual changes. We make three points. First, MSS’s  findings hold using rainfall levels as instruments. Second, Ciccone (2011) does not provide theoretical justification for preferring rainfall levels. Third, the first-stage relationship between rainfall and growth is weaker after 2000, suggesting that alternative instruments are needed when studying recent conflicts. We highlight the accumulating microeconomic evidence that adverse economic shocks lead to political violence.
Shanker Satyanath and Edward Miguel

Rhetoric versus Reality: The Best and Worst of Aid Agency Practices

Foreign aid critics, supporters, recipients and donors have produced eloquent rhetoric on
the need for better aid practices – has this translated into reality? This paper attempts to monitor the best and worst of aid practices among bilateral, multilateral, and UN agencies. We create aid practice measures based on aid transparency, specialization, selectivity, ineffective aid channels and overhead costs. We rate donor agencies from best to worst on aid practices. We find that the UK does well among bilateral agencies, the US is below average, and Scandinavian donors do surprisingly poorly . . . 

Efficiency Considerations of Donor Fatigue, Universal Access to ARTs and Health Systems.

There is great need to consider how the limited resources available can be used most efficiently to increase the number of lives saved and to ensure that these resources also benefit health systems. Improving efficiency is much more than just improving the productive efficiency and also about ensuring that resources are going to where they will be the most beneficial and making investments that are the most efficient over time. These choices may be essential to achieving the goal of universal access to treatment as well as the sustainability of these programmes.
Karen Grépin

State Misallocation and Housing Prices: Theory and Evidence from China.

This paper examines the equilibrium price effects of the privatization of housing assets that were previously owned and allocated by the state. I develop a theoretical framework that shows that privatization can have ambiguous effects on prices in the private market, and that the degree of misallocation of the assets prior to privatization determines the subsequent price effects. I test the predictions of the model using a large-scale housing reform in China. The results suggest that the removal of price distortions allowed households to increase their consumption of housing and led to an increase in equilibrium housing prices.
Shing-yi Wang

Leveraging HIV Programs to Deliver an Integrated Package of Health Services: Some Words of Caution

Over the past decade, HIV programs have been successfully scaled up in many developing countries, leading some to wonder how the investments made into HIV infrastructure could be leveraged to deliver additional health services. Although the concept is appealing from many perspectives, integrating additional health services into existing vertical HIV infrastructure may not mitigate some of the challenges these programs have introduced in implementing countries . . . 
Karen Grepin

Linking Conflict to Inequality and Polarization.

In this paper we study a behavioral model of conflict that provides a basis for choosing certain indices of dispersion as indicators for conflict. We show that a suitable monotone transform of the equilibrium level of conflict can be proxied by a linear function of the Gini coefficient, the Herfindahl-Hirschman fractionalization index, and a specific measure of polarization due to Esteban and Ray.
Debraj Ray and Joan Esteban

A Model of Ethnic Conflict

We present a model of conflict in which discriminatory government policy or social intolerance is responsive to various forms of ethnic activism, including violence. It is this perceived responsiveness—captured by the probability that the government gives in and accepts a proposed change in ethnic policy—that induces individuals to mobilize, often violently, to support their cause. Yet, mobilization is costly and militants have to be compensated accordingly. The model allows for both financial and human contributions to conflict and allows for a variety of individual attitudes (“radicalism”) towards the cause. The main results concern the effects of within-group heterogeneity in radicalism and income, as well as the correlation between radicalism and income, in precipitating conflict.
Debraj Ray and Joan Esteban

Civilizing Society

This paper attempts to answer two important questions in economics. First, what virtues are important for promoting economic progress? Second, what is the source of these virtues? To answer these questions, I rely on recent studies suggesting that the virtues of trustworthiness, tolerance and respect, and individual determination are important for understanding how civil society supports economic prosperity. Specifically, trust, respect, and individual motivation encourage and support economic freedom. I also explore competing explanations for the determinants of virtues including religion, the role of government, and the act of economic exchange for civilizing society. My analysis finds support for the latter source. . . 
Claudia R. Williamson

