NBER Working Papers by Martin Ravallion

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Working Papers

March 2015Inconsistent Policy Evaluation: A Case Study for a Large Workfare Program
with Arthur Alik-Lagrange: w21041
Evaluations of workfare programs in poor rural economies have typically ignored two features that policy makers stress: involuntary unemployment and the expected welfare losses from work requirements. The paper generalizes past evaluation theory and methods to incorporate both features, and shows that doing so can switch the policy ranking in favor of welfare over workfare. A case study for India’s massive National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme indicates lower impacts on poverty than suggested by past methods, despite a more “poor-poor” incidence. A basic-income guarantee would dominate net workfare earnings in terms of the impact on poverty for a given budgetary outlay.
December 2014Are the World’s Poorest Being Left Behind?
The traditional approach to poverty measurement puts no explicit weight on success at increasing the typical level of living of the poorest—raising the consumption floor. To address this deficiency, the paper defines and measures the expected value of the floor, allowing for transient effects and measurement errors in survey data. On using all suitable and available surveys for the developing world over 1981-2011, the expected value of the floor is about half the $1.25 a day poverty line. There has been only modest progress in raising the floor, despite much progress in reducing the number living near the floor.
July 2014An Exploration of the International Comparison Program's New Global Economic Landscape
The Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) rates from the 2011 round of the International Comparison Program (ICP) imply some dramatic revisions to price levels and real incomes across the world. The paper tries to understand these changes. Domestic inflation rates account for a share of the PPP changes, although less so for the 2011 revisions than prior ICP rounds. A marked downward drift in ICP price levels for developing countries also emerged in 2011. Conditional on domestic price changes, the co-movement of PPPs with market exchange rates suggests that that the ICP puts higher weight on more internationally comparable traded-goods than do domestic indices. There is also evidence of a Dynamic Penn Effect, whereby economic growth comes with higher prices. The drift is concentrated in the Asia re...
July 2013The Idea of Antipoverty Policy
How did we come to think that eliminating poverty is a legitimate goal for public policy? What types of policies have emerged in the hope of attaining that goal? The last 200 years have witnessed a dramatic change in thinking about poverty. Mainstream economic thinking in the 18th century held that poverty was necessary and even desirable for a country's economic success. Today, poverty is more often viewed as a constraint on that success. In short, poverty switched from being seen as a social good to a social bad. This change in thinking, and the accompanying progress in knowledge, has greatly influenced public action, with heightened emphasis on the role of antipoverty policy in sustainable promotion from poverty, as well as protection. Development strategies today typically strive for a...

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