Interesting articles for November 2021

Here’s what I’m looking forward to reading soon! These papers are all freely available online, and feature research on the global South by Southern researchers. (And as a special feature, don’t miss Federico Ardila-Mantilla’s excellent article on inclusive pedagogy in higher education, where he notes: “Everyone can have joyful, meaningful, and empowering academic experiences; but no single academic experience is joyful, meaningful, and empowering to everyone. How do we build academic spaces where every participant can thrive?”)

Katja Bender, Barbara Rohregger, Bethuel Kinuthia, Grace Ikua, Esther Schüring, Clement Adamba, Kennedy A. Alatinga, and Nicky Pouw. 2021. “Different pathways of social protection reforms: An analysis of long-term institutional change in Kenya.” World Development.

The potential of social protection to contribute to inclusive growth has been increasingly recognized throughout the last two decades. Social protection reforms involve comprehensive processes of long-term institutional change. Dynamics differ not only across but also within countries across social protection pillars reflecting multiple institutional trajectories and equilibria ranging from rapid and comprehensive shifts over processes of gradual change to situations of blocked reforms or reform reversals. This paper seeks to understand why reforms aiming at extending social protection coverage to the poor might differ across different pillars of social protection within the same country. Being embedded within comparative institutional analysis the paper aims at providing a systematic framework for defining and explaining variations in reform dynamics highlighting the role of uncertainty. The framework is applied to the Kenyan case. The empirical methodology employs a process tracing approach including primary and secondary data covering the time period between 2001 and 2017. The case of Kenya is one example for multiple institutional trajectories within a country: Whereas cash transfer reforms follow a pattern of cumulative incremental change, social health protection reforms reflect patterns of non-cumulative change including blocked reforms and reform reversals. The results suggest that those differences are partly explained by differences in preferences among agents or the institutional legacies within each domain. In addition, behavioral responses to uncertainty matter: Stronger information asymmetries within the cash transfer and fee waiver reform domains opened space for discretionary decisionmaking. Interpretations of the concept of social protection and complexity of ’insurance’ facilitated processes related to cash transfers whereas providing impediments to social health insurance. Lastly, the international and socio-economic context provided focal points facilitating coordination on targeted or vertical interventions such as cash transfers or fee waivers.

Esther Wangui Kimani, Sammy Gakero Gachigua, and George Mbugua Kariuki. 2021. “Restructured Citizen–Government Relationship in Kenya’s 2010 Constitution and the Right of Hawkers to the City in Nairobi.” Africa Development.

This article interrogates how various actors in the Nairobi Central Business District (CBD) space have made sense of the 2010 Constitution’s expansive provisions on socio-political and economic rights to advance hawkers’ claims to the right to the city. Using Lefebvre’s and human rights notions of the ‘right to the city’, the study finds that the Constitution has immense potential to secure the hawkers’ right to the city. However, various challenges impede efforts towards its realisation. Firstly, the 2007 no-hawking-in-the-CBD bylaw exerts inordinate influence, in practice suppressing the Constitution’s aspirations. Secondly, the City authorities’ efforts to facilitate the hawkers’ right to the city remain ambivalent or dependent on the whims of the serving governor. Thirdly, initiatives by other actors remain elitist, topdown and opaque with only the superficial involvement of hawkers. On their part, hawkers’ initiatives to claim their right to the city have suffered from fragmented leadership and individualistic self-help micro-strategies. Furthermore, hawkers have underutilised judicial activism as an avenue for challenging the constitutionality of the city bylaws banning hawking in the CBD. This strategy would potentially have provided a discursive platform to make their claim to the city the moral-legal claim envisaged by the Constitution.

Priya Manwaring and Shahrukh Wani. 2021. “Informal transport reform in Kampala: Learning from cross-country experience.” International Growth Centre.