Civil War Exposure and Violence

In recent years scholars have begun to focus on the consequences of individuals’ exposure to civil war, including its severe health and psychological consequences. Our innovation is to move beyond the survey methodology that is widespread in this literature to analyze the actual behavior of individuals with varying degrees of exposure to civil war in a common institutional setting. We exploit the presence of thousands of international soccer (football) players with different exposures to civil conflict in the European professional leagues, and find a strong relationship between the extent of civil conflict in a player’s home country and his propensity to behave violently on the soccer field, as measured by yellow and red cards . . . 
Shanker Satyanath, Sebastian Saiegh, and Edward Miguel

The Distribution of Wealth and Fiscal Policy in Economies with Finitely Lived Agents

We study the dynamics of the distribution of wealth in an overlapping generation economy with finitely lived agents and intergenerational transmission of wealth. Financial markets are incomplete, exposing agents to both labor and capital income risk. We show that the stationary wealth distribution is a Pareto distribution in the right tail and that it is capital income risk, rather than labor income, that drives the properties of the right tail of the wealth distribution. We also study analytically the dependence of the distribution of wealth—of wealth inequality in particular—on various fiscal policy instruments like capital income taxes and estate taxes, and on different degrees of social mobility. We show that capital income and estate taxes can significantly reduce wealth inequality, as do institutions favoring social mobility. Finally, we calibrate the economy to match the Lorenz curve of the wealth distribution of the U.S. economy.
Alberto Bisin, Jess Benhabib and Shenghao Zhu

Ethnic Identity and Labor Market Outcomes of Immigrants in Europe

We study the relationship between ethnic identity and labour market outcomes of non-EU immigrants in Europe. Using the European Social Survey, we find that there is a penalty to be paid for immigrants with a strong identity. Being a first generation immigrant leads to a penalty of about 17% while second- generation immigrants have a probability of being employed that is not statistically different from that of natives. However, when they have a strong identity, second-generation immigrants have a lower chance of finding a job than natives. Our analysis also reveals that the relationship between ethnic identity and employment prospects may depend on the type of integration and labour market policies implemented in the country where the immigrant lives. More flexible labour markets help immigrants to access the labour market but do not protect those who have a strong ethnic identity.
Alberto Bisin, Eleonora Patacchini, Thierry Verdier, and Yves Zenou.

Climate Robustly Linked to Civil War in Africa

We previously documented a link between climate variation and historical civil wars in sub-Saharan Africa . Buhaug disputes this link, generating a series of animated news reports. The relationship between climate and conflict is an important topic that deserves careful scientific scrutiny, but we believe Buhaug’s approach is undermined by basic econometric mistakes, leading to what is currently an unhelpful debate. We briefly describe two main shortcomings in his analysis here . . . 

Occupational Choice and Development

We study an economy in which firms use labor and various vintages of capital in a CES production function for the final good. We explicitly solve for the investment in capital of a given vintage as a function of its age, and for the resulting stocks of capital. We show that for reasonable parameter values, inverted-U- shaped dynamics of investment and S-shaped dynamics for capital arise in equilibrium. We view the model as an explanation of intra-firm adoption lags, i.e., the observation that firms adopt innovations over time and not instantaneously.
Boyan Jovanovic and Jan Eeckhout

Peer-to-Peer Financing for Development: Regulating the Intermediaries

Private international finance for individual and small business recipients seeking to improve development outcomes is particularly in vogue, and a bewildering variety of intermediaries have emerged to channel the growing capital flows. Some of these intermediaries work much like conventional charities, collecting and transmitting private donations for private recipients advancing development—defined to include both private sector growth and institutional reform . . .

The Slave Trade and the Origins of Mistrust in Africa

We show that current differences in trust levels within Africa can be traced back to the trans-Atlantic and Indian Ocean slave trades. Combining contemporary individual-level survey data with historic data on slave shipments by ethnic group, we find that individuals whose ancestors were heavily raided during the slave trade are less trusting today. Evidence from a variety of identification strategies suggest that the relationship is causal. Examining causal mechanisms, we show that most of the impact of the slave trade is through factors that are internal to the individual, such as cultural norms, beliefs, and values.
Leonard antchekon and Nathan Nunn

Selective Knowledge: Reporting Biases in Microfinance Data

nswering surveys is usually voluntary, yet much of our knowledge depends on the willingness of households and institutions to answer. We explore the implications of voluntary reporting on knowledge about microfinance. We show systematic biases in microfinance institutions’ choices about which survey to respond to and which specific indicators to report. The analysis focuses on data for 2,072 microfinance institutions . . .
Jonathan Morduch and Jonathan Bauchet

Was the Wealth of Nations determined in 1000 BC?

