Summer conference highlights

The summer’s off to a good start with a lot of travel and two excellent conferences so far.


Belinda Archibong. “Where Local Kings Rule: Long-Term Impacts of Precolonial Institutions and Geography on Access to Public Infrastructure Services in Nigeria.”  Presented at the World Bank’s Annual Bank Conference on Development Economics.

Abstract: Though previous works have discussed the benefits of precolonial ethnic state centralization for development in Africa, the findings, of a positive relationship between centralization and development and the mechanisms provided, of local accountability of ethnic state leaders, do not explain the heterogeneity in outcomes, reflected in the unequal distribution of access to public services among formerly centralized states today. Here, I find that centralization has had a negative effect on access to federally administrated, high state control goods when cooperation failed between ethnic state and autocratic federal government leaders in the kind of cooperative federalist regimes that defined much of colonial and postcolonial Africa. I focus on the case of Nigeria, and specifically, I find a significant negative effect of centralization on access to high federal state control goods for centralized states whose leaders failed to cooperate with the autocratic military regime, and whose jurisdictions were subsequently subject to a punishment regime, typified by underinvestment in public services, with lasting impacts till today. I also posit that the long-term effects of this punishment can be seen in the relatively lower reported trust in institutions of federal authority over traditional institutions today from respondents from these previously punished, centralized precolonial states.

Toni Oki.  “Bandits on Patrol: An Analysis of Petty Corruption on West African Roads.”  Presented at ABCDE.

Abstract: This paper explores the spatial determinants of petty corruption on West African roads, employing a unique micro-dataset on bribes extorted from truck drivers by officials at various checkpoints. First, I use road traffic levels to predict the spatial distribution of corruption, finding a broadly inverted-U relationship.  [NB: the highlight of the theoretical model is that high traffic levels should lower the value of bribes demanded, rather than the converse.] Secondly, I investigate how regional favouritism might affect this distribution. When a new president comes into power in Mali, bribe values in his birth region change . This change is heterogeneous: there are both winners and losers with in his region. Finally, I critique my theoretical framework by finding an unusually large relationship between bribery and rainfall.

Kristen Himelein, Stephanie Eckman, Siobhan Murray and Johannes Bauer.  “Second Stage Sampling for Conflict Areas: Methods and Implications.”  Presented at ABCDE.

Abstract: The collection of survey data from war zones or other unstable security situations is vulnerable to error because conflict often limits the implementation options. Although there are elevated risks throughout the process, this paper focuses specifically on challenges to frame construction and sample selection. The paper uses simulations based on data from the Mogadishu High Frequency Survey Pilot to examine the implications of the choice of second-stage selection methodology on bias and variance. Among the other findings, the simulations show the bias introduced by a random walk design leads to the underestimation of the poverty headcount by more than 10 percent. The paper also discusses the experience of the authors in the time required and technical complexity of the associated back-office preparation work and weight calculations for each method. Finally, as the simulations assume perfect implementation of the design, the paper also discusses practicality, including the ease of implementation and options for remote verification, and outlines areas for future research and pilot testing.

Centre for Social Protection

Stephen Devereux, Edoardo Masset, Rachel Sabates-Wheeler, Michael Samson, Althea-Maria Rivas and Dolf te Lintelo.  “Evaluating the Targeting Effectiveness of Social Transfres: A Literature Review.”  Presented at the short course on social protection at the Institute for Development Studies’ Centre for Social Protection.

Abstract: This paper reviews empirical evidence from a range of social protection programmes on the accuracy of these mechanisms, in terms of minimising four targeting errors: inclusion and exclusion, by eligibility and by poverty. This paper also reviews available evidence on the various costs associated with targeting, not only administrative but also private, social, psycho-social, incentive-based and political costs. Comparisons are difficult, but all mechanisms generate targeting errors and costs. Given the inevitability of trade-offs, there is no ‘best’ mechanism for targeting social transfers. The key determinant of relative accuracy and cost-effectiveness in each case is how well the targeting mechanism is designed and implemented.

Ugo Gentilini.  “Entering the City: Emerging Evidence and Practices with Safety Nets in Urban Areas.”  Presented at CSP.

Abstract. Most safety net programs in low and middle-income countries have hitherto been conceived for rural areas. Yet as the global urban population increases and poverty urbanizes, it becomes of utmost importance to understand how to make safety nets work in urban settings. This paper discusses the process of urbanization, the peculiar features of urban poverty, and emerging experiences with urban safety net programs in dozens of countries. It does so by reviewing multidisciplinary literature, examining household survey data, and presenting a compilation of case studies from a ‘first generation’ of programs. The paper finds that urban areas pose fundamentally different sets of opportunities and challenges for social protection, and that safety net programs are at the very beginning of a process of urban adaptation. The mixed-performance and preliminary nature of the experiences suggest to put a premium on learning and evidence-generation. This might include revisiting some key design choices and better connecting safety nets to spatial, economic and social services agendas compelling to urban areas.

Francesca Bastagli.  “Bringing taxation into social protection analysis and planning.”  Presented at CSP.

Abstract: The expansion of social protection in low- and middle-income countries over the last two decades has been accompanied by a growing number of studies on the distributional impact of social protection spending. When such analyses consider social protection separately from tax policy, they provide a partial picture of the poverty and inequality impact of fiscal policy. In addition to determining the net distributional impact of fiscal policy, tax revenue levels and ‘mix’ matter to the resources available for social protection financing and its sustainability over time. Efforts to support and increase social protection spending in a sustainable fashion to meet poverty and inequality reduction goals are increasingly looking at options to increase revenue through taxation. This paper contributes to efforts to include tax considerations in social protection analysis and design by discussing the key methodological issues in carrying out joint distributional analysis, reviewing the evidence on the incidence and distributional impact of taxes and transfers and discussing alternative tax revenu e sources and their implications for social protection financing and sustainability.