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  • Author: Ricardo Hausmann, Miguel Angel Santos
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: Loreto es un lugar de contrastes. Es el departamento más grande del Perú, pero se encuentra entre los de menor densidad poblacional. Su capital, Iquitos, está más cerca de los estados fronterizos de Brasil y Colombia que de las capitales de sus regiones vecinas en el Perú - San Martín y Ucayali. Sólo se puede llegar a Iquitos por vía aérea o fluvial, lo que la convierte en una de las mayores ciudades del mundo sin acceso por carretera. Desde la fundación del departamento, la economía de Loreto ha dependido de la explotación de recursos naturales, desde el boom del caucho a finales del siglo XIX y principios del XX hasta la extracción petrolera y explotación de recursos forestales que predomina en nuestros días. Este modelo ha traído consigo daños ambientales significativos y ha producido un patrón de crecimiento lento y volátil, que ha abierto una brecha cada vez más amplia entre la economía de la región y la del resto del país. Entre 1980 y 2018, Loreto creció a una tasa promedio compuesta anual cuatro veces menor a la del resto del Perú. Es decir, mientras el resto del Perú triplicó el tamaño de su economía, la de Loreto creció algo menos que un tercio. En la última década (2008-2018), la región también se ha venido distanciando de sus pares amazónicos en el país (Ucayali, San Martín y Madre de Dios), que han crecido a una tasa promedio anual cinco veces mayor. En este período, el ingreso promedio por habitante en Loreto ha pasado de ser tres cuartas partes del promedio nacional en 2008 a menos de la mitad para 2018. Además del rezago económico - o quizás como consecuencia de él -, Loreto también se ubica entre los departamentos con peores indicadores de desarrollo social, anemia y desnutrición infantil del Perú. En este contexto, el Laboratorio de Crecimiento de la Universidad de Harvard se asoció con la Fundación Gordon and Betty Moore para desarrollar una investigación que proporcionara insumos y recomendaciones de política para acelerar el desarrollo de la región y generar prosperidad de forma sostenible.
  • Topic: Development, Natural Resources, Sustainability
  • Political Geography: South America, Peru
  • Author: Ricardo Hausmann, Miguel Angel Santos
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: Loreto es un lugar de contrastes. Es el departamento más grande del Perú, pero se encuentra entre los de menor densidad poblacional. Su capital, Iquitos, está más cerca de los estados fronterizos de Brasil y Colombia que de las capitales de sus regiones vecinas en el Perú - San Martín y Ucayali. Sólo se puede llegar a Iquitos por vía aérea o fluvial, lo que la convierte en una de las mayores ciudades del mundo sin acceso por carretera. Desde la fundación del departamento, la economía de Loreto ha dependido de la explotación de recursos naturales, desde el boom del caucho a finales del siglo XIX y principios del XX hasta la extracción petrolera y explotación de recursos forestales que predomina en nuestros días. Este modelo ha traído consigo daños ambientales significativos y ha producido un patrón de crecimiento lento y volátil, que ha abierto una brecha cada vez más amplia entre la economía de la región y la del resto del país. Entre 1980 y 2018, Loreto creció a una tasa promedio compuesta anual cuatro veces menor a la del resto del Perú. Es decir, mientras el resto del Perú triplicó el tamaño de su economía, la de Loreto creció algo menos que un tercio. En la última década (2008-2018), la región también se ha venido distanciando de sus pares amazónicos en el país (Ucayali, San Martín y Madre de Dios), que han crecido a una tasa promedio anual cinco veces mayor. En este período, el ingreso promedio por habitante en Loreto ha pasado de ser tres cuartas partes del promedio nacional en 2008 a menos de la mitad para 2018. Además del rezago económico - o quizás como consecuencia de él -, Loreto también se ubica entre los departamentos con peores indicadores de desarrollo social, anemia y desnutrición infantil del Perú. En este contexto, el Laboratorio de Crecimiento de la Universidad de Harvard se asoció con la Fundación Gordon and Betty Moore para desarrollar una investigación que proporcionara insumos y recomendaciones de política para acelerar el desarrollo de la región y generar prosperidad de forma sostenible.
  • Topic: Development, Natural Resources, Sustainability
  • Political Geography: South America, Peru
  • Author: Ricardo Hausmann, Miguel Angel Santos
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: El Laboratorio de Crecimiento de la Universidad de Harvard, bajo el auspicio de la Fundación Gordon and Betty Moore, ha desarrollado esta investigación para identificar las capacidades productivas existentes en Loreto y las actividades económicas con potencial para liderar la transformación estructural de su economía. Este reporte forma parte de una investigación más amplia – Transformación estructural y restricciones limitantes a la prosperidad en Loreto, Perú – que busca aportar insumos para el desarrollo de políticas públicas a escala nacional y regional que contribuyan a promover el desarrollo productivo y la prosperidad de la región, tomando en cuenta sus características particulares.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Diversification, Economic Complexity
  • Political Geography: Central America, Mexico
  • Author: Ricardo Hausmann, Douglas Barrios, Daniela Muhaj, Sehar Noor
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: What does it take for a sub-national unit to become an autonomous engine of growth? This issue is particularly relevant to large cities, as they tend to display larger and more complex know-how agglomerations and may have access to a broader set of policy tools. To approximate an answer to this question, specific to the case of Buenos Aires, Harvard’s Growth Lab engaged in a research project from December 2018 to June 2019, collaborating with the Center for Evidence-based Evaluation of Policies (CEPE) of Universidad Torcuato di Tella, and the Development Unit of the Secretary of Finance of the City of Buenos Aires. Together, we have developed a research agenda that seeks to provide inputs for a policy plan aimed at decoupling Buenos Aires’s growth trajectory from the rest of Argentina’s.
  • Topic: Development, Economic Growth, Cities
  • Political Geography: Argentina
  • Author: Robert Wilkinson, Kimberlyn Leary
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: The year 2020 has brought one crisis after another, perhaps exacerbating a common belief that a “heroic leader” can save the day. But does this mythical figure really exist? Leadership, once we study it, isn’t one thing exercised at the top by one person, as our colleague and leadership expert Ron Heifetz has observed; it is an activity exerted by people at all levels, and by noticing certain less obvious aspects of leadership, anyone can improve at it. Leadership is possible at any time there is a collective problem. Each of us may have a role to play in mobilizing others to address community problems, and each of us can improve our skills to be more effective.