Public transport services in Kampala city are largely made up of minibus and motorbike taxis. While the current transport sector provides a critical means of livelihood to many individuals in the city, the jobs offered are relatively low-paid and the job market is increasingly saturated. Given the limited potential for the current transportation industry to provide sustainable livelihoods for those in the sector, and the challenges presented by the sector on productivity and liveability of the city, there is a clear need for policy to better regulate transport operations. Several cities have attempted to target the informal and semi-formal transport sector to improve city-wide connectivity, ranging from outright bans to upgrading of the informal system. This brief compares four broad policy directions cities have adopted when interacting with informal transport providers and highlights key lessons to inform informal transport reform in Kampala.

Jacob Moscona and Awa Ambra Seck. 2021. “Social Structure and Redistribution: Evidence from Age vs Kin Based Organizations.” Working paper.

We document that ethnic groups’ social structure shapes patterns of economic interaction and hence the impact of public policy. Our analysis focuses on age set societies, ethnic groups comprising over 130 million people in sub-Saharan Africa in which individuals are organized into social groups based on age, known as “age sets,” that take priority over kin. Ethnographic accounts suggest that in age set societies, within-cohort economic ties are strong while inter-generational family ties are comparatively weak. First, we analyze a randomized unconditional cash transfer program in Northern Kenya and document that in age set societies, but not in kin-based societies, there are large consumption spillovers within the age cohort. Moreover, focusing on an arm of the experiment that simulates a pension program, we find that randomly increasing the income of older people improves child health and increases household education spending in kin based societies, but has no such impact in age set societies. Next, exploiting the staggered roll-out of Uganda’s social pension program, we document a similar pattern at a national scale: household exposure to the pension program has a large, positive effect on child health in kin-based societies, but no impact in age set societies. These findings highlight how local variation in social structure can lead to markedly different, yet predictable, patterns of redistribution, thereby shaping the consequences of national policies.

Abdul-Gafaru Abdulai. 2021. “Political settlement dynamics and the emergence and decline of bureaucratic pockets of effectiveness in Ghana.” Effective States in International Development working paper 173.

This paper explores the factors that shape the performance trajectories of three relatively effective public organisations in Ghana, namely, the Ministry of Finance, the Bank of Ghana and the Ghana Revenue Authority. Drawing on an original investigation of organisational performance under the various political settlements that Ghana has experienced in the past few decades, it argues that although ‘pockets of effectiveness’ can emerge under different political settlement types and dynamics, such agencies are more likely to endure in concentrated political settlements than in contexts characterised by dispersed configurations of power. The main mechanism that links Ghana’s shifting political settlement and organisational performance is the quality of organisational leadership and its relationship to the political leadership of the day. Much depends on whether organisational leaders are (a) sufficiently politically loyal to be awarded the protection required to deliver on their mandate and (b) possess the political management skills required to navigate difficult political conditions. High levels of support (both technical and financial) from international development organisations and their privileged status as key nodes of economic governance have undoubtedly helped these organisations attain high levels of performance vis-à-vis the wider public bureaucracy. Nevertheless, the fact that the performance of these agencies has waxed and waned over time, despite international support and mandates being largely constant, suggests that the key to understanding their performance lies with political economy factors, with their effectiveness regularly undermined by the increasingly dispersed nature of power within Ghana’s political settlement and the resultant vulnerability of ruling elites.

Verónica Amarante, Ronelle Burger, Grieve Chelwa, John Cockburn, Ana Kassouf, Andrew McKay, and Julieta Zurbrigg. 2021. “Underrepresentation of developing country researchers in development research.Applied Economics Letters.

We present evidence of how researchers from developing countries are represented in three areas of research: conference presentations, articles in journals, and citations. We find that the bulk of research on development and development policies in the South is conducted by researchers from the North. Southern universities represents 9% of conference presenters, while 57% of conference presenters are from Northern universities. There has been no evidence of improvements over time. Fewer than one in six of the articles published in top 20 development journals from 1990 to 2019 were by Southern researchers, while close to three-quarters were by Northern researchers. The remaining 11% were collaborations by Southern and Northern researchers. Additionally, there are also fewer citations per article for Southern-authored articles than for Northern-authored articles.

Social protection research centers

Continuing on my SP data kick, I wanted to highlight some of the key research centers and publications that are useful for understanding the contemporary social protection landscape.