We assemble a dataset on technology adoption in 1000 Bc, 0 Ad, and 1500 AD for the predecessors to today’s nation states. Technological differences are surprisingly persistent over long periods of time. Our most interesting, strong, and robust results are for the association of 1500 AD technology with per capita income and technology adoption today . . . 

Microfinance Games

Microfinance banks use group-based lending contracts to strengthen borrowers’ incentives for diligence, but the contracts are vulnerable to free-riding and collusion. We systematically unpack micro nance mechanisms through ten experimental games played in an experimental economics laboratory in urban Peru. Risk-taking broadly conforms to theoretical predictions, with dynamic incentives strongly reducing risk-taking even without group-based mechanisms. Group lending increases risk-taking, especially for risk-averse borrowers, but this is moderated when borrowers form their own groups. Group contracts bene t borrowers by creating implicit insurance against investment losses, but the costs are borne by other borrowers, especially the most risk averse . . . 

Reply to Sutton et al.: Relationship Between Temperature and Conflict is Robust

In a recent paper, we documented strong historical linkages between temperature and civil conflict in Africa. Sutton et al. raise two concerns with our findings: that the relationship between temperature and war is based on common trends and is therefore spurious, and that our model appears overly sensitive to small specification changes. Both concerns reflect a basic misunderstanding of the analysis.
Shanker atyanath, Marshall Burke, Edward Miguel, John Dykema, and David Lobell

Warming Increases Risk of Civil War in Africa

Armed conflict within nations has had disastrous humanitarian consequences throughout much of the world. Here we undertake the first comprehensive examination of the potential impact of global climate change on armed conflict in sub-Saharan Africa. We find strong historical linkages between civil war and temperature in Africa, with warmer years leading to significant increases in the likelihood of war. When combined with climate model projections of future temperature trends, this historical response to temperature suggests a roughly 54% increase in armed conflict incidence by 2030, or an additional 393,000 battle deaths if future wars are as deadly as recent wars. Our results suggest an urgent need to reform African governments’ and foreign aid donors’ policies to deal with rising temperatures.
Shanker atyanath, Marshall Burke, Edward Miguel, John Dykema, and David Lobell

SigNet: Low Cost Auditable Transactions using SIM cards and Mobile Phones

The absence of reliable network connectivity in the developing world has resulted in the use of paper receipts remaining the de facto standard for tracking transactions of various types. This includes both cash transactions (microfinance-related disbursements and repayments, purchases, money transfers) and noncash goods (food commodities to/from godowns or warehouses). Such receipts are susceptible to loss, damage and alteration . . .
Michael Paik and Lakshminarayanan Subramanian

Empirics of Strategic Interdependence: the Case of the Racial Tipping Point

The Schelling model of a “tipping point” in racial segregation, in which whites flee a neighborhood once a threshold of nonwhites is reached, is a canonical model of strategic interdependence. The idea of “tipping” explaining segregation is widely accepted in the academic literature and popular media. I use census tract data for metropolitan areas of the US from 1970 to 2000 to test the predictions of the Schelling model and find that this particular model of strategic interaction largely fails the tests. There is more “white flight” out of neighborhoods with a high initial share of whites than out of more racially mixed neighborhoods.
William Easterly

Clientelism and Vote Buying: Lessons from Field Experiments in West Africa

Electoral clientelism and vote buying are widely perceived as major obstacles to economic development. This is because they may limit the provision of public goods. In this paper, we review the literature on clientelism and vote buying and propose the use of field experiments to empirically evaluate the consequences of these phenomena. We summarize the results from two field experiments conducted by the authors in West African countries. Clientelism and vote buying seem to be effective and to enjoy widespread electoral support . . . 
Leonard antchekon and Pedro Vicente