  • Topic: Leadership, Crisis Management
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Eliana Carranza, Robert Garlick, Kate Orkin, Neil Rankin
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: This paper presents field experimental evidence that limited information about workseekers’ skills distorts both firm and workseeker behavior. Assessing workseekers’ skills, giving workseekers their assessment results, and helping them to credibly share the results with firms increases workseekers’ employment and earnings. It also aligns their beliefs and search strategies more closely with their skills. Giving assessment results only to workseekers has similar effects on beliefs and search, but smaller effects on employment and earnings. Giving assessment results only to firms increases callbacks. These patterns are consistent with two-sided information frictions, a new finding that can inform the design of information-provision mechanisms.
  • Topic: Labor Issues, Employment, Business , Job Creation
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Ricardo Hausmann, Ulrich Schetter
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: In this paper, we develop a heterogeneous agent general equilibrium framework to analyze optimal joint policies of a lockdown and transfer payments in times of a pandemic. In our model, the effectiveness of a lockdown in mitigating the pandemic depends on endogenous compliance. A more stringent lockdown deepens the recession which implies that poorer parts of society find it harder to subsist. This reduces their compliance with the lockdown, and may cause deprivation of the very poor, giving rise to an excruciating trade-off between saving lives from the pandemic and from deprivation. Lump-sum transfers help mitigate this trade-off. We identify and discuss key trade-offs involved and provide comparative statics for optimal policy. We show that, ceteris paribus, the optimal lockdown is stricter for more severe pandemics and in richer countries. We then consider a government borrowing constraint and show that limited fiscal space lowers the optimal lockdown and welfare, and increases the aggregate death burden during the pandemic. We finally discuss distributional consequences and the political economy of fighting a pandemic.
  • Topic: Development, Government, Political Economy, Inequality, Economic Growth, Fiscal Policy, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Patricia Cortes, Semiray Kasoolu, Carolina Pan
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: Saudi Arabia is home to the world’s third largest migrant population. Under mounting pressure to increase the private sector employment of Saudis during the last decade, a series of nationalization policies on the labor force have been imposed since late 2011. In this paper, we study how the first nationalization policy, Nitaqat, affected the overall labor market and non-oil firms in the private sector, especially exporting firms. Our rich and novel data allow us to assess the effect of the policy on a wide set of outcomes: employment decisions by composition and size, the output and productivity of exporting firms, labor costs, and exit from the market. Using a difference-in-difference analysis, we compare the 2011 to 2012 change in outcomes between firms above and firms below the threshold required for the minimum share of Saudi workers in a firm. Our results suggest that the policy succeeded in encouraging firms to increase the share of Saudis in private firms. It also increased the share of Saudi women in the workforce, suggesting that the policy had a positive effect on increasing female labor force participation. However, these gains came at a very high cost to firms: our findings suggest that the policy led to a reduced firm size, reduced productivity and output of exporting firms, increased wage bill, increased share of low-skilled Saudi workers, and higher firm exit rates.
  • Topic: Business , Labor Market, Nationalization
  • Political Geography: Saudi Arabia, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Jeremy Bowles, Horacio Larreguy, Shelley Liu
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: We examine how information from trusted social media sources can shape knowledge and behavior when misinformation and mistrust are widespread. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic in Zimbabwe, we partnered with a trusted civil society organization to randomize the timing of the dissemination of messages aimed at targeting misinformation about the COVID-19 virus to 27,000 newsletter WhatsApp subscribers. We examine how exposure to these messages affects individual beliefs about how to deal with the COVID-19 virus and preventative behavior. The results show that social media messaging from trusted sources may have substantively large effects on not only individual knowledge but also ultimately on related behavior.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Internet, Social Media, Pandemic, COVID-19, Misinformation , WhatsApp
  • Political Geography: Africa, Zimbabwe
  • Author: Eduardo Levy Yeyati
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: Using job transition data from Argentina’s Household Survey, we document the extent to which human capital is specific to occupations and activities. Based on workers’ propensity to move between occupations/industries, we build Occupation and Industry Spaces to illustrate job similarities, and we compute an occupation and industry similarity measures that, in turn, we use to explain wage transition dynamics. We show that our similarity measures influence positively post-transition wages. Inasmuch as wages capture a worker's marginal productivity and this productivity reflects the degree to which a worker matches the job’s skill demand, our results indicate that a worker's human capital is specific to both occupation and activity: closer occupations share similar skill demands and task composition (in other words, demand similar workers) and imply a smaller human capital loss in the event of a transition.
  • Topic: Employment, Business , Human Capital, Productivity
  • Political Geography: Argentina, South America
  • Author: Ina Ganguli, Ricardo Hausmann, Martina Viarengo
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: We examine gender gaps in career dynamics in the legal sector using rich panel data from one of the largest global law firms in the world. The law firm studied is representative of multinational law firms and operates in 23 countries. The sample includes countries at different stages of development. We document the cross-country variation in gender gaps and how these gaps have changed over time. We show that while there is gender parity at the entry level in most countries by the end of the period examined, there are persistent raw gender gaps at the top of the organization across all countries. We observe significant heterogeneity among countries in terms of gender gaps in promotions and wages, but the gaps that exist appear to be declining over the period studied. We also observe that women are more likely to report exiting the firm for family and work-life balance reasons, while men report leaving for career advancement. Finally, we show that various measures of national institutions and culture appear to play a role in the differential labor-market outcomes of men and women.
  • Topic: Gender Issues, Labor Issues, Women, Employment, Inequality, Human Capital, Legal Sector
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Laura Metzger, Theodore Svoronos, Adnan Qadir Khan
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: In a lab-in-field experiment with elite civil servants in Pakistan, we investigate whether groups outperform individuals in a two-staged task which requires effective use of data and evidence. We also study how efficiently groups harness their members’ individual knowledge for problem-solving. We do not find a significant difference in individual (first stage) and group performance (second stage). Yet, groups could have significantly improved their performance during the second stage of the task, had they more efficiently collaborated to retrieve their members’ respective knowledge. Carefully interpreted in the setting of our experiment, our data suggests that diversity in individual knowledge may hamper effective use of data and evidence for decision- making in small groups of policymakers.
