Oct 292019
 

In honor of the award of the 2019 Nobel Prize for Economics to Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty, we republish this post from five years ago in which we highlighted the significance of the pioneering work of Banerjee and Duflo:

Every so often a book comes along that shakes up established wisdom and forces us to rethink our viewpoints and beliefs. The latest such book to cross my desk is Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty by Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo, published by PublicAffairs in 2011.

poor-economicsThis is a worthy read for anyone interested in development theory, policy, practice and economics. The authors are professors of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and co-founded the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL). Their book reports on the effectiveness of solutions to global poverty using an evidence-based randomized control trial approach.

Banerjee and Duflo argue that many anti-poverty policies have failed over the years because of an inadequate understanding of poverty. They conclude that the battle against poverty can be won, but it will take patience, careful thinking and a willingness to learn from evidence.

The authors look at some of the unexpected questions related to poverty that empirical studies have thrown up, such as :

  • Why do the poor (those living on less than 99 cents a day) need to borrow in order to save?
  • Why do the poor miss out on free life-saving immunizations but pay for drugs that they do not need?
  • Why do the poor start many businesses but do not grow any of them?

The book was supported by an outstanding website that included:

  • Introductions to each chapter
  • Maps showing cited studies with links to original sources
  • Data and figures used with interactive data tools
  • A “What Can You Do” page with links to major organizations working in the field or for the problem discussed in the chapter

The website’s links to research papers mentioned in the book included four studies related to Mexico:

1. Do Conditional Cash Transfers Affect Electoral Behavior? Evidence from a Randomized Experiment in Mexico, by Ana L. De La O.

The evidence comes from the pioneering Progresa, the original Mexican conditional cash transfer (CCT) program (since repackaged as Oportunidades).  This CCT program led to a 7% increase in turnout and a 16% increase in the  incumbent vote share, with clear implications for politicians in areas where CCT programs reach a large percentage of voters.

2 School Subsidies for the Poor: Evaluating the Mexican Progresa Poverty Program, by T. Paul Schultz of Yale University (August 2001).

This study considered how a CCT program affected school enrollment. The CCT program increased enrollment in school in grades 3 through 9, with the increase often greater for girls than boys. The cumulative effect was estimated to add 0.66 years to the baseline level of 6.80 years of schooling.

3 Experimental Evidence on Returns to Capital and Access to Finance in Mexico, by David McKenzie and Christopher Woodruff (March 2008)

Microenterprises are often unable to access suitable financing, even though they are responsible for employing a large portion of the total workforce. This experiment, which gave cash and in-kind grants to small retail firms, demonstrated that this additional capital generated large increases in profits, with the effects concentrated on those firms which were more financially constrained. The estimated return to capital was found to be at least 20 to 33 percent per month, three to five times higher than market interest rates.

4 Working for the Future: Female Factory Work and Child Health in Mexico, by David Atkin (April 2009)

Atkins’ paper found that children whose mothers lived in a town where a maquiladora (export factory) opened when the women were sixteen years old were much taller than those children born to mothers who did not have a similar opportunity. The effect was so large that “it can bridge the entire gap in height between a poor Mexican child and the “norm” for a well-fed American child.” (Poor Economics, 229)

The increase in height could not be fully explained by the changes in family income resulting from employment in a maquiladora. As Bannerjee and Duflo suggest, “Perhaps the sense of control over the future that people get from knowing that there will be an income coming in every month -and not just the income itself- is what allows these women to focus on building their own careers and those of their children. Perhaps this idea that there is a future is what makes the difference between the poor and the middle class.” (Poor Economics, 229)

Conclusion

Banerjee and Duflo’s positive message is that poverty can indeed be alleviated, but we need to take one small measurable step at a time with constant evaluation of whether or not particular policies are successful, based on evidence, not just on belief systems.

Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty” deserves its place of honor alongside other such genuine classics as E.F. Schumaker’s “Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics As If People Mattered” (1973). It is a must-read for geographers, regardless of your political persuasion.

Note: this is a lightly edited version of a post first published 27 January 2014.

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Aug 232019
 

A recent edition of the New Scientist has an interesting article about dinosaurs and the rapid shifts in our knowledge of these ancient beasts based on recent fossil discoveries. If the New Scientist is to be believed, these discoveries have not only revolutionized our views of dinosaurs, they have also rearranged the Earth’s geography.

  • The demise of the dinosaurs came about after “An enormous asteroid struck what is now the Yucatan peninsula  in Central America, sparking a mass extinction.”

Hmm… first up, it should be the “Yucatán Peninsula” (with an uppercase “P”) to refer to that region of Mexico. And, more importantly, the Yucatán Peninsula, as part of Mexico, is clearly in North America, not Central America, unless the impact of that danged asteroid is still reverberating around the world and shifting the continents.