Artificial States

We define "artificial states" as those in which political borders do not coincide with a division of nationalities desired by the people on the ground. We propose and compute for most countries in the world two measures of the degree to which borders may be artificial. One measures how borders split ethnic groups into two separate adjacent countries. The other measures the straightness of land borders, under the assumption the straight land borders are more likely to be artificial. We then show that these two measures are correlated with several measures of political and economic success.
Alberto Alesina, William Easterly, and Janina Matuszeski

Inequality Does Cause Underdevelopment: Insights from a New Instrument

Consistent with the provocative hypothesis of Engerman and Sokoloff (1997, 2000), this paper confirms with cross-country data that agricultural endowments predict inequality and inequality predicts development. The use of agricultural endowments –specifically the abundance of land suitable for growing wheat relative to that suitable for growing sugarcane -- as an instrument for inequality is this paper’s approach to problems of measurement and endogeneity of inequality. The paper finds inequality also affects other development outcomes . . . 
William Easterly

The Unbanked: Evidence from Indonesia

To analyze the prospects for expanding financial access to the poor, bank professionals assessed 1,438 households in six provinces in Indonesia to judge their creditworthiness. About 40 percent of poor households were judged creditworthy according to the criteria of Indonesia’s largest microfinance bank, but fewer than 10 percent had recently borrowed from a microbank or formal lender . . . 

Financing Development as a Field of Practice, Study and Innovation

Access to financial capital is an important determinant of the prospects for development of poor countries. This short essay makes the case for treating the legal aspects of financing development as an important field of study. It begins by describing the kinds of transactions that might be of interest and highlights the role that law and lawyers play in shaping the terms that govern them . . . 
Kevin Davis

Can the West Save Africa?

In the new millennium, the Western aid effort towards Africa has surged due to writings by well-known economists, a celebrity mass advocacy campaign, and decisions by Western leaders to make Africa a major foreign policy priority. This survey contrasts the predominant "transformational" approach (West saves Africa) to occasional swings to a "marginal" approach (West takes one small step at a time to help individual Africans). Evaluation of "one step at a time" initiatives is generally easier than that of transformational ones either through controlled experiments (although these have been much oversold) or simple case studies where it is easier to attribute outcomes to actions. We see two themes emerge from the literature survey: (1) escalation. As each successive Western transformational effort has yielded disappointing results, the response has been to try an even more ambitious effort. (2) the cycle of ideas. Rather than a progressive testing and discarding of failed ideas, we see a cycle in aid ideas in many areas in Africa . . . 
William Easterly

Credit Constraints, Job Mobility and Entrepreneurship: Evidence from a Property Reform in China.

This paper provides new evidence on the impact of private property rights on entrepreneurship. I explore this issue in the context of a housing reform in urban China that allowed state employees renting state-owned housing the opportunity to buy their homes at subsidized prices. Using the reform as an exogenous change in the capital constraints and mobility costs that influence individuals’ entry into entrepreneurship, my estimates suggest that the property reform increased self-employment . . . 
Shing-yi Wang

The Relationship Between Law and Development: Optimists versus Skeptics

Over the past two decades there has been a resurgence of interest, on the part of both academics and practitioners, in using law to promote development in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, Central and Eastern Europe, and Asia. The level of academic interest in the topic is reflected in the publication of three recent books on law and development by prominent American scholars . . . 
Kevin Davis and Michael Trebilcock

Microfinance Meets the Market

Microfinance institutions have proved the possibility of providing reliable banking services to poor customers. Their second aim is to do so in a commercially-viable way. This paper analyzes the tensions and opportunities of micro nance as it embraces the market, drawing on a data set that includes 346 of the world’s leading micro nance institutions and covers nearly 18 million active borrowers. The data show remarkable successes in maintaining high rates of loan repayment, but the data also suggest that pro t-maximizing investors would have limited interest in most of the institutions that are focusing on the poorest customers and women . . . 
Jonathan Morduch, Robert Cull, and Asli Demirgüç-Kun