  • Topic: Education, Public Policy, Civil Servants
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, South Asia
  • Author: Ricardo Hausmann, Ljubica Nedelkoska, Sehar Noor
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: We study the factors behind the public sector premium in Albania and Sri Lanka, the group heterogeneity in the premium, the sources of public sector wage compression, and the impact of this compression on the way individuals self-select between the public and the private sector. Similar to other countries, the public sectors in Albania and Sri Lanka pay higher wages than the private sector, for all but the most valued employees. While half of the premium of Sri Lanka and two-thirds of it in Albania are explained by differences in the occupation-education-experience mix between the sectors, and the level of private sector informality, the unexplained part of the premium is significant enough to affect the preferences of working in the public sector for different groups. We show that the compressed distributions of public sector wages and benefits create incentives for positive sorting into the public sector among most employees, and negative sorting among the most productive ones.
  • Topic: Employment, Human Capital, Public Sector, Private Sector
  • Political Geography: South Asia, Sri Lanka, Albania
  • Author: David Deming
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) jobs are a key contributor to economic growth and national competitiveness. Yet STEM workers are perceived to be in short supply. This paper shows that the “STEM shortage” phenomenon is explained by technological change, which introduces new job skills and makes old ones obsolete. We find that the initially high economic return to applied STEM degrees declines by more than 50 percent in the first decade of working life. This coincides with a rapid exit of college graduates from STEM occupations. Using detailed job vacancy data, we show that STEM jobs change especially quickly over time, leading to flatter age-earnings profiles as the skills of older cohorts became obsolete. Our findings highlight the importance of technology-specific skills in explaining life-cycle returns to education, and show that STEM jobs are the leading edge of technology diffusion in the labor market.
  • Topic: International Organization, International Political Economy, Science and Technology, Labor Issues
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Maciej Kotowski
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: This paper investigates the formation of production and trading networks in an economy with general interdependencies and complex property rights. The right to exclude,a core tenet of property, grants asset owners a form of monopoly power that influences granular economic interactions. Equilibrium networks reflect the distribution of these ownership claims. Inefficient production networks may endure in equilibrium as firms multi-source to mitigate hold-up risk. Short supply chains also reduce this risk, but may preclude the production of complex goods. A generalized Top Trading Cycles algorithm, applicable to a production economy, identifies equilibrium outcomes in the model. Such outcomes can be decentralized via a price system.
  • Topic: International Trade and Finance, International Affairs, Intellectual Property/Copyright, National & provincial initiatives
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: John Gerard Ruggie
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: On August 19, 2019, the U.S. Business Roundtable (BR), comprising the CEOs of more than 200 of America’s largest corporations, issued a new mission statement on “the purpose of a corporation” (BR, 2019a). The press release noted that each periodic update on principles of corporate governance since 1997 had endorsed the principle of maximizing shareholder value. In contrast, the new statement commits signatory CEOs “to lead their companies for the benefit of all stakeholders – customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders” (BR, 2019b). “[Milton] Friedman must be turning in his grave,” a Fortune magazine article declared (Murray, 2019)
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Richard Zeckhauser
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: This paper argues that historical analysis, necessarily written with hindsight, often underestimates the uncertainties of the past. We call this tendency explanation bias. This bias leads individuals – including professional historians – to imply greater certainty in causal analyses than the evidence justifies. Their analyses will treat what is plausible to be probable. We offer a few intuitions about why explanation bias exists, its relation to other well-established psychological biases, what it leads to, and how it might be combatted. Appreciating the depth of uncertainty and ignorance in our world is critical for accurately understanding, interpreting, and drawing from the past to illuminate the present and the near future
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Will Dobbie
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: We study the drivers of financial distress using a large-scale field experiment that offered randomly selected borrowers a combination of (i) immediate payment reductions to target short- run liquidity constraints and (ii) delayed interest write-downs to target long-run debt constraints. We identify the separate e?ects of the payment reductions and interest write-downs using both the experiment and cross-sectional variation in treatment intensity. We find that the interest write-downs significantly improved both financial and labor market outcomes, despite not taking effect for three to five years. In sharp contrast, there were no positive e?ects of the more immediate payment reductions. These results run counter to the widespread view that financial distress is largely the result of short-run constraints.
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Will Dobbie
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: We estimate the causal effects of parental incarceration on children’s short- and long-run outcomes using administrative data from Sweden. Our empirical strategy exploits exogenous variation in parental incarceration from the random assignment of criminal defendants to judges with different incarceration tendencies. We find that the incarceration of a parent in childhood leads to a significant increase in teen crime and significant decreases in educational attainment and adult employment. The effects are concentrated among children from the most disadvantaged families, where criminal convictions increase by 10 percentage points, high school graduation decreases by 25 percentage points, and employment at age 25 decreases by 29 percentage points. In contrast, there are no detectable effects among children from more advantaged families. These results suggest that the incarceration of parents with young children may significantly increase the intergenerational persistence of poverty and criminal behavior, even in affluent countries with extensive social safety nets.
