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Sam Boxley
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Esther Duflo provides a thorough analysis of the two-pronged issue of inequality between men and women. Put simply, the relationship between economic development and women’s empowerment can be approached in two ways: development breeding increased empowerment, and empowerment catalyzing improved development. She sheds light on the idea that, despite the fact that only one or the other is usually emphasized by policymakers, neither strategy can competently achieve true equity on its own. One aspect of the paper that really caught my attention was the discussion on the “implicit” bias faced by women in developed countries. While women clearly face a large degree of explicit discrimination and mistreatment in developing countries as evidenced by lack of political representation, education and work opportunities, health outcomes, bargaining power in the household, etc, the sort of deeply-rooted, almost unconscious inequality between men and women in all countries and the impact that it has on their respective outcomes was alarming. While the more clear form of female oppression seen in developing countries is obviously egregious, many of these issues, such as the tendency to sacrifice the health of female children for males when resources are scarce, can be remedied through poverty reduction. But the impact of the implicit associations made between men and women even in developed countries seems like a less clear-cut issue to tackle. Psychologists’ idea of the “stereotype threat”, which shows that, among other things, women are often associated with families while men are associated with careers, reinforces gender norms that prevent women from gaining true equality. Women have internalized notions that there are areas in which they are inherently inferior to men (such as the belief that they are worse at math than men), which inhibits the pursuit of female equality even with conditions that favor it. In addition, women are judged more harshly as leaders, especially when acting in a position that is typically thought of as a male role. This type of implicit bias against women comes as the result of consistent reinforcement of female inferiority throughout history, suggesting an issue so engrained in society that it could take generations to alleviate. This, along with a multitude of other points, helps provide justification for Dufflo’s theory that development alone cannot bring about gender equality. She suggests that while in the long run gender equality will bring about superior outcomes, “it will be necessary to continue to take policy actions that favor women at the expense of men, and it may be necessary to do so for a very long time.”
Toggle Commented Oct 18, 2018 on ECON 280 for Friday at Jolly Green General
Krugman’s piece on the fall and rise of development economics and the role that economic modeling has played in the field’s trajectory offers a great change of pace from the ordinary economic paper. Krugman offers insight into the history of not only development economics but economic modeling as a whole, providing us with a pragmatic take on the function of economic models and theory that I feel like we seldom see in economics. People often get so caught up in the intricacies and specifics that they fail to see the greater point, which Krugman so satisfyingly reminds us of: Its just a model. There is no way to appropriately boil down the complexities of human behavior and thinking into a series of theories and graphs, but from dumbing down different phenomena through the process of assumptions, theories, and modeling we are able to extract what is truly important. It enables us to grasp difficult concepts because, as Krugman says, “You make a set of clearly untrue simplifications to get the system down to something you can handle; those simplifications are dictated partly by guesses about what is important, partly by modeling techniques available.” The purpose of models are not to act as some sort of end all be all solution to a given problem, but rather to give us a starting point to build off of. Krugman’s comparison of early mappings of Africa to the path that development economics has taken through time was thoroughly enjoyable and made the main points he was trying to put forth both relatable and easy to digest. It helps to explain why the works of the likes of Albert Hirschman, once a prominent development economist, have faded into insignificance. The idea that “A rise in the standards of rigor and logic led to a much improved level of understanding of some things, but also led for a time to an unwillingness to confront those area the new technical rigor could not yet reach” is something that can be applied not only to social sciences, but many other facets of life as well. We often reach a certain point where we demand such an unequivocal validity to ideas and theories that anything that cannot be proven in such a way is not only deemed unsubstantiated, but irrelevant and useless. Its a very potent comparison that I think sheds light on some of the shortcomings associated with advancements in all professional fields, but as Krugman says, is often “an inevitable part of what happens when we try to make sense of the world’s complexity.”
Toggle Commented Sep 27, 2018 on ECON 280 for Friday at Jolly Green General
Wang, Wong, and Yip’s paper repeatedly emphasizes the vital role that political institutions play in development outcomes across the globe. The trend amongst Asian Tigers and other fast-growing countries is relatively clear: employ open-market policies, focus on diversified export growth and promote FDI and tech investment. And while the success of said policies can often defend on country-to-country- variables and outside factors such as the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990’s, the formula for stimulating growth is there. What really struck me about this piece was the consistent themes present in those countries which have experienced stagnant or declining development. Aside from some clear disadvantages faced by formerly imperialized, poverty-trapped countries such as Comoros, Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda, who did not gain independence until the mid to late 20th century, poor political institutions and barriers have stalled development in countries that may very well otherwise be thriving today. Countries such as Argentina and Chile implemented overly protectionist policies of import substitution, closing off markets and leading to crippling inflation. The Philippines and Brazil were plagued by rampant government corruption, a signal of unsound political institutions. Comoros, Cote d’Ivoire, and Uganda rely heavily on the agriculture industry and have yet to fully industrialize. Many countries have also relied far too heavily on one or few industries or goods to drive economic output. Cote d’Ivoire once comprised 40% of global cocoa production, so when cocoa prices crashed in the 1970’s it crippled the national economy. Kenya’s dependence on foreign oil made the global oil crises in the 1970’s especially difficult, and their reliance on coffee and tea exports compounded the problem. The world is constantly becoming more interconnected, technologically driven, and sophisticated, and the common missteps of excessive protectionism, inability or refusal to properly industrialize, and lack of success with staving off corruption that have been made by stagnated countries highlights the crucial role that institutional barriers play in development.
Toggle Commented Sep 20, 2018 on ECON 280 for Friday at Jolly Green General
Sachs’ discussion on the successes and failures of the MDGs and ways in which the SDGs can build on those experiences is definitely a step in the right direction, but in some cases I’m not sure if the path to get there is very clear or necessarily feasible. I think his point that simplicity proved vital to the success of MSGs while still emphasizing “very specific and actionable measures as the keys to success” made the goals accessible and straightforward. The criticisms he provides of the MSGs, though, in some cases do not provide adequate solutions to the issues he has laid out. I thought Sachs made a good point in saying that moving forward the SDGs should have intermediate milestones, as this holds governments and corporations more responsible for keeping up with commitments. The issue of how “the private sector should be crucially engaged from the very start”, though, is where I feel like his plan for SDGs gets a little murky. While large multinationals certainly have abundant resources that could be allocated to this global humanitarian effort, I feel as though it is a bit idealistic to expect many corporations to divert much of their attention to sustainability. Sachs even admits that some corporations’ operations are inherently opposed to sustainability, so I feel like in order for the private sector to really make a meaningful impact there needs to be some sort of enforcement policy. Lastly, Sachs calls on societies worldwide to buy into this global effort of sustainable development. While countries will certainly participate, my initial response is that states will be more inclined to spend the majority of their money on domestic issues. That being said, only a small portion of national income needs to be allocated to the SDGs in order to make an impact, so it is entirely possible that I am completely wrong there and am taking an overly cynical stance.
Toggle Commented Sep 13, 2018 on ECON 280 at Jolly Green General
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Sep 13, 2018