Where Does the Money Go? Best and Worst Practices in Foreign Aid

Foreign aid from official sources to developing countries (excluding private aid) amounted to $103.6 billion in 2006 and has amounted to over $2.3 trillion (measured in 2006 dollars) over the past 50 years. There have been fierce debates over how effective this aid has been or could be in the future (for example, Sachs, 2005; Easterly, 2006). However, this paper does not address the already ubiquitous issue of aid effectiveness—that is, the extent to which foreign aid dollars actually achieve their goals of reducing poverty, malnutrition, disease, and death. Instead, this paper focuses on “best practices” in the way in which official aid is given, which is an important component of the wider debate . . . 
William Easterly and Tobias Pfutze

How the Millennium Development Goals are Unfair to Africa

Those involved in the millennium development goal (MDG) campaign routinely state ‘‘Africa will miss all the MDGs.” This paper argues that a series of arbitrary choices made in defining ‘‘success” or ‘‘failure” as achieving numerical targets for the MDGs made attainment of the MDGs less likely in Africa than in other regions even when its progress was in line with or above historical or contemporary experience of other regions. The statement that ‘‘Africa will miss all the MDGs” thus has the unfortunate effect of making African successes look like failures.
William Easterly

Walking up the down escalator: Public investment and fiscal stability

When growth-promoting spending is cut so much that the present value of future gov- ernment revenues falls by more than the immediate improvement in the cash deficit, fiscal adjustment becomes like walking up the down escalator. Although short-term cash flows matter, too tight a focus on them encourages governments to invest too little. Cash-flow targets also encourage governments to shift investment spending off budget by seeking private investment in public projects, irrespective of its real fiscal or economic benefits . . . 
William Easterly, Luis Serven, and Timothy Irwin

The Political Economy of Normal Macroeconomic Pathologies.

Recognizing that inflation and the macroeconomic policies that affect it can emanate from distributional conflicts in society, we examine the deep determinants of several nominal pathologies and related policy variables from a distributional perspective. We develop new instruments and use well- established existing instruments for these deep determinants and find that two deep determinants—societal divisions and democratic institutions—have a powerful and robust causal impact on nominal macroeconomic outcomes . . . 
Shanker atyanath and Arvind Subramanian

Financial Performance and Outreach: A Global Analysis of Leading Microbanks

Microfinance promises to reduce poverty by employing profit-making banking practices in low-income communities. Many microfinance institutions have secured high loan repayment rates, but, so far, relatively few earn profits. We examine why this promise remains unmet. We explore patterns of profitability, loan repayment, and cost reduction with unusually high-quality data on 124 institutions in 49 countries. The evidence shows the possibility of earning profits while serving the poor, but a trade-off emerges between profitability and serving the poorest. Raising fees to very high levels does not ensure greater profitability, and the benefits of cost-cutting diminish when serving better-off customers.
Jonathan Morduch, Robert Cull, and Asli Demirgüç-Kunt.

Capital Controls, Political Institutions, and Economic Growth

The case study literature suggests that liberal international capital flows can have extremely different growth consequences depending on the political environment. Despite this, little systematic attention has been paid to how politics affects the relationship between capital controls and long term growth in a large-n context. Focusing on the conflict alleviating properties of democracy we demonstrate that authoritarian countries with a large number of societal divisions are negatively affected by capital controls, while neither democratic nor homogeneous countries suffer adverse growth effects from capital controls . . . 

Taking the Measure of Law: The Case of the Doing Business Project

This article analyzes a number of yearly reports from the World Bank’s Doing Business project, an ambitious international effort to measure various aspects of law and development, analyze their interrelationship, develop benchmarks for assessment of legal systems, and suggest legal reforms. After describing the methodology used, we analyze the strengths and limitations of the project, both as a scholarly enterprise and as a set of proposals for legal reform. Our analysis highlights the challenges associated with measuring legal variables in the face of legal complexity and uncertainty . . . 
Kevin Davis and Michael Kruse

Was Development Assistance a Mistake?