  • Topic: International Political Economy, International Affairs, Prisons/Penal Systems
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Will Dobbie
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: This paper tests for bias in consumer lending using administrative data from a high-cost lender in the United Kingdom. We motivate our analysis using a new principal-agent model of bias, which predicts that profits should be higher for the most illiquid loan applicants at the margin if loan examiners are biased. We identify the profitability of marginal applicants using the quasi-random assignment of loan examiners. Consistent with our model, we find significant bias against immigrant and older applicants when using the firm’s preferred measure of long-run profits, but not when using the short-run measure used to evaluate examiner performance. Keywords: Discrimination, Consumer Credit
  • Topic: Debt, International Political Economy, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Todd Rogers
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: Many states mandate districts or schools notify parents when students have missed multiple unexcused days of school. We report a randomized experiment (N = 131,312) evaluating the impact of sending parents truancy notifications modified to target behavioral barriers that can hinder effective parental engagement. Modified truancy notifications that used simplified language, emphasized parental efficacy, and highlighted the negative incremental effects of missing school reduced absences by 0.07 days compared to the standard, legalistic, and punitively-worded notification—an estimated 40% improvement. This work illustrates how behavioral insights and randomized experiments can be used to improve administrative communications in education.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Ricardo Hausmann, Patricio Goldstein, Ana Grisanti, Tim O'Brien, Jorge Tapia, Miguel Ajgel Santos
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: Jordan faces a number of pressing economic challenges: low growth, high unemployment, rising debt levels, and continued vulnerability to regional shocks. After a decade of fast economic growth, the economy decelerated with the Global Financial Crisis of 2008-09. From then onwards, various external shocks have thrown its economy out of balance and prolonged the slowdown for over a decade now. Conflicts in neighboring countries have led to reduced demand from key export markets and cut off important trade routes. Foreign direct investment, which averaged 12.7% of gross domestic product (GDP) between 2003-2009, fell to 5.1% of GDP over the 2010-2017. Regional conflicts have interrupted the supply of gas from Egypt – forcing Jordan to import oil at a time of record prices, had a negative impact on tourism, and also provoked a massive influx of migrants and refugees. Failure to cope with 50.4% population growth between led to nine consecutive years (2008-2017) of negative growth rates in GDP per capita, resulting in a cumulative loss of 14.0% over the past decade (2009-2018). Debt to GDP ratios, which were at 55% by the end of 2009, have skyrocketed to 94%. Over the previous five years Jordan has undertaken a significant process of fiscal consolidation. The resulting reduction in fiscal impulse is among the largest registered in the aftermath of the Financial Crises, third only to Greece and Jamaica, and above Portugal and Spain. Higher taxes, lower subsidies, and sharp reductions in public investment have in turn furthered the recession. Within a context of lower aggregate demand, more consolidation is needed to bring debt-to-GDP ratios back to normal. The only way to break that vicious cycle and restart inclusive growth is by leveraging on foreign markets, developing new exports and attracting investments aimed at increasing competitiveness and strengthening the external sector. The theory of economic complexity provides a solid base to identify opportunities with high potential for export diversification. It allows to identify the existing set of knowhow, skills and capacities as signaled by the products and services that Jordan is able to make, and to define existing and latent areas of comparative advantage that can be developed by redeploying them. Service sectors have been growing in importance within the Jordanian economy and will surely play an important role in export diversification. In order to account for that, we have developed an adjusted framework that allows to identify the most attractive export sectors including services. Based on that adjusted framework, this report identifies export themes with a high potential to drive growth in Jordan while supporting increasing wage levels and delivering positive spillovers to the non-tradable economy. The general goal is to provide a roadmap with key elements of a strategy for Jordan to return to a high economic growth path that is consistent with its emerging comparative advantages.
  • Topic: Government, International Trade and Finance, Finance, Economy
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Jordan
  • Author: Arvind Subramanian, Josh Felman
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: We examine the pattern of growth in the 2010s. Standard explanations cannot account for the long slowdown, followed by a sharp collapse. Our explanation stresses both structural and cyclical factors, with finance as the distinctive, common element. In the immediate aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), two key drivers of growth decelerated. Export growth slowed sharply as world trade stagnated, while investment fell victim to a homegrown Balance Sheet crisis, which came in two waves. The first wave—the Twin Balance Sheet crisis, encompassing banks and infrastructure companies—arrived when the infrastructure projects started during India’s investment boom of the mid-2000s began to go sour. The economy nonetheless continued to grow, despite temporary, adverse demonetization and GST shocks, propelled first by income gains from the large fall in international oil prices, then by government spending and a non-bank financial company (NBFC)-led credit boom. This credit boom financed unsustainable real estate inventory accumulation, inflating a bubble that finally burst in 2019. Consequently, consumption too has now sputtered, causing growth to collapse. As a result, India is now facing a Four Balance Sheet challenge—the original two sectors, plus NBFCs and real estate companies—and is trapped in an adverse interest-growth dynamic, in which risk aversion is leading to high interest rates, depressing growth, and generating more risk aversion. Standard remedies are unavailable: monetary policy is stymied by a broken transmission mechanism; large fiscal stimulus will only push up already-high interest rates, worsening the growth dynamic. The traditional structural reform agenda—land and labour market measures—are important for the medium run but will not address the current problems. Addressing the Four Balance Sheet problem decisively will be critical to durably reviving growth. Raising agricultural productivity is also high priority. And even before that, a Data Big Bang is needed to restore trust and enable better policy design.
  • Topic: International Trade and Finance, Economy, Global Political Economy, Economic Growth, Global Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: South Asia, India
  • Author: Jie Bai, Jiahua Liu
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: It is well known that various forms of non-tariff trade barriers exist within a country. Empirically, it is difficult to measure these barriers as they can take many forms. We take advantage of a nationwide VAT rebate policy reform in China as a natural experiment to identify the existence of these intranational barriers due to local protectionism and study the impact on exports and exporting firms. As a result of shifting tax rebate burden, the reform leads to a greater incentive of the provincial governments to block the domestic flow of non-local goods to local export intermediaries. We develop an open-economy heterogenous firm model that incorporates multiple domestic regions and multiple exporting technologies, including the intermediary sector. Consistent with the model’s predictions, we find that rising local protectionism leads to a reduction in interprovincial trade, more “inward-looking” sourcing behavior of local intermediaries, and a reduction in manufacturing exports. Analysis using micro firm-level data further shows that private companies with greater baseline reliance on export intermediaries are more adversely affected.
  • Topic: International Trade and Finance, Political Economy, Reform, Tariffs
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Jie Bai, Panle Barwick, Shengmao Cao, Shanjun Li
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: Are quid pro quo (technology for market access) policies effective in facilitating knowledge spillover to developing countries? We study this question in the context of the Chinese automobile industry where foreign firms are required to set up joint ventures with domestic firms in return for market access. Using a unique dataset of detailed quality measures along multiple dimensions of vehicle performance, we document empirical patterns consistent with knowledge spillovers through both ownership affiliation and geographical proximity: joint ventures and Chinese domestic firms with ownership or location linkage tend to specialize in similar quality dimensions. The identification primarily relies on within-product variation across quality dimensions and the results are robust to a variety of specifications. The pattern is not driven by endogenous joint-venture network formation, overlapping customer base, or learning by doing considerations. Leveraging additional micro datasets on part suppliers and worker flow, we document that supplier network and labor mobility are important channels in mediating knowledge spillovers. However, these channels are not tied to ownership affiliations. Finally, we calibrate a simple learning model and conduct policy counterfactuals to examine the role of quid pro quo. Our findings show that ownership affiliation facilitates learning but quality improvement is primarily driven by the other mechanisms.
