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Lucas Longo
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While Duflo makes it clear in her article that she doesn’t believe economic development or women’s empowerment are able to start a self-sustaining cycle on their own, she does provide a lot of insight into some of the merits of each. To start, I found the part regarding differential treatment among girls and boys living in poverty particularly interesting. Although it wasn’t hard to believe that extreme instances of poverty would have a larger negative effect on girls, I was surprised to read that under “normal circumstances” boys and girls received similar treatment. This is encouraging for those that want to promote development as a means of empowering women, as women’s welfare may possibly improve simply from the reduction of severe poverty in a country. This does not just apply to younger girls either, as evidenced by the higher numbers of older women that are branded as witches and killed in Tanzania when the harvest is not plentiful. Additionally, the expectations set for women seem to play a huge role in their empowerment. One example provided by Duflo was in regard to maternal mortality and its role in determining the level of parental investment. The story here was that parents would not expect girls to live as long as boys in areas where the maternal mortality rate was especially high, and this would discourage investment in any female children they had. Interestingly enough, one study even found that when maternal mortality rates fell in Sri Lanka, boys’ and girls’ education levels actually converged, possibly due to increases in investment in girls due to more positive future expectations. Furthermore, expectations are also important regarding how women perceive themselves, which can have real world effects that play out in what Duflo calls “stereotype bias”. For example, according to Duflo, when men and women take the same difficult math test, women will do worse than men; however, when they are told before taking the test that the stereotype that women are not as good at math does not apply to the test, they receive the same scores as men. Taking this into account, I think changing both men and women’s expectations and perceptions of women could be an area that leads to much more empowerment for women, and certainly warrants further study.
Toggle Commented Oct 18, 2018 on ECON 280 for Friday at Jolly Green General
I really liked Krugman’s discussion of models, a subject that I have never felt like I fully grasped. His analogies between meteorology and economics I thought were especially helpful in getting his point across in regard to the benefits of models and why we use them. I had never really thought of modelling as making “a set of clearly untrue simplifications to get the system down to something you can handle”, but once I thought about it that’s really what it boils down to. I liked how he then compared the use of perfectly competitive markets to Fultz’s dish pan model, which helped to shed light on the thought processes of pre-1970s economists. Additionally, I found it funny that there is pushback to the use of models when it comes to the social sciences, as I’m skeptical as to how simplifying human society in such models threatens one’s dignity. Another point I found worth noting was Krugman’s staunch defense of models; he states bluntly that “there is no alternative to models”. I thought one of the strongest arguments for models that he presented was how models can show what might be true. This, Krugman asserts, engenders further research, whereas a verbal argument presents something flatly as true, which can create a false confidence in its validity. I also liked how Krugman qualified his argument when he noted the issue models have in that they can cause a narrowing of focus. Sometimes, therefore, it is important to look at issues more broadly, as exemplified by the Norwegian scientists in 1919.
Toggle Commented Sep 27, 2018 on ECON 280 for Friday at Jolly Green General
One of the things that really jumped out to me in this article was the large impact, either positive or negative, that outside countries can have on a given country’s development. For example, Taiwan was able to experience rapid development while relying on technology imports from the United States and Japan that it likely would not have had access too otherwise. Additionally, the authors mention foreign direct investment (FDI) as an important driver of development; this was brought up in the analysis of Thailand, which relied partly on Japanese investments to help quell its economic problems in the 1980s. I think this evidence places somewhat of a burden on more developed countries to help kickstart developing economies if possible, as countries such as the US are clearly able to provide an impetus for economic growth in certain situations. Questions then arise however in regard to which developing countries should be invested in and how much should be invested. On the other hand, this reliance of developing countries on those already developed does have its drawbacks which also need to be considered. One that initially come to mind is the effect of financial crises. A crisis that occurs in one country may have large effects downstream, as with the 2008 crisis in the United States and the harm it caused Greece. However, it seems that the risks are outweighed by the possible benefits that developed countries are able to provide. Another aspect that I found unsurprising yet still compelling was the dependence of many of the laggard countries in this study on agriculture. Clearly many of these countries, such as Kenya, have not recovered much since the prices for some commodities such as coffee crashed in the 1970s. I wonder if helping these laggard countries to transition from this reliance on agriculture would be a viable/feasible means of development.
Toggle Commented Sep 20, 2018 on ECON 280 for Friday at Jolly Green General
One of Jeffery Sachs’ ideas that really stood out to me was the role of governance and its importance in achieving the SDGs. I took a comparative institutional economics class last year which really opened my eyes to the massive role that institutions can play in the development of a country. I remember one article that claimed that when a country had extractive institutions in place, a natural resource boom could actually end up harming the country. While this is just one study, it demonstrates how economic theories are important to keep in mind when planning sustainable development goals, and I think in some cases it is critical to tailor goals to a specific country’s development needs, in addition to the broader MDGs and SDGs. Sachs touched on this by stressing the importance of all levels of governance rather than emphasizing one key area of focus, and I think this more holistic approach should not be understated. I also found it intriguing that half of the low-income individuals in the world live in middle-income countries. This is encouraging as we know that those countries have the resources to produce tangible change. Hopefully policymakers will use this information as an incentive for the timely creation of SDGs in order help guide these countries on their developmental path.
Toggle Commented Sep 13, 2018 on ECON 280 at Jolly Green General
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Sep 12, 2018