Development assistance is the combination of money, advice, and conditions provided by rich nations and international financial institutions, such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), which is designed to achieve economic development in poor nations. This article argues that development assistance was based on three assumptions that, with the benefit of hindsight (although a wise few also had foresight), turned out to have been mistaken . . . 
William Easterly

Reliving the 50s: the Big Push, Poverty Traps, and Takeoffs in Economic Development

he classic narrative of economic development -- poor countries are caught in poverty traps, out of which they need a Big Push involving increased investment, leading to a takeoff in per capita income -- has been very influential in foreign aid debates since the 1950s. This was the original justification for foreign aid. The narrative lost credibility for a while but has made a big comeback in the new millennium. Once again it is invoked as a rationale for large foreign aid programs. This paper applies very simple tests to the various elements of the narrative. Evidence to support the narrative is scarce . . .

Are Aid Agencies Improving?

The record of the aid agencies over time seems to indicate weak evidence of progress over time in response to learning from experience, new knowledge, or changes in political
climate. The few positive results are an increased sensitivity to per capita income of the recipient (although it happened long ago) a decline in the share of food aid, and a decline in aid tying. Most of the other evidence -- increasing donor fragmentation, unchanged emphasis on technical assistance, little or no sign of increased selectivity with respect to policies and institutions, the adjustment lending-debt relief imbroglio -- suggests an unchanged status quo, lack of response to new knowledge, and repetition of past mistakes.
William Easterly

Planners vs. Searchers in Foreign Aid

Only for the recipients of foreign aid is something akin to central planning seen as a way to achieve prosperity. The end of poverty is achieved with free markets and democracy—where decentralized “searchers” look for ways to meet individual needs—not Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) to achieve Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The PRSPs and MDGs create lots of bureaucracy but hold no one specific agency in foreign aid accountable for any one specific task. Planners in foreign aid use the old failed models of the past . . .
William Easterly

Social Cohesion, Institutions, and Growth

Policy and institutional quality are to a large extent endogenous. While the truth of this statement is familiar to most development scholars, the implications of it have drawn relatively little empirical attention. Understanding more about this relationship matters, because ‘‘poor institutional quality’’ and ‘‘failure to implement better policies’’ are so frequently identified as the causes of growth collapses, endemic poverty, and civil conflict.
William Easterly, Jo Ritzen, and Michael Woolcock

Development, Democracy, and Mass Killings

Using a newly assembled dataset spanning from 1820 to 1998, we study the relationship between the occurrence and cruelty of episodes of mass killing and the levels of development and democracy across countries and over time. We find that massacres are more likely at intermediate levels of income and less likely at very high levels of democracy, but we do not find evidence of a linear relationship between democracy and probability of mass killings. In the XXth century, discrete improvements in democracy are systematically associated with less cruel massacre episodes. Episodes at the highest levels of democracy and income involve relatively fewer victims . . . 

The Big Push Déjà vu: A Review of Jeffrey Sachs’s The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time.

Jeffrey Sachs is the economics profession’s leading advocate of mega-reform. Whether it is stabilization of hyperinflation in Bolivia, shock therapy to leap from Communism to capitalism in Poland and Russia, or a “Big Push” to end world poverty , Sachs’ recommendation throughout his career has been to do it fast, do it big, do it comprehensively, and do it with lots of Western money . . .
William Easterly

Political Institutions and Economic Performance: The Effects of Accountability and Obstacles to Policy Change

Numerous analyses have been conducted on how political institutions affect economic performance. In recent years the emphasis has been on a causal logic that emphasizes institutional obstacles to policy change, such as those presented by multiple veto points. This has especially been the case when it comes to the important question of how political institutions influence governments’ responses to exogenous economic shocks. We make the case for a substantial broadening of focus and show that when it comes to a major type of exogenous shock, a forced exchange-rate devaluation, variations in the breadth of accountability of the chief executive are more robustly associated with the post-shock growth recovery than variations in obstacles to policy change . . . 
Shanker Satyanath, Allen Hicken, and Ernest Sergenti

On the Informational Content of Advice: A Theoretical and Experimental Study

This paper examines the market for advice and the underlying perception that advice is useful and informative. We do this by first providing a theoretical examination of the informational content of advice and then by setting up a series of experimental markets where this advice is sold. In these markets we provide bidders with a demographic profile of the “experts” offering advice . . . 

