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Allie Barry
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I recently wrote my final research paper for my Introduction to Latin American Caribbean Studies course on the impact of tourism in the Caribbean. This topic is of great interest to me as I spent my sophomore year spring term with Professor Shay studying business in the Caribbean while sailing around and getting to visit various islands in the region. While I only focused a portion of my paper on the environmental impacts of tourism, this reading harkened back to many similar points about the impact of global warming on this island region and how environmental degradation could impact the entire economy and the lives of the people on these islands more than some may realize at first glance. This paper discussed the possible cascade effects at one point and how “climate change will not occur in a vacuum.” While it is obvious that climate change needs to be addressed because the environment has value, this paper also points out how the changes in the environment will impact the food, income, and tourism industries. After visiting many islands and speaking to locals there it is clear that many of the islands in the Caribbean rely on tourism as a main source of their income and economic growth. With more frequent extreme weather, destruction of coral reefs, scarcity of clean water and various other effects of climate change, the tourism industry will likely diminish in these areas. By harming the tourism industry this could result in economic stagnation for many of these islands who are still working toward economic development. In my paper I also discussed the fact that these resorts and hotels often create enclaves on the islands and within the societies. This tends to happen more often when the resorts are all inclusive which concentrates the economic benefits only on the resorts and excludes the surrounding local areas and towns from any economic benefits. These tourism enclaves and resorts with the money and power will have the resources to deal with some of the immediate environmental impacts on the area, however the local areas in the surroundings will not. This further demonstrates the point of how the environmental impacts of climate change will fall disproportionally on the poor and those who are unable to handle the consequences. This paper highlights some of the key issues with climate change which need to be addressed before further warming occurs and destroys or displaces many of these islands populations.
By finding that trade openness has greater effects on the reduction of poverty when “the financial sector is deeper, education levels higher, and governance stronger”, this underscores the need for underlying policy to improve these areas so that countries are able to experience even greater benefits from open trade. For example, the paper finds that when the share of the population over age 15 completing primary education is greater than 55%, trade openness starts being favorable to the poor. While this paper had interesting findings, the policy implication seems to be the most pressing matter. In thinking of this paper in relation to the recent presidential election of Trump and his proposed trade policy, it caused me to think about his plans in a different way and try to reverse the argument in this paper to understand it in the context of less trade liberalization rather than more. Would policies that aim to improve these areas still have an effect on the reduction of poverty within a more closed economy? How great would these effects be compared to the findings of this paper with more liberalized trade? Instead of focusing on the actual trade regulations which he has stressed so much throughout his campaign, I will be curious to see what other policies he will choose to implement which effect the financial sector, education levels, and the strength of governance overall. These policies were not as clearly outlined in his campaign, yet he did very well in capturing the vote of the uneducated and the working class Americans who could benefit from the kind of policies that this paper suggests for more liberal trade environments. This paper caused me to think of the future of the U.S. with Trump in power in a different way than I had previously.
Toggle Commented Nov 29, 2016 on Reading for Thursday at Jolly Green General
The “Latest Findings from Randomized Evaluations of Microfinance” echoed a similar general idea as the first reading in our semester, “The Economic Lives of the Poor”. While people tend to look at the poor and make certain assumptions, this paper works to highlight the fact that the poor may not think rationally in the way that economists may think, but they do behave in similar ways to the average person. People do not always act rationally, but they will weigh what matters most to them and act on that just as those who are not poor do. I imagine if I had texts reminding me of what I’m saving up for, then I would save more and spend less as well. So one of the main take-aways I found from this reading was that the study of behavioral economics may be just as important if not more important when trying to come up with effective policies and programs for developing countries rather than the developed countries. Another example where I saw this demonstrated was the way that group lending did not always work out. I don’t know if my own parents would be willing to borrow money as a group with their best friends, and these are all financially stable individuals, let alone people in a developing country who are battling poverty. Not only does this have to do with individuals being risk averse and not wanting to expose themselves to their friends risk of default, but this also mixes financial stress with social lives which can cause lots of tension. Lastly, on a somewhat unrelated note, I found the point about women facing more barriers to saving very interesting. The paper mentions that its possible that saving allows women to “shield their income from others”. After discussing women’s agency this is one point that never crossed my mind before, that women may face more pressure to give money to their husbands or to lend to friends, family and neighbors. As unfair as it is, it would make sense that if husbands have dominance over their wives that they may take their earnings as their own. I would be very curious to hear more about how and why it is that women face these barriers to saving and weather they are attributed to women’s inequality.