The World Bank’s Social Protection Unit: A major funder of SP programs around the world, the WB also offers a wealth of data and analysis. Key publication: Sourcebook on the Foundations of Social Protection Delivery Systems (2020).

ILO Global Flagship Program on Building Social Protection Floors for All: The ILO advocates for social protection floors and offers policy analysis to partner governments. Key publication: World Social Protection Report 2017 – 2019 (2017).

The IADB’s Social Protection Unit: Major funder of SP programs in Latin America and the Caribbean. Key publication: The Unequal Burden of the Pandemic: Why the Fallout of Covid-19 Hits the Poor the Hardest (2020).

The Transfer Project: A research center which carries out rigorous evaluations of cash transfer programs around the world. Key publication: A Mixed-Method Review of Cash Transfers and Intimate Partner Violence in Low- and Middle-Income Countries (2018).

ODI Equity and Social Policy Unit: Research and commentary on global social protection programs. Key publication: Cash Transfers: What Does the Evidence Say? (2016).

Centre for Social Protection at IDS: A research center which carries out program evaluations and shares commentary on social protection. Key publication: Linking Social Rights to Active Citizenship for the Most Vulnerable: the Role of Rights and Accountability in the ‘Making’ and ‘Shaping’ of Social Protection (2019).

Centre for Social Science Research at UCT: The research center covers a range of topics, but filtering the publication list by “CSSR” brings up a strong focus on social protection in southern Africa. Key publication: The politics of social protection policy reform in Malawi, 2006-2017 (2020).

ERIA’s Social Protection Unit: A research institute focused on SP in East Asia and ASEAN countries. Key publication: Social Protection Goals in East Asia: Strategies and Methods to Generate Fiscal Space (2018).

Maintains: A five-year research program on adaptive social protection in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Kenya, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, and Uganda. Key publication: Conceptual framework for studying social protection responses to COVID-19 (2020).

The Political Economy of Social Protection Expansion in Africa at ESID: A research program focused on Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. Key publication: The Politics of Social Protection in Eastern and Southern Africa (2019).

Research at GiveDirectly: GD implements programs which are designed to answer pressing questions about the impacts of cash transfers. Key publication: The impact of unconditional cash transfers on poor households in rural Kenya (2016).

SocialProtection.org: Online portal for events, courses, and publications related to social protection. Key publication: Options for rapid delivery (payment) of cash transfers for COVID-19 responses and beyond (2020).

3ie’s Social Protection Unit: Shares impact evaluations, systematic reviews, and evidence gap maps related to social protection. Key publication: Household and economy-wide impacts of a public works programme in Ethiopia (2017).

GDSRC’s Social Protection Unit: Shares impact evaluations and systematic reviews related to social protection, and has a topic guide for people new to the sector. Key publication: Social Protection Topic Guide (2019).

Center for Guaranteed Income Research: Evaluations of guaranteed income programs in the US. Key publication: Mitigating loss of health insurance and means tested benefits in an unconditional cash transfer experiment: Implementation lessons from Stockton’s guaranteed income pilot (2020).

Stanford Basic Income Lab: Knowledge hub which aggregates research on basic income from around the world. Key publication: What We Know About Universal Basic Income: A Cross-Synthesis of Reviews (2020).

The Cash Transfer Lab at NYU: Focuses on evaluations of cash transfers in the US, particularly in Alaska. No publications yet.

Social protection data sources

I’ve been digging into different data sources on social protection recently and wanted to collate some of them here. There are lots of great public resources available. If you know of any other useful datasets that I’m missing, do let me know!