An Identity Crisis? Examining IMF Financial Programming

The IMF uses its well-known “financial programming” model to derive monetary and fiscal programs to achieve desired macroeconomic targets in countries undergoing crises or receiving debt relief. This paper considers under what conditions financial programming would work best, and then tests those conditions in the data. The key restrictions of financial programming are assumptions about exogeneity of some components of identities with respect to others, and the assumption of stable and “reasonable” parameters for some very simple behavioral relationships. In at least the literal applications of the framework, financial programming does not do well in forecasting the target variables, even when some components of the identity are known with certainty.

What did structural adjustment adjust? The association of policies and growth with repeated IMF and World Bank adjustment loans.

Analysis of adjustment loans often overlooks their repetition to the same country. Repetition 10 changes the nature of the selection problem. None of the top 20 recipients of repeated adjustment 11 lending over 1980–99 were able to achieve reasonable growth and contain all policy distortions. 12 About half of the adjustment loan recipients show severe macroeconomic distortions regardless of 13 cumulative adjustment loans. Probit regressions for an extreme macroeconomic imbalance indicator 14 and its components fail to show robust effects of adjustment lending or time spent under IMF 15 programs. An instrumental variables regression for estimating the causal effect of repeated 16 adjustment lending on policies fails to show any positive effect on policies or growth . . . 

The Paradox of "Warlord" Democracy: A Theoretical Investigation

Political theorists from Machiavelli to Huntington have denied the possibility of popular government arising out of the chaos of civil war, instead prescribing an intermediate stage of one- man rule by a Prince, Leviathan or a military dictator. Based on recent empirical evidence of post civil war democratization in El Salvador, Mozambique and elsewhere, I show that democracy can arise directly from anarchy. Predatory warring factions choose the citizenry and democratic procedures over a Leviathan when (1) their economic interests depend on productive investment by the citizens; (2) citizens' political preferences ensure that power allocation will be less biased under democracy than under a Leviathan; and (3) there is an external agency (e.g. the United Nations) that mediates and supervises joint disarmament and state-building. Ultimately, I discuss the implications of this argument for the basic intuitions of classical political theory and contemporary social theory regarding democratization and authoritarianism . . . 
Leonard antchekon

Economic Shocks and Civil Conflict: An Instrumental Variables Approach

Estimating the impact of economic conditions on the likelihood of civil conflict is difficult because of endogeneity and omitted variable bias. We use rainfall variation as an instrumental variable for economic growth in 41 African countries during 1981–99. Growth is strongly negatively related to civil conflict: a negative growth shock of five percentage points increases the likelihood of conflict by one-half the following year. We attempt to rule out other channels through which rainfall may affect conflict. Surprisingly, the impact of growth shocks on conflict is not significantly different in richer, more democratic, or more ethnically diverse countries . . . 

Resource Wealth and Political Regimes in Africa

Political economists point to the levels of economic development, poverty, and income inequality as the most important determinants of political regimes. The authors present empirical evidence suggesting a robust and negative correlation between the presence of a sizable natural resource sector and the level of democracy in Africa. They argue that resource abundance not only is an important determinant of democratic transition but also partially determines the success of democratic consolidation in Africa. The results illuminate the fact that post–Cold War democratic reforms have been successful only in resource-poor countries such as Benin, Mali, and Madagascar. The authors argue that resource-rich countries such as Nigeria and Gabon can become democratic only if they introduce strong mechanisms of vertical and horizontal accountability within the state.
Leonard antchekon and Nathan Jensen

What Can the Rule of Law Variable Tell us About Rule of Law Reforms?

In 2001 per capita income in Haiti was $480, the infant mortality rate was seventy-nine per 1000 live births and the illiteracy rate (age fifteen and over) hovered around fifty percent. By comparison, in the United States, less than two hours flying time away, the per capita in- come was $34,280, the infant mortality rate was seven per 1000 live births, and the illiteracy rate was negligible. Understanding the reasons why these sorts of disparities in important measures of development arise and persist is one of the greatest challenges in all of the social sciences . . . 
Kevin Davis

New data, new doubts: A Comment on Burnside and Dollar’s 'Aid, Policies, and Growth'

The Burnside and Dollar (2000) finding that aid raises growth in a good policy environment has had an important influence on policy and academic debates. We conduct a data gathering exercise that updates their data from 1970–93 to 1970– 97, as well as filling in missing data for the original period 1970–93. We find that the BD finding is not robust to the use of this additional data . . . 


