Guest Blog: World Bank research director critiques the new UN poverty index

July 28, 2010
Martin Ravallion is Director of the World Bank’s research department, the Development Research Group. These are the views of the author, and need not reflect those of the World Bank. “Everyone agrees that poverty is not just about low consumption of market commodities by a household.  There are also important non-market goods, such as access to public services, and there

How can we improve the way we measure poverty? The UN’s new poverty index (and groovy graphics)

July 27, 2010
Ask poor people what poverty is like, and they typically talk about fear, humiliation and ill health, at least as much as money. But can the non-income dimensions of poverty be measured in a way that allows policy makers to weigh priorities and allocate resources? If not, the danger (as often happens) is that decision makers and documents initially nod

Do the MDGs influence national development policies?

March 31, 2010
Expect a lot of soul searching around the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) this year, in the run up to the UN high level event in September (see previous posts here and here). A recent issue of the IDS bulletin covered ‘The MDGs and Beyond’. The piece that caught my eye was an analysis of national Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) by

Why Owen Barder is (mostly) wrong to oppose the Robin Hood Tax

February 12, 2010
Owen Barder has a thought-provoking post setting out his objections to a financial transactions tax (FTT) in response to the launch of the Robin Hood Tax campaign. I’ll run through the areas where we disagree, then where we agree, and finally the areas where I am still sitting painfully on the fence. Where we disagree: First the framing: Owen claims

Are women really 70% of the world’s poor? How do we know?

February 3, 2010
Doing research for advocacy (which is a large part of my job) is a balancing act. The pressure to come up with clear findings and ‘killer facts’ that speak to policy-makers can easily tip over into something much more questionable. I once challenged a colleague at another NGO on a ‘fact’ she was using on Bolivia. ‘Well, it’s politically true’, she replied with

A unique 30 year portrait of a shanty town and its people

November 25, 2009
In 1978 Caroline Moser, a young British anthropologist went with her two children and film-maker husband to Indio Guayas, a new squatter settlement in the swamps surrounding the Ecuadorian city of Guayaquil. They built a 4 x 8 metre bamboo house joined to dry ground by long, rickety walkways, and lived there for 7 months while Brian Moser made a

What can the BRICS teach us about reducing poverty?

November 19, 2009
An excellent new paper from the prolific Martin Ravallion, head of the World Bank’s research department, compares the successes in poverty reduction in three of the biggest beasts of the developing world: China, India and Brazil. Between them, these countries are home to a bit less than half the world’s poor people, but it used to be a lot more.

Eight introductory powerpoints on development – please plunder

November 6, 2009
I recently gave a two week introduction to development (undergrad level) at the University of Notre Dame, consisting of eight 45 minute lectures – here are the powerpoints for anyone wanting to nick them. Each lecture includes a brief illustrative video clip of campaigns, social movements etc. Subjects covered are: Risk and Vulnerability; The Global Economic Crisis; The International System;

Portfolios of the Poor – a great new book

October 13, 2009
Portfolios of the Poor gave me the same feeling of excitement as the World Bank’s epic ‘Voices of the Poor’ study. Both of them are the fruit of intense scrutiny of the real lives of poor people that uncovers insights and destroys stereotypes. Poor people are most definitely not financial illiterates, but often sophisticated managers of complex financial portfolios that

Do poorer countries have less capacity for redistribution? A new paper

September 28, 2009
When can a country end poverty by redistributing wealth from its rich people, and when must it instead rely on aid or growth? That’s a question Martin Ravallion, head of the World Bank’s research department seeks to answer in a new paper. Essentially he is trying to put precise numbers on the relatively obvious point that the richer a country

All the latest stats on the global crisis and its development impact

September 24, 2009
In time for the G20 summit later this week, my indefatigable colleague Richard King has revised and updated his invaluable synthesis of the key data on the global economic crisis and its development impact. Here goes: Unemployment (ILO)  Gender impact of the economic crisis in terms of unemployment rates is expected to be more detrimental for females than for males

Poverty scorecards – a cheap way to identify who’s poor?

August 5, 2009
Finding out which people in any given community live below the poverty line is actually quite hard. Why do it? To target services like microfinance  (let’s not get into the targetting v universal provision argument here); comparing poverty rates in different regions and countries, and tracking changes over time. But both income and consumption poverty are hard to assess directly