Toggle Commented Nov 14, 2016 on Readings for this week at Jolly Green General
In reading The Economic and Social Burden of Malaria, I could not help but try to imagine what it would be like living in a country which is so plagued by a disease like this and the fear that one would live in on a day to day basis. In thinking further about this, I thought of the recent spread of Zika virus and how this has been spread all over the media as a crisis for the region. Not only does this disease have direct health effects for the people living there, but it is also causing uncertainty about the future of the tourism industry and the overall economy for investors. Zika is just another example of how a disease can impact a country or region so greatly preventing them from economically growing or developing in general. In The Economics of Being Poor I thought further about the difference between how the media and the U.S. are looking at Zika differently from Malaria. He ends the paper saying that we, the high income countries have forgotten that “Knowledge is the most powerful engine of production; it enables us to subdue Nature and satisfy our wants.” Although this quote was uplifting, it made me realize how “our want”, the want of the high income countries, is driving how developing countries develop. Since the Caribbean is a popular tourist destination for us in the U.S., we feel immediately compelled to face the crisis and try to assist the countries to battle this, but are we putting forth this same effort and urgency when it comes to Malaria? Maybe we are, and maybe we are not, but it is a scary realization that the high income country’s “wants” could have such a great impact on the future of these developing countries in choosing what diseases they need to prevent the most.
Toggle Commented Nov 2, 2016 on Readings for Thursday at Jolly Green General
In Duflo’s paper, Women Empowerment and Economic Development, she mentions that participation of women in the labor market has grown by 15% in East Asia and Latin America between 1971 and 1995, and that this rate is faster than that of men. She goes on to make the point that by empowering women to work, female life expectancy is raised and there are various other positive outcomes which could lead to increased gender equality. However, this immediately made me think of the documentary film I watched for my Latin American Caribbean Studies Class “Maquilapolis: City of factories”. In this documentary protestoras (women activists) film their own personal experiences living in Mexico working for the Maquilas. Maquilas are factories for textiles, medical devices, small parts of technology and various other goods which employ mostly women in Mexico. While the aim of the documentary is to show that these women are agents of change, able to make their own income and independent, many of us in the class found it utterly depressing. In the documentary they show and tell about the places they work, the awful health effects they experience, the pollution caused by this “economic development” which is harming their homes and health, and how they are taken advantage of by major corporations who do not abide by the laws since most of the women are unaware of the laws. While these women are empowered in the sense that they are able to make an income, at the same time they are subjected to unhealthy and unethical working conditions. The women in this video explain that they are “protestoras” who work with other women to spread the word about the laws so women do not continue to be taken advantage of. While I agree that economic development and getting more women to be a part of the work force is necessary, I think one point that is often overlooked is what kind of work they are being offered and how that work is effecting the environment they live in. In the case of the Maquilas, the factories are deteriorating the villages where these women live and unfortunately I don’t believe this type of employment is empowering them or helping to decrease gender inequality.
Toggle Commented Oct 19, 2016 on Reading for Thursday at Jolly Green General
As I read through this paper by Rodrik, I found myself agreeing with many of his points. In trying to understand his thoughts and arguments, I often found myself comparing policies and institutions within the U.S. with those of Denmark, where I studied abroad last fall. I found that so many of his points applied to the differences one sees between the two countries. While both countries are highly developed with high standards of living, it seems to me, the two could not have more different political, economic and social institutions, which goes to support Rodrik’s argument that individual policies must be tailored to the specifics of each nation that they are meant to help. During my time in Denmark I took a Healthcare Economics and an Environmental Economics course focused on Danish policies and how those worked in comparison to the United States’ policies. Being a small, progressive country with minimal crime, the happiest people in the world and very low rates of poverty, it seemed as if the country was functioning like a utopia and thus there were many times other students and I would find ourselves questioning “why can’t the U.S. implement something like this.” However, after one semester studying the differences in policy, it became apparent that those policies simply would not work as well as they do there on such a big country such as the United States. The institutions and policies have allowed for success in Denmark and the United States can definitely take a few pointers from the Danish policy, however the U.S. is truly a whole other animal which needs its own unique policies and institutions to function properly as a developed country. This same theory applies to developing countries, there is no cookie cutter approach that will fix all problems, but rather time and thought must be put in to construct efficient policy and successful institutions in a country that will allow it to develop and sustain.