  • Topic: International Trade and Finance, Science and Technology, Developing World
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Anders Jensen
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: This paper shows how the increase in information trails through the long-run transition from self-employment to employee-jobs explains the rise of the modern income tax system. I construct a new database which covers 100 household surveys across countries at different income levels and 140 years of historical data within the US (1870-2010). Using these data, I first establish four new stylized facts: 1) within country, the share of employees increases over the income distribution, and increases at all levels of income as a country develops; 2) the income tax exemption threshold moves down the income distribution as a country develops, tracking employee growth; 3) the employee share above the exemption threshold is maximized and remains constantly high; 4) decreases in the exemption threshold are strongly associated with increases in tax collection. These findings are consistent with a model where a high employee share is a necessary condition for effective taxation and where the rise in income covered by information trails through increases in employee share drives expansion of the income tax base. To provide a causal estimate of employee share on income tax systems, I study a state-led US development program implemented in the 1950s-60s which increased the level of employee share. The identification strategy exploits within-state changes in court-litigation status which generate quasi-experimental variation in the effective implementation date of the program. I find that the exogenous increase in employee share is associated with an expansion of the state income tax base and an increase in state income tax revenue.
  • Topic: Political Economy, Finance, Economy, International Development, Tax Systems
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Alice Evans
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: This paper re-examines why global collective action problems persist, and how to overcome them. Drawing on 140 interviews with campaigners, politicians, and businesses in 10 European countries, it suggests that many activists are stuck in a despondency trap. Never seeing radical reform, they lower their ambitions, and invest in more feasible but sub-optimal alternatives. This creates a negative feedback loop, in which the dearth of radical reform becomes self-fulfilling. But if reformists see advances at home and abroad, they may become more optimistic about collective mobilisation and break out of their despondency trap. This is shown by tracing the drivers of ground-breaking legislation. From 2018, large French firms must mitigate risks of environmental and human rights abuses in their global supply chains, or else be liable. This bill – the world’s first of its kind – was vociferously contested by businesses. But French campaigners and politicians persisted for four years, because they saw reasons for optimism. These include growing international support; public outcry; the French political culture (state intervention, and distrust of multinationals); together with a Centre-Left Government. Optimism galvanised relentless mobilisation. Legislative success in France then delivered a positive shock to activists across Europe, who were emboldened to launch similar campaigns and escape their despondency trap.
  • Topic: Political Activism, Reform, Business , State, Multinational Corporations, Legislation, Accountability
  • Political Geography: Europe, France
  • Author: Jie Bai, Ludovica Gazze, Yukun Wang
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: Collective reputation implies an important externality. Among firms trading internationally, quality shocks about one firm’s products could affect the demand of other firms from the same origin country. We study this issue in the context of a large-scale scandal that affected the Chinese dairy industry in 2008. Leveraging rich firm-product level administrative data and official quality inspection reports, we find that the export revenue of contaminated firms dropped by 84% after the scandal, relative to the national industrial trend, and the spillover effect on non-contaminated firms is measured at 64% of the direct effect. Notably, firms deemed innocent by government inspections did not fare any better than noninspected firms. These findings highlight the importance of collective reputation in international trade and the challenges governments might face in signaling quality and restoring trust. Finally, we investigate potential mechanisms that could mediate the strength of the reputation spillover. We find that the spillover effects are smaller in destinations where people have better information about parties involved in the scandal. New firms are more vulnerable to the collective reputation damage than established firms. Supply chain structure matters especially in settings where firms are less vertically integrated and exhibit fragmented upstream-downstream relationships.
  • Topic: International Trade and Finance, Markets, Business , Global Political Economy, Accountability
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Semiray Kasoolu, Ricardo Hausmann, Tim O'Brien, Miguel Ajgel Santos
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: Women in Jordan are excluded from labor market opportunities at among the highest rates in the world. Previous efforts to explain this outcome have focused on specific, isolated aspects of the problem and have not exploited available datasets to test across causal explanations. We develop a comprehensive framework to analyze the drivers of low female employment rates in Jordan and systematically test their validity, using micro-level data from Employment and Unemployment Surveys (2008-2018) and the Jordanian Labor Market Panel Survey (2010-2016). We find that the nature of low female inclusion in Jordan’s labor market varies significantly with educational attainment, and identify evidence for different factors affecting different educational groups. Among women with high school education or less, we observe extremely low participation levels and find the strongest evidence for this phenomenon tracing to traditional social norms and poor public transportation. On the higher end of the education spectrum – university graduates and above – we find that the problem is not one of participation, but rather of unemployment, which we attribute to a small and undiversified private sector that is unable to accommodate women’s needs for work and work-family balance.
  • Topic: Education, Gender Issues, Political Economy, Labor Issues, Women, Inequality
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Jordan
  • Author: Abhijit Banerjee, Amy Finkelstein, Rema Hanna, Benjamin A. Olken, Arianna Ornaghi, Sudarno Sumarto
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: To assess ways to achieve widespread health insurance coverage with financial solvency in developing countries, we designed a randomized experiment involving almost 6,000 households in Indonesia who are subject to a nationally mandated government health insurance program. We assessed several interventions that simple theory and prior evidence suggest could increase coverage and reduce adverse selection: substantial temporary price subsidies (which had to be activated within a limited time window and lasted for only a year), assisted registration, and information. Both temporary subsidies and assisted registration increased initial enrollment. Temporary subsidies attracted lower-cost enrollees, in part by eliminating the practice observed in the no subsidy group of strategically timing coverage for a few months during health emergencies. As a result, while subsidies were in effect, they increased coverage more than eightfold, at no higher unit cost; even after the subsidies ended, coverage remained twice as high, again at no higher unit cost. However, the most intensive (and effective) intervention – assisted registration and a full one-year subsidy – resulted in only a 30 percent initial enrollment rate, underscoring the challenges to achieving widespread coverage.
  • Topic: Government, Health, Health Care Policy, Economy
  • Political Geography: Indonesia, Southeast Asia
  • Author: M. Chatib Basri, Mayara Felix, Rema Hanna, Benjamin A. Olken
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: Developing countries collect a far lower share of GDP in taxes than richer countries. This paper asks whether changes in tax administration and tax rates can nevertheless raise substantial additional revenue – and if so, which approach is most effective. We study corporate taxation in Indonesia, where the government implemented two reforms that differentially affected firms. First, we show that increasing tax administration intensity by moving the top firms in each region into “Medium-Sized Taxpayer Offices,” with much higher staff-to-taxpayer ratios, more than doubled tax revenue from affected firms over six years, with increasing impacts over time. Second, using non-linear changes to the corporate income tax schedule, we estimate an elasticity of taxable income of 0.59, which implies that the revenue-maximizing rate is almost double the current rate. The increased revenue from improvements in tax administration is equivalent to raising the marginal corporate tax rate on affected firms by about 23 percentage points. We suggest one reason improved tax administration was so effective was that it flattened the relationship between firm size and enforcement, removing the additional “enforcement tax” on large firms. On net, our results suggest that improving tax administration can have significant returns for developing country governments.
