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Clair Spotts
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Esther Duflo’s piece was very enlightening to the way in which women act and are perceived in societies today. One statistic that surprised me was that women in Sweden spent 70% more time caring for their children than their male counterparts. I found this so shocking because it seems the Scandinavian countries are often used as the ideal of developed nations. They have low crime, some of the best educational attainments, and yet an inherent cultural bias still exists in terms of women and childcare. This paper reminded of a question I’ve had for a while in this class: do the people in these studies receive some sort of payment from being studied? In some cases, one group often receives some sort of benefit (from one example in this paper, contraceptive vouchers), but do they receive a monetary payment for participating in the study as well? Should they receive such a payment, since the purpose of the study, and other studies like it, is to better understand those in developing countries so that things may be changed and resources may be provided to help reduce their poverty and increase their freedom as individuals? Another aspect of the study that made me a bit uneasy was the division of the study groups. Of course I understand the importance of these studies, and yet it seems unfair, and maybe even unethical, to offer one group a benefit and not the other. In one case from this paper, both groups were offered the benefit of contraceptive vouchers but one group was offered the voucher in the presence of their husbands while the other was offered the voucher in secret. The study resulted in the expected findings that women who received the vouchers in secret benefited significantly more from the voucher. Is it ethical to withhold the potential freedom of someone (via giving the voucher in the presence of their husband) for the sake of a study? What would Sen say to that? India’s approach to increasing women’s participation in government was quite intriguing. Under their reservation policy, “at each election, one-third of the villages are random selected and must elect a woman at the head of the local council” (1071). This has lead to a decrease in bias against female leaders, as well as an increase in female educational attainment in villages that had a reserved position. I’m not well versed on the workings of the Indian political system, but I wondered how such a reservation position system could work in the US. Currently there are 84 women in the House, 23 in the Senate, and six serving as governors. To hit the 30% benchmark there would have to be 130, 30, and 15 in each position. The reserved position would have to be announced significantly ahead of time to ensure that each party put forth a female candidate. Male incumbents would, inevitably, be knocked out, regardless of their popularity or their job performance. The current freedom of Americans, including women, to choose specifically who they wanted most as their representative, would be taken away in order to promote future freedoms of American women in politics and, more broadly, Americans’ ability to choose the best representative, without being swayed by an inherent gender bias. This reservation system would lead to more women in politics and thus, in theory, better qualified candidates overall. This in some ways parallels my thoughts on RCTs above, but is the lessening of freedoms of today (in pursuit of freedoms of tomorrow) worth the freedoms tomorrow will bring? Is the potential withholding of aid in order to study its effects on different families worth the benefit of knowing the effects?
Toggle Commented Oct 18, 2018 on ECON 280 for Friday at Jolly Green General
As many have said before me, this article did a great job of contrasting the distrust of the use of economic models (as opposed to hard science models) with the importance of their use in the field of economics. As someone who is not an economics major, I have always found it very hard to trust models. I can understand their utility in many instances, however, I don’t like the idea of delegating human experience to patterns and predictions that cannot always be properly reflected in models. Nearly every day in class, the answer to whether one cause will lead to one outcome is “it depends.” Humans don’t always follow the most rational path and presenting the behavior of large groups of people in a model is hard. While there is valid use of looking at a graph or other model in order to understand the basics of a situation, so many situations are much more complex. Fultz’s dish-pan can be accepted as a model and not be criticized for its lack of attention to every detail because no one is being overlooked when the earth is represented as flat. On the other hand, when economic models simplify human behavior, and are then taken as fact and adopted without taking into consideration the assumptions being made in the model, people can be harmed. While working in a refugee resettlement organization, I was puzzled to learn that some of our clients would willingly return home to places they had fled. They would give up the possibility of US support and citizenship in favor of a sense of social security in some of the most dangerous places in the world. Rationally, it was the wrong choice, but it was the choice they made, and they had the freedom of being part of a developed country to make it. Models are important, but must be used carefully so that they do not detract from the freedom of those they are representing.
Toggle Commented Sep 27, 2018 on ECON 280 for Friday at Jolly Green General
I wish this work had looked at all developing nations. While the writers did define and support a clear pattern of fast-growing and laggard economies, with consist reasons for the demonstrated outcomes, I would have liked additional countries to be included. Because there is only a set number of developing countries, it’s possible, and important, to include more than 20, especially when arguing that certain circumstances result in specific outcomes. The countries chosen, with the exception of Greece, were all from similar geographical areas. I would have liked to see a Central American county included, as well as a Northern African/Middle Eastern country. In addition, because this paper looked at development from a purely economical standpoint, it overlooked any potential advances the laggard countries saw, or the fast-growing countries missed, in their social and political development overtime. As we’ve discussed in class, development cannot be viewed from one lens if one wishes to have a full understanding of the improvement (or lack there of) of citizens’ lives over time. It would be beneficial to look for sources covering any social/political development for the countries in this paper to view any progress made.
Toggle Commented Sep 20, 2018 on ECON 280 for Friday at Jolly Green General
While I enjoyed the ideas in this piece, I found them overall to be too idealistic. I do agree that sustainable development is the proper way to approach development in today’s age, however the points outlined, like many other similar goals before it, seem unrealistic. That is not to say that, in an ideal world, they couldn’t happen. For decades we as a planet have had the food capacity to feed everyone. However, we haven’t, and I doubt we will any time soon. The problem lies in the relationship between people and between countries. For the SDG’s first point, that of safe water, nutrition, health services, etc, worldwide by 2030, I can’t imagine that happening in 12 years. If the water in Flint Michigan is still undrinkable, then how could it be expected that every developing nation provide what the US has failed to do for its citizens in such a short period of time? In addition to lack of funding for such a goal, I can’t imagine there being enough stability worldwide, especially in struggling developing countries, to allow for such access to simple necessities to take place. As for the second point, Sachs’ also notes, and I agree with, the fear that developing countries may not be able to meet desired sustainable development that developed countries with the adequate infrastructure and monetary funding aren’t meeting as well. The third SDG is by far the most unattainable and yet the most hopeful. The third seems to be most inline with Sen’s capabilities approach. Depending on how one defines promoting the wellbeing and capabilities of all their citizens, it could be argued that some countries have reached this goal, but I don’t believe anyone has. Is it even possible to be able to and to succeed in promoting the wellbeing of all citizens? Using the US as an example again, people here have more opportunities than those living in the CAR, but not everyone, at least not to the same degree. The imprisoned population, native Americans, those experiencing homelessness, the elderly without a family support system, various other minority groups, impoverished Appalachia, the list goes on. Even some of those whose wellbeing is promoted still lack life satisfaction (45,000 suicides in 2016). While this is a great goal to shoot for, it just doesn’t seem attainable. As for the fourth SDG, international cooperation has always been rocky at best. Adding to that sustainable development, transparency, and human rights, the goal seems quite far away from completion. The SDGs are beneficial in that they clearly and succinctly lay out admirable goals for the world for the future. Irregardless of the possibility of them being fully completed, I do think they should be the goal of all nations.
Toggle Commented Sep 13, 2018 on ECON 280 at Jolly Green General
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Sep 13, 2018