Atlas of Social Protection: Indicators of Resilience and Equity (ASPIRE)

  • Data source: World Bank
  • Geographic coverage: 125 countries
  • Temporal coverage: 1998 – 2019
  • Regularly updated: Yes
  • Main indicators: Adequacy of benefits (as a percentage of total monthly consumption), transfer size, income level of beneficiaries, program coverage, cost-benefit ratio, poverty gap reduction
  • Notes: Indicators are broken down by program type, urban vs. rural beneficiaries, and income quintiles

Social Assistance in Low and Middle Income Countries (SALMIC)

  • Data source: University of Manchester
  • Geographic coverage: 110 countries
  • Temporal coverage: 2000 – 2015
  • Regularly updated: No
  • Main indicators: Program type, target population, targeting method, transfer value and frequency, transfer modality (cash vs. digital), implementing agency, program budget

World Social Protection Report 2017 – 2019

  • Data source: ILO
  • Geographic coverage: 189 countries
  • Temporal coverage: 1995 – 2018
  • Regularly updated: Yes
  • Main indicators: Program coverage, program funding, implementing agency, benefit type
  • Notes: Indicators are broken down by beneficiary type (children, mothers, people with disabilities, unemployed people, the elderly)

Social Security Programs Throughout the World

  • Data source: US Social Security Administration
  • Geographic coverage: 170 countries
  • Temporal coverage: 2002 – 2019
  • Regularly updated: Yes
  • Main indicators: Regulatory framework, target population, source of funding, implementing agency
  • Notes: Individual country case studies are provided for each year. Not available as a single dataset

Partnership for Economic Inclusion (PEI) Data Portal

  • Data source: World Bank
  • Geographic coverage: 75 countries
  • Temporal coverage: Not stated, but the portal launched in 2020, so the data is recent
  • Regularly updated: Yes
  • Main indicators: Program objectives, program components, cost of program components, target population, implementing partners
  • Notes: Focuses on economic inclusion programs, a.k.a. graduation programs, which offer bundled interventions (such as cash transfers + asset transfers + training) to vulnerable populations. Data can be accessed through their portal but not downloaded

HelpAge Social Pensions Database

  • Data source: HelpAge
  • Geographic coverage: 111 countries
  • Temporal coverage: 1890 – 2016
  • Regularly updated: Yes
  • Main indicators: Benefit levels, targeting, population coverage, program cost

Global Social Protection COVID-19 Response Database

  • Data source: World Bank
  • Geographic coverage: 212 countries
  • Temporal coverage: 2020 (obviously!)
  • Regularly updated: Yes
  • Main indicators: Program type, number of beneficiaries (planned & actual), program budget, adequacy of benefits (as a percentage of total monthly consumption)
  • Notes: Updated versions of this database and accompanying paper are regularly published through Ugo Gentilini’s website

Non-Contributory Social Programs Database for Latin America and the Caribbean

  • Data source: UN
  • Geographic coverage: 21 countries
  • Temporal coverage: 1919 – 2019
  • Regularly updated: Yes
  • Main indicators: Target population, targeting method, payment modality, transfer value, implementing agency, legal framework, program budget
  • Notes: Data is provided for multiple years, not just the most recent year. Individual country case studies and datasets are provided, but there isn’t a single dataset for the entire region.

Realizing the Full Potential of Social Safety Nets in Africa

  • Data source: World Bank
  • Geographic coverage: 48 countries
  • Temporal coverage: Snapshot of country programs in 2017
  • Regularly updated: No
  • Main indicators: Poverty headcount, national social protection strategy, implementing agency, program type, targeting method, program coverage, program expenditure (as % of GDP and government revenue), funding sources, administrative costs, transfer value
  • Notes: Data is provided in the tables in appendices C – J of this book. It’s not available for download as a separate dataset

Social Cash Transfer Payment Systems in Sub-Saharan Africa

  • Data source: UCT
  • Geographic coverage: 44 countries
  • Temporal coverage: 1927 – 2020
  • Regularly updated: No
  • Main indicators: Targeting method, program coverage, payment value, payment frequency, payment modality
  • Notes: Data is provided in the tables in the appendix of this paper. It’s not available for download as a separate dataset.