We provide new measures of ethnic, linguistic and religious fractionalization for about 190 countries. These measures are more comprehensive than those previously used in the economics literature and we compare our new variables with those previously used. We also revisit the question of the effects of ethnic, linguistic and religious fractionalization on quality of institutions and growth. We partly confirm and partly modify previous results. The patterns of cross-correlations between potential explanatory variables and their different degree of endogeneity makes it hard to make unqualified statements about competing explanations for economic growth and the quality of government . . . 

Can Foreign Aid Buy Growth?

The widely publicized finding that “aid promotes growth in a good policy environment” is not robust to the inclusion of new data or alternative definitions of “aid”, “policy” or “growth”. The idea that “aid buys growth” is on shaky ground theoretically and empirically. It doesn’t help that aid agencies face poor incentives to deliver results and underinvest in enforcing aid conditions and performing scientific evaluations. Aid should set more modest goals, like helping some of the people some of the time, rather than trying to be the catalyst for society-wide transformation . . . 
William Easterly

Tropics, Germs, and Crops: The Role of Endowments in Economic Development

Does economic development depend on geographic endowments like temperate instead of tropical location, the ecological conditions shaping diseases, or an environment good for grains or certain cash crops? Or do these endowments of tropics, germs, and crops affect economic development only through institutions or policies? We test the endowment, institution, and policy views against each other using cross country evidence. We find evidence that tropics, germs, and crops affect development through institutions. We find no evidence that endowments affect country incomes directly other than through institutions, nor do we find any effect of policies on development once we control for institutions . . . 

The Cartel of Good Intentions: The Problem Bureaucracy in Foreign Aid

A group of well-meaning national and international bureaucracies dispensed foreign aid under conditions in which bureaucracy does not work well. The environment that created aid bureaucracies led those organizations to (a) define their output as money disbursed rather than service delivered, (b) produce many low-return observable outputs like glossy reports and “frameworks” and few high-return less observable activities like ex-post evaluation, (c) engage in obfuscation, spin control, and amnesia (like always describing aid efforts as “new and improved”) so that there is little learning from the past, (d) put enormous demands on scarce administrative skills in poor countries. To change this unhappy equilibrium, policymakers in rich and poor countries should experiment with decentralized markets to match those who want to help the poor with the poor themselves freely expressing their needs and aspirations . . . 
William Easterly, Alberto Alesina, Arnaud Devleeschauwer, Sergio Kurlat, and Romain Wacziarg.

Clientelism and Voting Behavior: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Benin

omparative politics scholars have long considered electoral politics in Africa to be systematically and inherently clintelist. African rulers, whether self-appointed or democratically elected, rely on the distribution of personal favors to selected members of the electorate in exchange for ongoing political support.1 This observation relies on the implicit assumption that African voters invariably have a much stronger preference for private transfers than for public goods or projects of national interest. This article reports on the use of experimental methods to test several hypotheses pertaining to electoral clientelism in Benin in order to investigate the determinants of the voters’ demand for public goods . . . 
Leonard antchekon

Low Investment is not the Constraint on African Development

While many analysts decry the lack of sufficient investment in Africa, we find no evidence that private and public investment are productive, either in Africa as a whole (unless Botswana is included in the sample), or in the manufacturing sector in Tanzania. In this restricted sense, inadequate investment is not the major obstacle to African economic development . . . 

NAFTA and Convergence in North America: High Expectations, Big Events, Little Time

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was formally implemented on 1 January 1994 by the United States, Canada, and Mexico. This treaty instantly gained global notoriety following the initiation of formal negotiations in 1991, not only because the initiative represented one of the most comprehensive trade agreements in history, but also because it seemed to be a breakthrough in establishing free trade in goods and services among developed and developing countries . . .