Toggle Commented Oct 5, 2016 on Reading for Thursday at Jolly Green General
This paper brings to our attention a couple simple words that are learned in any introductory economics classes: ceteris paribus. I remember my freshman year introduction to microeconomics class in which people constantly asked “but what if you changed this or that” or “how could you assume that would be true”? At first it seemed odd and unrealistic to be using these graphs with only two products or only two sectors to explain our entire world economy, but the more economics classes I took, the more I became comfortable with this idea of assuming away any complication. However, Krugman brings back up that initial discomfort that many of us freshman exhibited when we questioned the validity and applicability of such a limited model to the real world. Now, in my microeconomic theory class, I am slowly being made aware of all the short comings that the introductory microeconomic models had. In order for us to gain any understanding at all it was necessary to at first make simple assumptions, however now that we have gotten to higher level classes it is assumed that we should be able to think critically about the assumptions being made, and further have a better understanding of what may happen if one of these assumptions were to be violated. Professor Goldsmith’s favorite “game” is ceteris paribus violation in which he forces us to think and question how some of these models may change if one of the assumptions were to not be true. While Professor Goldsmith makes a point of the model’s limitations, there are countless paper’s that I’ve read for other classes, which tend to forget that ceteris paribus violations do occur in the real world and this is what Krugman criticizes most. It seems to me that the best economists would combine the models and math with sound reasoning in plain English to explain economic phenomenon so that we can not only understand how the model should work in the real world, but also further question what may happen if certain assumptions are violated. I found this paper thought provoking as it caused me to reflect on how the models I have been taught have been expanded and changed over the 3 short years I’ve been studying economics and how much those classical models may change for economists who are on the cutting edge of research in new fields for example.
One of the main themes within these two chapters was the overarching concept that income in itself is not a true indicator of the level of development within a country. There were two parts of the reading which peaked my interest most. First, had to do with the “missing women” in Asia. In my South Asia Economics class we recently read a paper by Emily Oster which examined this phenomenon in depth and sought after exactly what was causing this disparity. Just as Sen says, Oster found that in India the primary reason for “missing women” had to do with childhood neglect. She explained that 50% of the sex imbalance was explained by differences in vaccination, food intake and medical care between ages 1 and 5. She contrasted the sex imbalance in India with that of China, which on the other hand had a sex imbalance immediately from birth due to sex selective abortion and infanticide. Both cases support Sen’s point that certain areas of development such as mortality need to be looked at with various lenses and perspectives. It would be short sighted to say that higher mortality rates of children in a certain country are only due to income, because as we see in Oster’s paper there are also traditions and cultural perspectives (which may unfortunately include gender inequality) which contribute to these levels of mortality. For example, in Nepali tradition, it is common for the men to eat first and then for the women and children to eat once the men have had their filling of food. In a developing country when there is not as much food to go around, this leaves women and children at times not getting the food intake and nourishment necessary to survive. This example leads into the second point of interest that Sen makes in the second chapter. His emphasis on the fact that traditions cannot be ruled out by “guardians” or “experts”, but rather should be left open to society makes perfect sense in theory, however the actual act of opening up this discussion and choosing to make these changes to long standing traditions is a totally different and difficult thing to do. While this idea goes along well with his arguments about freedom and development, my primary concern is that no matter how educated and healthy a country gets, that traditions are something that will continue to take prevalence for decades further. As Professor Silwal put it in our class, “having a Ph.D means nothing” when she explained that during family dinners she still serves the men first and then sits to eat after they have finished. This just goes to show how long standing traditions which may prevent freedom and development can be so deeply rooted that even education and empowerment of women cannot always change them.
While reading "The Economic Lives of the Poor", I couldn’t help but draw many comparisons to another one of Benerjee’s papers I read this week for my Development and Demographics in South Asia Class. As Cara discussed above, one of the main conclusions this other paper came to was that regions in which investment in health and education was stifled in the past, experienced lower levels of productivity going forward. This concept seemed to ring true throughout "The Economic Lives of the Poor" as well. While the authors say that many developing areas do have health centers and primary schools for education, it is clear that these areas are not likely to experience the benefits as they are poor quality. I found it appalling to hear that according to one study the treatments suggested by an average provider are more likely to do harm than good. This emphasizes the extreme need for more investment in health and education services so that the developing countries can in fact benefit from these services. Drawing on a paper I read in Professor Blunch’s healthcare economics class, if a mother had math skills (which are taught in school) this had a significant positive effect on their health knowledge. This just goes to show that investing in education will also help to improve healthcare outcomes in the area. "The Economic Lives of the Poor" goes on to discuss the plethora of other decisions that the poor face such as living arrangements, the food they choose to consume, what kinds of assets they buy, how they earn their money, their lack of access to credit, however based on the evidence in this paper along with previous papers conclusions, it seems to me that investing in health and education infrastructure could be the best starting point for improving the quality of life for the poor. By focusing on these sectors first, the poor would be better prepared to make many of the other tough decisions that the authors bring up in this paper.
Toggle Commented Sep 14, 2016 on ECON 280 Reading for Thursday at Jolly Green General
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Sep 14, 2016