Social Protection Indicators for Asia and the Pacific

  • Data source: ADB
  • Geographic coverage: 42 countries
  • Temporal coverage: 2005 – 2015
  • Regularly updated: Yes
  • Main indicators: Program coverage, program expenditures, adequacy of benefits
  • Notes: Data can be viewed through their interactive portal and downloaded as a separate dataset for each indicator

World Social Protection Data Dashboards

  • Data source: ILO
  • Geographic coverage: 220 countries
  • Temporal coverage: Snapshot of country programs in most recent year for which data is available
  • Regularly updated: Yes
  • Main indicators: Program coverage (by total population and also by different categories of vulnerable people), expenditure as % of GDP

Interesting academic articles for September 2020

After a bit of a blogging hiatus, I’m back! Here are the recent articles that I’m looking forward to reading.

James Habyarimana, Ken Ochieng’ Opalo, and Youdi Schipper. 2020. “The Cyclical Electoral Impacts of Programmatic Policies: Evidence from Education Reforms in Tanzania.” RISE Programme working paper 20/051.

A large literature documents the electoral benefits of clientelistic and programmatic policies in low-income states. We extend this literature by showing the cyclical electoral responses to a large programmatic intervention to expand access to secondary education in Tanzania over multiple electoral periods. Using a difference-in- difference approach, we find that the incumbent party’s vote share increased by 2 percentage points in the election following the policy’s announcement as a campaign promise (2005), but decreased by -1.4 percentage points in the election following implementation (2010). We find no discernible electoral impact of the policy in 2015, two electoral cycles later. We attribute the electoral penalty in 2010 to how the secondary school expansion policy was implemented. Our findings shed light on the temporally-contingent electoral impacts of programmatic policies, and highlight the need for more research on how policy implementation structures public opinion and vote choice in low-income states.

Alesha Porisky. 2020. “The distributional politics of social transfers in Kenya.” Effective States in International Development working paper no. 155.

This paper examines the politics of distributing social transfers across four diverse counties in Kenya – Homa Bay, Marsabit, Nakuru and Nyeri – with a focus on three of the nationwide social transfer programmes: the Cash Transfer for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (CT-OVC); the Older Persons Cash Transfer Programme (OPCT); and the Inua Jamii Pension. The paper presents two key findings. First, it finds that state infrastructural power plays a central role in mediating the implementation of social transfer programmes. Where state infrastructural power is high, formal programme guidelines tend to be closely followed. However, where state infrastructural power is low, bureaucrats compensate by relying on local authorities – including administrative chiefs, village elders and clan leaders – to assist with programme functions that are outside of their formal roles within the social transfer programmes. Second, the paper finds that there is less political interference in the local distribution of social transfers than the extant literature predicts. Strong formal programme rules and guidelines, combined with significant central oversight over programme implementation, limit the influence that local politicians have over the distribution of social transfer programme benefits.

Sudhanshu Handa, David Seidenfeld and Gelson Tembo. 2020. “The Impact of a Large-Scale Poverty-Targeted Cash Transfer Program on Intertemporal Choice.” Economic Development and Cultural Change.

We use a social experiment to test whether the government of Zambia’s cash transfer program affects intertemporal choice. A cash transfer program may also alter expectations about future quality of life and make one happier, two conditions that can affect intertemporal decision-making and the desire to invest in the future. We find that the program affects time discounting and that psychological states are also strongly associated with time discounting, but psychological states do not mediate the effect of the cash transfer on time discounting.

Noam Angrist, Peter Bergman, Caton Brewster, and Moitshepi Matsheng. 2020. “Stemming Learning Loss During the Pandemic: A Rapid Randomized Trial of a Low-Tech Intervention in Botswana.” CSAE working paper WPS/2020-13.

The COVID-19 pandemic has closed schools for over 1.6 billion children, with potentially long- term consequences. This paper provides some of the first experimental evidence on strategies to minimize the fallout of the pandemic on education outcomes. We evaluate two low-technology interventions to substitute schooling during this period: SMS text messages and direct phone calls. We conduct a rapid trial in Botswana to inform real-time policy responses collecting data at four- to six-week intervals. We present results from the first wave. We find early evidence that both interventions result in cost-effective learning gains of 0.16 to 0.29 standard deviations. This trans- lates to a reduction in innumeracy of up to 52 percent. We show these results broadly hold with a series of robustness tests that account for differential attrition. We find increased parental engagement in their child’s education and more accurate parent perceptions of their child’s learning. In a second wave of the trial, we provide targeted instruction, customizing text messages to the child’s learning level using data from the first wave. The low-tech interventions tested have immediate policy relevance and could have long-run implications for the role of technology and parents as substitutes or complements to the traditional education system.