  • Topic: Governance, Developing World, Reform, Business , Tax Systems
  • Political Geography: Indonesia, Southeast Asia
  • Author: Timothy Besley, Anders Jensen, Torsten Persson
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: This paper studies individual and social motives in tax evasion. We build a simple dynamic model that incorporates these motives and their interaction. The social motives underpin the role of norms and is the source of the dynamics that we study. Our empirical analysis exploits the adoption in 1990 of a poll tax to fund local government in the UK, which led to widespread evasion. The evidence is consistent with the model’s main predictions on the dynamics of evasion.
  • Topic: Political Economy, Economy, Financial Crimes, Tax Systems
  • Political Geography: United Kingdom, Europe, Global Focus
  • Author: Mark H. Moore
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: This is one of a series of working papers from “RISE"—the large-scale education systems research programme supported by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
  • Topic: Development, Education, Governance, Developing World
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Dani Rodrik
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: In a world economy that is highly integrated, most policies produce effects across the border. This is often believed to be an argument for greater global governance, but the logic requires scrutiny. There remains strong revealed demand for policy and institutional diversity among nations, rooted in differences in historical, cultural, or development trajectories. The canonical case for global governance is based on two set of circumstances. The first occurs when there is global public good (GPG) and the second under “beggar-thy-neighbor” (BTN) policies. However, the world economy is not a global commons, and virtually no economic policy has the nature of a global public good (or bad). And while there are some important BTN policies, much of our current discussions deal with policies that are not true BTNs. The policy failures that exist arise not from weaknesses of global governance, but from distortions of domestic governance. As a general rule, these domestic failures cannot be fixed through international agreements or multilateral cooperation. The paper closes by discussing an alternative model of global governance called “democracy-enhancing global governance.”
  • Topic: International Trade and Finance, Governance, Global Political Economy, Trade Wars
  • Political Geography: Global Focus, Global Markets
  • Author: Katherine Baicker, Theodore Svoronos
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: Given the complex relationships between patients’ demographics, underlying health needs, and outcomes, establishing the causal effects of health policy and delivery interventions on health outcomes is often empirically challenging. The single interrupted time series (SITS) design has become a popular evaluation method in contexts where a randomized controlled trial is not feasible. In this paper, we formalize the structure and assumptions underlying the single ITS design and show that it is significantly more vulnerable to confounding than is often acknowledged and, as a result, can produce misleading results. We illustrate this empirically using the Oregon Health Insurance Experiment, showing that an evaluation using a single interrupted time series design instead of the randomized controlled trial would have produced large and statistically significant results of the wrong sign. We discuss the pitfalls of the SITS design, and suggest circumstances in which it is and is not likely to be reliable.
  • Topic: Health, Governance, Health Care Policy
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Eduardo Levy Yeyati, Martin Montane, Luca Sartorio
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: The past 5 years have witnessed a flurry of RCT evaluations that shed new light on the impact and cost effectiveness of Active Labor Market Policies (ALMPs) aiming to improve workers´ access to new jobs and better wages. We report the first systematic review of 102 RCT interventions comprising a total of 652 estimated impacts. We find that (i) a third of these estimates are positive and statistically significant (PPS) at conventional levels; (ii) programs are more likely to yield positive results when GDP growth is higher and unemployment lower; (iii) programs aimed at building human capital, such as vocational training, independent worker assistance and wage subsidies, show significant positive impact, and (iv) program length, monetary incentives, individualized follow up and activity targeting are all key features in determining the effectiveness of the interventions.
  • Topic: Vocational Training, Labor Policies, Wage Subsidies, Randomized Controlled Trials
  • Political Geography: Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Arvind Subramanian
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: My recent research paper “India's GDP Mis-estimation: Likelihood, Magnitudes, Mechanisms, and Implications,” (hereafter “GDP paper”) and the associated op-ed in the Indian Express on June 11, 2019 have generated considerable debate. This is encouraging because serious argument and counter-argument are the basis for good policy-making. Since the issue itself is of great importance, the counter-arguments to my analysis warrant a considered response. That is the aim of this note, which is a complement to the original paper, addressing both the larger issues and some of the specific points that have been raised. The note is structured as follows. Section II describes my engagement with India’s GDP estimation when I was Chief Economic Adviser. Section III elaborates on the framework/approach underlying the GDP paper. Section IV makes explicit the key puzzle surrounding India’s growth estimates, and addresses the possible explanations for it. Section V explores the puzzle in greater detail. Section VI provides additional cross-country evidence on growth and price deflators, which support the findings of the original paper, namely that growth during 2011-16 was likely overestimated by a significant margin. Section VII addresses two broad objections to the main findings. Section VIII discusses some of the methodological critiques of the paper. Section IX offers some thoughts on the way forward.
  • Topic: Economics, Political Economy, International Development, Economic Growth
  • Political Geography: South Asia, India
  • Author: Daron Acemoglu, Ali Cheema, Asim Ijaz Khwaja, James A. Robinson
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: Lack of trust in state institutions, often due to poor service provision, is a pervasive problem in many developing countries. It may also be one of the reasons citizens turn to non-state actors for services. This paper investigates whether information about improved public services can help build trust in state institutions and move people away from non-state actors. We focus on dispute resolution in rural Pakistan. We find that (truthful) information about reduced delays in state courts leads to citizens reporting higher likelihood of using them and to greater allocations to the state in two high-stakes lab-in-the-field games designed to measure belief in the effectiveness of state courts and willingness to contribute resources for others to access them. More interestingly, we find indirect negative effects on non-state actors in the same high-stakes settings. We show that the positive direct and negative indirect effects are both mediated by changes in beliefs about the effectiveness of these actors. Our preferred interpretation explains these behaviors as a response to improved beliefs about state actors which then motivate individuals to interact less with non-state actors and as a result downgrade their beliefs about them. We provide additional checks bolstering this interpretation and alleviating concerns about potential social experimenter effects or mechanical contrasts between the two actors. These results indicate that, despite distrust of the state in Pakistan, credible new information can change beliefs and behavior.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Non State Actors, Political and institutional effectiveness, State, Legitimacy
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, South Asia
  • Author: Alice Evans
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: Support for gender equality has risen, globally. Analyses of this trend focus on individual and/or country-level characteristics. But this overlooks sub-national variation. Citydwellers are more likely to support gender equality in education, employment, leadership, and leisure. Why is this? This paper investigates the causes of rural-urban differences through comparative, qualitative research. It centres on Cambodia, where the growth of rural garment factories enables us to test theories that female employment fosters support for gender equality: potentially closing rural-urban differences; or whether other important aspects of city-living accelerate support for gender equality. Drawing on this rural and urban fieldwork, the paper suggests why social change is faster in Cambodian cities. First, cities raise the opportunity costs of gender divisions of labour – given higher living costs and more economic opportunities for women. Second, cities increase exposure to alternatives. People living in more interconnected, heterogeneous, densely populated areas are more exposed to women demonstrating their equal competence in socially valued, masculine domains. Third, they have more avenues to collectively contest established practices. Association and exposure reinforce growing flexibility in gender divisions of labour. By investigating the causes of subnational variation, this paper advances a new theory of growing support for gender equality.