For more about dinosaurs and the Chicxulub impact crater –

Source:

  • Riley Black. “The undiscovered dinosaurs”. New Scientist, August 3-9, 2019, page 46
 Posted by at 8:52 am  Tagged with:
Oct 122018
 

Ten new “Magic Towns” have been announced, bringing the total number nationwide to 121. The lates additions are:

  • Melchor Múzquiz, Coahuila
  • Nombre de Dios, Durango
  • Comonfort, Guanajuato
  • Zimapán, Hidalgo
  • Tlaquepaque, Jalisco
  • Compostela, Nayarit
  • Amealco de Bonfil, Querétaro
  • Aquismón, San Luis Potosí
  • Bustamante, Nuevo León
  • Guadalupe, Zacatecas

See also:

 Posted by at 8:23 am  Tagged with:

Incoming administration has decentralization plans

 Mexico's geography in the Press  Comments Off on Incoming administration has decentralization plans
Oct 022018
 

Several previous administrations have tried to decentralize Mexico, encouraging businesses to set up in the “periphery” away from the “core” of Mexico City and central Mexico. The incoming administration has announced its intention to move several federal government Secretariats away from Mexico City. The plans are discussed in some detail in this interesting article by Simon Schatzberg:

Aug 282018
 

For anyone who continues to doubt the potentially disastrous impacts of building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border on wildlife (let alone people), then perhaps these two articles will help you decide which side of the fence you want to be on:

See also:

New museum in Yucatán will explain Chicxulub Crater and demise of the dinosaurs

 Mexico's geography in the Press  Comments Off on New museum in Yucatán will explain Chicxulub Crater and demise of the dinosaurs
Feb 132018
 

A new museum 40 kilometers northwest of the Yucatán state capital – Mérida – is expected to open later this year to explain the nearby Chicxulub Crater, created by an asteroid impact 65 million years ago, and believed to be responsible for the demise of the dinosaurs.

Jul 102017
 

There are press reports of red-hot rocks emerging last weekend at a location known as “Pueblo Viejo” in the municipality of Venustiano Carranza in the state of Michoacán, a short distance east of Lake Chapala. That location is not far from the famous mud volcanoes, “Los Negritos” at Villamar, described in chapter 6 of my book Western Mexico: A Traveler’s Treasury.

Note: Please note that this is an on-going event; this post will be updated and, if necessary, rewritten, as further information becomes available.

The reports say activity began on Saturday 8 July 2017. Cracks and fissures have appeared in the middle of a soccer pitch in Pueblo Viejo, and smoke, vapor and red-hot rocks emitted. Some reports refer to two goats having been found burned to a crisp, and say that subsoil temperatures up to 250 degrees Celsius have been recorded.

Short video related to this event: http://www.hoyestado.com/2017/07/

Expert geologists are on their way to assess the situation and try to determine the cause and potential impacts.

Update – 11 July 2017:

Panic over! Geologists from UNAM have discounted the possibility that this is the birth of a new volcano and determined that this is a “geothermal fault” giving rise to a phenomenon that is more similar to the fumaroles found in some areas where volcanoes were previously active. The Lake Chapala area is part of Mexico’s Volcanic Axis which was very tectonically active millions of years ago.

This screenshot of Google Maps shows the approximate location:

The most famous new volcano in historic times is Paricutín Volcano, located further east in Michoacán. Parictuín was active between 1943 and 1952.

Mexico's Volcanic Axis (Fig 2.2 of Geo-Mexico, the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. All rights reserved.

Mexico’s Volcanic Axis (Fig 2.2 of Geo-Mexico, the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. All rights reserved.

Press reports (Spanish:

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Spectacular landscapes in Mexico

 Mexico's geography in the Press  Comments Off on Spectacular landscapes in Mexico
May 112017
 

We rarely post straight links to other sites without detailed commentary but every rule has exceptions and this spectacular selection of 30 Google Earth images from The Atlantic more than deserves a close look:

Previous visually-stunning or visually-interesting posts on Geo-Mexico include:

Mar 292017
 

In 2009 Feike de Jong walked the entire perimeter of Mexico City to capture the strange scenery of its fringes. The 800-km trek took him 51 days.

Mexico City Metropolitan Area (Geo-Mexico Fig 22.2; all rights reserved)

Spatial growth of Mexico City Metropolitan Area (Geo-Mexico Fig 22.2; all rights reserved)

These two Guardian articles tell the story of his trip:

The author’s ebook Limits: On Foot Along the Edge of the Megalopolis of the Valley of Mexico, with the full story and more images, is due to be released later this year.

Enjoy!

Want to learn more about Mexico City?