Andrew Agyei-Holmes, Niklas Buehren, Markus Goldstein, Robert Osei, Isaac Osei-Akoto, and Christopher Udry. 2020. “The Effects of Land Title Registration on Tenure Security, Investment and the Allocation of Productive Resources: Evidence from Ghana.” World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 9376.

Smallholder farmers’ investment decisions and the efficiency of resource allocation depend on the security of land tenure. This paper develops a simple model that captures essential institutional features of rural land markets in Ghana, including the dependence of future rights over land on current cultivation and land rental decisions. The model predictions guide the evaluation of a pilot land titling intervention that took place in an urbanizing area located in the Central Region of Ghana. The evaluation is based on a regression discontinuity design combined with three rounds of household survey data collected over a period of six years. The analysis finds strong markers for the program’s success in registering land in the targeted program area. However, land registration does not translate into agricultural investments or increased credit taking. Instead, treated households decrease their amount of agricultural labor, accompanied by only a small reduction of agricultural production and no changes in productivity. In line with this result, households decrease their landholdings amid a surge in land valuations. The analysis uncovers important within-household differences in how women and men respond differentially to the program. There appears to be a general shift to nonfarm economic activities, and women’s business profits increased considerably.

Nico Ravanilla, Dotan Haim, and Allen Hicken. 2020. “Brokers, Social Networks, Reciprocity, and Clientelism.” Working paper.

Although canonical models of clientelism argue that brokers use dense social networks to monitor and enforce vote buying, recent evidence suggests that brokers can instead target intrinsically reciprocal voters and reduce the need for active monitoring
and enforcement. Combining a trove of survey data on brokers and voters in the Philippines with an experiment-based measure of reciprocity, and relying on local naming conventions to build social networks, we demonstrate that brokers employ both strategies conditional on the underlying social network structure. We show that brokers are chosen for their central position in networks and are knowledgeable about voters, including their reciprocity levels. We then show that, where village social networks are dense, brokers prefer to target voters that have many ties in the network because their votes are easiest to monitor. Where networks are sparse, brokers target intrinsically reciprocal voters whose behavior they need not monitor.

Elena Gadjanova. 2020. “Status-quo or Grievance Coalitions: The Logic of Cross-ethnic Campaign Appeals in Africa’s Highly Diverse States.” Comparative Political Studies.

This paper explains how presidential candidates in Africa’s highly diverse states appeal across ethnic lines when ethnic identities are salient, but broader support is needed to win elections. I argue that election campaigns are much more bottom-up and salience-oriented than current theories allow and draw on the analysis of custom data of campaign appeals in Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda, as well as interviews with party strategists and campaign operatives in Ghana and Kenya to demonstrate clear patterns in presidential candidates’ cross-ethnic outreach. Where ethnic salience is high, incumbents offer material incentives and targeted transfers to placate supporters, challengers fan grievances to split incumbents’ coalitions, and also-rans stress unity and valence issues in the hope of joining the winner. The research contributes to our understanding of parties’ mobilization strategies in Africa and further clarifies where and how ethnic divisions are politicized in elections in plural societies.

Obie Porteous. 2020. “Research Deserts and Oases: Evidence from 27 Thousand Economics Journal Articles on Africa.” Working paper.

The first two decades of the 21st century have seen an increasing number of peer- reviewed journal articles on the 54 countries of Africa by both African and non-African economists. I document that the distribution of research across African countries is highly uneven: 45% of all economics journal articles and 65% of articles in the top five economics journals are about five countries accounting for just 16% of the continent’s population. I show that 91% of the variation in the number of articles across countries can be explained by a peacefulness index, the number of international tourist arrivals, having English as an official language, and population. The majority of research is context-specific, so the continued lack of research on many African countries means that the evidence base for local policy-makers is much smaller in these countries.