  • Topic: Economics, Gender Issues, Urbanization, Women, Inequality
  • Political Geography: Cambodia, Southeast Asia
  • Author: Michael Woolcock
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: Many development agencies and governments now seek to engage directly with local communities, whether as a means to the realization of more familiar goals (infrastructure, healthcare, education) or as an end in itself (promoting greater inclusion, participation, well-being). These same agencies and governments, however, are also under increasing pressure to formally demonstrate that their actions ‘work’ and achieve their goals within relatively short timeframes – expectations which are, for the most part, necessary and desirable. But adequately assessing ‘community-driven’ approaches to development requires the deployment of theory and methods that accommodate their distinctive characteristics: building bridges is a qualitatively different task to building the rule of law and empowering minorities. Moreover, the ‘lessons’ inferred from average treatment effects derived from even the most rigorous assessments of community-driven interventions are likely to translate poorly to different contexts and scales of operation. Some guidance for anticipating and managing these conundrums are provided.
  • Topic: Development, Government, Infrastructure, International Development
  • Political Geography: Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Arvind Subramanian
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: India changed its data sources and methodology for estimating real gross domestic product (GDP) for the period since 2011-12. This paper shows that this change has led to a significant overestimation of growth. Official estimates place annual average GDP growth between 2011-12 and 2016-17 at about 7 percent. We estimate that actual growth may have been about 4.5 percent with a 95 percent confidence interval of 3.5 - 5.5 percent. The evidence, based on disaggregated data from India and cross-sectional/panel regressions, is robust. Lending further credence to the evidence, part of the overestimation can be related to a key methodological change, which affected the measurement of the formal manufacturing sector. These findings alter our understanding of India’s growth performance after the Global Financial Crisis, from spectacular to solid. Two important policy implications follow: the entire national income accounts estimation should be revisited, harnessing new opportunities created by the Goods and Services Tax to significantly improve it; and restoring growth should be the urgent priority for the new government.
  • Topic: GDP, Global Political Economy, Economic Growth, Global Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: South Asia, India
  • Author: Eduardo Levy Yeyati, Eduardo Gómez
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: Recent studies that have emphasized the costs of accumulating reserves for self-insurance purposes have overlooked two potentially important side-effects. First, the impact of the resulting lower spreads on the service costs of the stock of sovereign debt, which could substantially reduce the marginal cost of holding reserves. Second, when reserve accumulation reflects countercyclical LAW central bank interventions, the actual cost of reserves should be measured as the sum of valuation effects due to exchange rate changes and the local-to-foreign currency exchange rate differential (the inverse of a carry trade profit and loss total return flow), which yields a cost that is typically smaller than the one arising from traditional estimates based on the sovereign credit risk spreads. We document those effects empirically to illustrate that the cost of holding reserves may have been considerably smaller than usually assumed in both the academic literature and the policy debate.
  • Topic: Financial Crisis, Exchange Rate Policy, International Reserves, Capital Flows
  • Political Geography: Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Jean Arkedis, Jessica Creighton, Archon Fung, Stephen Kosack, Dan Levy, Courtney Tolmie
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: We assess the impact of a transparency and accountability program designed to improve maternal and newborn health (MNH) outcomes in Indonesia and Tanzania. Co-designed with local partner organizations to be community-led and non-prescriptive, the program sought to encourage community participation to address local barriers in access to high quality care for pregnant women and infants. We evaluate the impact of this program through randomized controlled trials (RCTs), involving 100 treatment and 100 control communities in each country. We find that on average, this program did not have a statistically significant impact on the use or content of maternal and newborn health services, nor the sense of civic efficacy or civic participation among recent mothers in the communities who were offered it. These findings hold in both countries and in a set of prespecified subgroups. To identify reasons for the lack of impacts, we use a mixed-method approach combining interviews, observations, surveys, focus groups, and ethnographic studies that together provide an in-depth assessment of the complex causal paths linking participation in the program to improvements in MNH outcomes. Although participation in program meetings was substantial and sustained in most communities, and most attempted at least some of what they had planned, only a minority achieved tangible improvements and fewer still saw more than one such success. Our assessment is that the main explanation for the lack of impact is that few communities were able to traverse the complex causal paths from planning actions to accomplishing tangible improvements in their access to quality health care.
  • Topic: Health, Health Care Policy, Children, Randomized Controlled Trials
  • Political Geography: Africa, Indonesia, Tanzania, Southeast Asia
  • Author: Nathan Converse, Eduardo Levy Yeyati, Tomas Williams
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: Since the early 2000s exchange-traded funds (ETFs) have grown to become an important in- vestment vehicle worldwide. In this paper, we study how their growth affects the sensitivity of international capital flows to the global financial cycle. We combine comprehensive fund- level data on investor flows with a novel identification strategy that controls for unobservable time-varying economic conditions at the investment destination. For dedicated emerging mar- ket funds, we find that the sensitivity of investor flows to global financial conditions for equity (bond) ETFs is 2.5 (2.25) times higher than for equity (bond) mutual funds. In turn, we show that in countries where ETFs hold a larger share of financial assets, total cross-border equity flows and prices are significantly more sensitive to global financial conditions. We conclude that the growing role of ETFs as a channel for international capital flows amplifies the global financial cycle in emerging markets.