Interesting academic articles for June 2020

Here’s what I’ve been looking forward to reading this month!

Ola Olsson, Maria Eriksson Baaz, and Peter Martinsson. 2020. “Fiscal capacity in ‘post’-conflict states: Evidence from trade on Congo river.Journal of Development Economics.

In many post-conflict states with a weak fiscal capacity, illicit domestic levies on trade remain a serious obstacle to economic development. In this paper, we explore the interplay between traders and authorities on Congo River – a key transport corridor in one of the world’s poorest and most conflict-ridden countries; DR Congo. We outline a general theoretical framework featuring transport operators who need to pass multiple taxing stations and negotiate over taxes with several authorities on their way to a central market place. We then examine empirically the organization, extent, and factors explaining the level of taxes charged by various authorities across stations, by collecting primary data from boat operators. Most of the de facto taxes charged on Congo River have no explicit support in laws or government regulations and have been characterized as a “fend for yourself”-system of funding. Our study shows that traders have to pass more than 10 stations downstream where about 20 different authorities charge taxes. In line with hold-up theory, we find that the average level of taxation tends to increase downstream closer to Kinshasa, but authorities that were explicitly prohibited from taxing in a recent decree instead extract more payments upstream. Our results illustrate a highly dysfunctional taxing regime that nonetheless is strikingly similar to anecdotal evidence of the situation on the Rhine before 1800. In the long run, a removal of domestic river taxation on Congo River should have the potential to raise trade substantially.

Diana Mitlin. 2020. “The politics of shelter: Understanding outcomes in three African cities.” ESID working paper no. 145.

This paper analyses the politics of shelter provision in three African cities, focusing on the needs of and provision for the low- and middle-income residents. Housing is a priority for low- and middle-income households. Governments influence multiple facets of land and shelter and affect the shelter options realisable for urban residents. The significance of housing to citizen wellbeing means that housing policy and programming is attractive to politicians seeking popular support. The framework of political settlements is used to structure the analysis. In all three cities, national political elites seek to influence housing outcomes. In the two capital cities, elites use clientelism (backed up by violence) to advantage themselves and secure rents for influential local groups (or factions). Territorial controls are used by elites to influence electoral outcomes, while approaches to housing help to gain legitimacy through strengthening paradigmatic ideas that encapsulate a vision for development. To date, the framework has primarily been applied to the national level. Hence, this application is both novel and a test of the framework’s relevance at this spatial scale and with this sectoral focus.

Nansozi K. Muwanga , Paul I. Mukwaya and Tom Goodfellow. 2020. “Carrot, stick and statute: Elite strategies and contested dominance in Kampala.” ESID working paper no. 146.

Although Yoweri Museveni’s National Resistance Movement (NRM) has dominated Uganda’s political scene for over three decades, the capital Kampala refuses to submit to the NRM’s grip. As opposition activism in the city has become increasingly explosive, the ruling elite has developed a widening range of strategies to try and win urban support and constrain opposition. In this paper, we subject the NRM’s strategies over the decade 2010-2020 to close scrutiny. We explore elite strategies pursued both from the ‘top down’, through legal and administrative manoeuvres and a ramping up of violent coercion, and from the ‘bottom up’, through attempts to build support among urban youth and infiltrate organisations in the urban informal transport sector. Although this evolving suite of strategies and tactics has met with some success in specific places and times, opposition has constantly resurfaced. Overall, efforts to entrench political dominance of the capital have repeatedly failed; yet challenges to the regime’s dominance have also been unable to weaken it in any sustained way. We examine why each strategy for dominance has produced limited gains, arguing that together these strategies reproduced a situation of intensely contested control, in which no single group or elite can completely dominate the city.

Jose Cuesta, Stephen Devereux, Abdul‐Gafaru Abdulai, Jaideep Gupte, Luigi Peter Ragno, Keetie Roelen, Rachel Sabates–Wheeler, and Tayllor Spadafora. 2020. “Urban social assistance. Evidence, challenges, and the way forward, with application to Ghana.Development Policy Review.