  • Topic: Emerging Markets, International Trade and Finance, Global Political Economy, Capital Flows, Mutual Funds
  • Political Geography: Global Focus, Global Markets
  • Author: Eduardo Fernández-Arias, Ricardo Hausmann, Ugo Panizza
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: The conventional paradigm about development banks is that these institutions exist to target well-identified market failures. However, market failures are not directly observable and can only be ascertained with a suitable learning process. Hence, the question is how do the policymakers know what activities should be promoted, how do they learn about the obstacles to the creation of new activities? Rather than assuming that the government has arrived at the right list of market failures and uses development banks to close some well-identified market gaps, we suggest that development banks can be in charge of identifying these market failures through their loan-screening and lending activities to guide their operations and provide critical inputs for the design of productive development policies. In fact, they can also identify government failures that stand in the way of development and call for needed public inputs. This intelligence role of development banks is similar to the role that modern theories of financial intermediation assign to banks as institutions with a comparative advantage in producing and processing information. However, while private banks focus on information on private returns, development banks would potentially produce and organize information about social returns.
  • Topic: Development, Industrial Policy, Markets, Banks
  • Political Geography: Global Focus, Global Markets
  • Author: Alice Evans
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: This paper shows that countries may reduce labour repression if they perceive this as conducive to export growth. This paper traces what happened before, in the presence of, and then following the withdrawal of international economic incentives for pro-labour reforms in Vietnam and Bangladesh. The Government of Vietnam announced it would allow independent trade unions, in order to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and increase market access. Similarly, the Government of Bangladesh rescinded restrictions on unions, following global condemnation of Rana Plaza and fear of buyers leaving en masse. Both governments reduced labour repression to promote export growth. With high-level authorisation, Vietnamese and Bangladeshi activists and reformists became less fearful, and mobilised for substantive change. However, these economic incentives were short-lived: after Trump’s election, the USA withdrew from TPP; buyers continued to source from Bangladesh, and squeezed prices (without requiring labour reforms). Both governments then amped up labour repression - notwithstanding private regulation, economic upgrading, industry growth, and mass strikes.
  • Topic: Economics, Labor Issues, Reform, Economic Growth, Trans-Pacific Partnership
  • Political Geography: Bangladesh, South Asia, Vietnam
  • Author: Michael Woolcock
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: Evaluations of development projects are conducted to assess their net effectiveness and, by extension, to guide decisions regarding the merits of scaling-up successful projects and/or replicating them elsewhere. The key characteristics of ‘complex’ interventions – numerous face- to-face interactions, high discretion, imposed obligations, pervasive unknowns – rarely fit neatly into standard evaluation protocols, requiring the deployment of a wider array of research methods, tools and theory. The careful use of such ‘mixed methods’ approaches is especially important for discerning the conditions under which ‘successful’ projects of all kinds might be expanded or adopted elsewhere. These claims, and the practical implications to which they give rise, draw on an array of recent evaluations in different sectors in development.
  • Topic: International Development, Humanitarian Intervention, Public Policy
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Michael Woolcock
  • Publication Date: 02-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: A defining task of development is enhancing a state’s capability for policy implementation. In most low- income countries, alas, such capabilities seem to be stagnant or declining, in no small part because dominant reform strategies are ill-suited to addressing complex non-technical aspects. This has been recognized for at least six decades – indeed, it was a centerpiece of Albert Hirschman’s understanding of the development process – yet this critique, and the significance of its implications, remain on the margins of scholarship and policy. Why? I consider three options, concluding that, paradoxically, followers of Hirschman’s approach inadequately appreciated that gaining more operational traction for their approach was itself a type of problem requiring their ideas to embark on ‘a long voyage of discovery’, a task best accomplished, in this instance, by building – and tapping into the distinctive insights of – a diverse community of development practitioners.
  • Topic: Development, Political Economy, Developing World, International Development
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Ricardo Hausmann, Tim O'Brien, Miguel Angel Santos, Ana Grisanti, Semiray Kasoolu, Nikita Taniparti, Jorge Tapia, Ricardo Villasmil
  • Publication Date: 02-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: In the decade 1999-2009, Jordan experienced an impressive growth acceleration, tripling its exports and increasing income per capita by 38%. Since then, a number of external shocks that include the Global Financial Crisis (2008-2009), the Arab Spring (2011), the Syrian Civil War (2011), and the emergence of the Islamic State (2014) have affected Jordan in significant ways and thrown its economy out of balance. Jordan’s debt-to-GDP ratio has ballooned from 55% (2009) to 94% (2018). The economy has continued to grow amidst massive fiscal adjustment and balance of payments constraints, but the large increase in population – by 50% between 2008 and 2017 – driven by massive waves of refugees has resulted in a 12% cumulative loss in income per capita (2010-2017). Moving forward, debt sustainability will require not only continued fiscal consolidation but also faster growth and international support to keep interest payments on the debt contained. We have developed an innovative framework to align Jordan’s growth strategy with its changing factor endowments. The framework incorporates service industries into an Economic Complexity analysis, utilizing the Dun and Bradstreet database, together with an evaluation of the evolution of Jordan’s comparative advantages over time. Combining several tools to identify critical constraints faced by sectors with the greatest potential, we have produced a roadmap with key elements of a strategy for Jordan to return to faster, more sustainable and more inclusive growth that is consistent with its emerging comparative advantages.
  • Topic: Labor Issues, Women, GDP, International Development, Economic Growth
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Jordan
  • Author: Matt Andrews
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: Globalization has fed significant economic gains across the world. The gains lead some policymakers in developing countries to believe in the potential of ‘catch up’—where they leverage the gains of an open world economy to foster rapid progress and compete with more developed nations. This belief is particularly evident in countries like Rwanda, where policymakers aspire to turn the country into ‘Africa’s Singapore’. This paper asks if such aspiration is realistic: Do developing countries really gain enough from globalization to catch up to more developed countries? The paper examines the world economy as a league in which countries compete for winnings (manifest in higher income and production). Wealthier countries are in the top tiers of this league and poorer countries are in the lower tiers. The paper asks if gains from the last generation of growth have been distributed in such a way to foster ‘catch up’ by lower tier countries, and if we see these countries ‘catching up’ by moving into higher tiers. This analysis of the world economy is compared with a study of English football, where over 90 clubs play in an multi-tier league system. Prominent examples of ‘catch up’ in this system include Leicester City’s rise from the third tier in 2008 to become first tier champion in 2015. The paper asks if such ‘catch up’ is common in English football, given the way winnings are distributed, and if ‘catch up’ is more common in this context than in the world economy more generally.
  • Topic: Globalization, Developing World, Global Political Economy, Economic Growth
  • Political Geography: Africa, Rwanda