Urbanisation is accelerating, and urban poverty is increasing worldwide, yet few countries have developed comprehensive urban social assistance programmes, and those that do exist are often extensions or duplicates of rural programmes. Urban social protection needs, however, to reflect the distinct characteristics and vulnerabilities of the urban poor, especially working in informal activities and their higher living costs. This article addresses two questions: what is the current evidence on effective social assistance programmes in urban contexts around the world? And, how can such programmes be designed and implemented in practice? We pay special attention to social assistance as it is specifically designed to benefit the poor. The article surveys the challenges of designing social assistance programmes for urban contexts, focusing on specific urban vulnerabilities, targeting the urban poor, and setting appropriate payment levels. It reviews existing evidence of such programmes, including seven brief country case studies. These issues are examined in detail for Ghana, a rapidly urbanising country. Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP), the predominantly rural flagship assistance program in Ghana, can be adjusted to the urban context in several respects. Advertising, (social) media, direct text messaging, and local NGOs should prove more effective at promoting registration than using community figures. An urban-specific proxy means test should be developed to improve targeting. The cash benefit should be increased and adjusted regularly, and possibly accompanied by subsidised utilities and services.

Sandra García and Jorge Cuartas. 2020. “Can poverty alleviation programs crowd-in private support? Short- and Middle-Run Effects of a Conditional Cash Transfer Program on Inter-Household Transfers.Journal of Social Policy.

Conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs have become an important component of social assistance in developing countries. CCTs, as well as other cash subsidies, have been criticized for allegedly crowding out private transfers. Whether social programs crowd out private transfers is an important question with worrisome implications, as private support represents an important fraction of households’ income and works as a risk sharing mechanism in developing countries. Furthermore, empirical evidence on the effect of public transfers on private transfers is mixed. This paper contributes to the literature by using a unique dataset from the quasi-experimental evaluation of a CCT in Colombia and an empirical strategy that allows us to correct for pre-existing differences between treated and control groups. Our results suggest that the public transfer did not crowd out private transfers, neither in the short-run nor in the middle-run. Instead, it increased the probability of receiving support in cash, in kind, and in non-paid labor from different private sources by approximately 10 percentage points. Moreover, we find that the monetary value of private transfers increased by 32 – 38% for treated households.

Alan Zarychta. 2020. “Making social services work better for the poor: Evidence from a natural experiment with health sector decentralization in Honduras.World Development.

Governments in many less developed countries have decentralized their social support systems over the last several decades. However, despite enthusiasm for these reforms, evidence remains limited and mixed as to whether they improve the delivery of basic social services. I take advantage of an unexpected pause in reform implementation in Honduras due to the country’s 2009 coup to investigate the effects of decentralization on local health services. Drawing on administrative data, an original survey of health workers, and qualitative interviews, my analysis shows that decentralization is credibly associated with increases in preventive care for women and that improved accountability and greater resilience to shocks are important mechanisms for this change. Moreover, my analysis highlights how regional organizations use decentralization to assert their own influence and deflect negative political consequences while pressuring for improvements in service delivery. These findings shed light both on the possibilities for improving local social services through governance reform and how national-level reforms can be leveraged by powerful actors at lower rungs of the governmental hierarchy.

Richard Clark and Lindsay R. Dolan. 2020. “Pleasing the Principal: U.S. Influence in World Bank Policymaking.American Journal of Political Science.

How do policies in international organizations reflect the preferences of powerful institutional stakeholders? Using an underutilized data set on the conditions associated with World Bank loans, we find that borrower countries that vote with the United States at the United Nations are required to enact fewer domestic policy reforms, and on fewer and softer issue areas. Though U.S. preferences permeate World Bank decision making, we do not find evidence that borrower countries trade favors in exchange for active U.S. intervention on their behalf. Instead, we propose that U.S. influence operates indirectly when World Bank staff—consciously or unconsciously—design programs that are compatible with U.S. preferences. Our study provides novel evidence of World Bank conditionality and shows that politicized policies can result even from autonomous bureaucracies.