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Joey Dickinson
Council Bluffs, Iowa
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As most of my classmates have already pointed out, this paper highlights the importance of using a variety of indicators (as in the health, education, and living standard measures that make up the Multidimensional Poverty Index) to measure poverty. The fact that previous literature has indicated that aid ‘works; it doesn’t; it can, but it depends...’ demonstrates just how critical it is that we don't think about financial indicators as being a sufficient signifier of well-being. The paper highlights that economic growth doesn't necessarily lead to a decrease in poverty, which makes sense when thinking about the Kuznet's curve model we talked about briefly toward the beginning of the year, in which as economies grow economic inequality may actually increase before it begins to decrease. On a separate note, I think this is also a good reminder that we can operate using models for years before we realize that we're going about things the wrong way; how do we ensure that we get things right, the first time? The US's poverty measure still suffers in a lot of ways, and we're 'developed'... how do we ensure that we are measuring poverty correctly in other countries that are still developing, if we can't even measure it properly in our own?
Toggle Commented Nov 13, 2020 on Last Post of the Year at Jolly Green General
To echo my classmates, this paper was very difficult. The limited understanding that I came away with way that US interest rates can influence developing markets in multiple ways, the effects of which have been disputed. For example, high US interest rates can divert investment from developing foreign markets by raising opportunity costs of investing abroad; but the demand side is also important, and the paper points out that previous studies have suffered from neglecting to look at both the supply and demand sides of the equation. Regardless, because our global economy is so interconnected, do we then have an obligation to try to keep interest rates low to the extent that it doesn't harm our economy too much? As global neighbors, it seems the right thing to do. Does the Fed take this into consideration when creating policy already?
Toggle Commented Nov 6, 2020 on For Friday's Discussion at Jolly Green General
I really enjoyed reading about the Progresa program. Clearly, conditional cash transfers provide excellent incentives to keep children in school, which unsurprisingly has led to significant long-term effects on labor force participation, wages, and even consumption. Matt and I were talking about our final paper earlier today and discussed (as he mentions above) the paper we read about giving welfare to a female member of the household versus giving it to the male member of the household, and how it was distributed more efficiently. I wonder how this was done with the Progresa program; clearly, there are stronger returns for women than men here: would they be stronger if the money was given directly to the woman? Though this research shows that agency was provided to these women through increased labor force participation and migration ability, perhaps that would be yet another way to increase autonomy. I'm also curious about the benefit of unconditional cash transfers; how beneficial are they as compared to conditional cash transfers? We talk a lot in the Shepherd program about providing autonomy to those experiencing poverty, and I'm wondering how that money would be allocated differently if it were given unconditionally. Do we have a moral responsibility to provide families with that autonomy, or is it better to regulate certain aspects of these cash transfers?
Toggle Commented Oct 30, 2020 on For Friday's Discussion at Jolly Green General
This paper reaffirmed what we've been talking about for the last couple of classes; human capital is perhaps the most critical piece to economic development. The returns to education are so incredibly high, especially for those countries which are further behind in development and don't have a lot of human capital currently. However, it is impossible for us to get to an appropriate equilibrium level of education if we are unable to correctly estimate the social benefit curve. How can we better estimate this curve? As Graham pointed out, it seems a disservice to developing countries who are most in need of human capital development through education to not be able to appropriately approximate this curve. Or, to take it a step further, I think we might even have a moral obligation to do our best to estimate this curve, not just for the sake of academia, but in order to persuade policymakers to provide valuable human capital that can tremendously better countless lives, many of which are experiencing poverty and underdevelopment.
Toggle Commented Oct 23, 2020 on For Friday's Discussion at Jolly Green General
I found this article to be perhaps the most interesting of anything we've read so far. In particular, I thought the issues surrounding empowering women that were brought up-- such as the potential inefficiencies of putting women in positions of power, or the lack of evidence supporting the micro-credit industry's focus on providing credit to women-- were interesting. In my opinion, this emphasizes the importance of ensuring that we don't view women's empowerment as a "magic bullet," as the authors point out. Policy, while crucial to economic development on the whole as well as women's empowerment, should be very carefully considered before being implemented (as of course any policy should be; however, we have to ensure that women or other vulnerable populations aren't accidentally harmed by this policy. The claim that "it will be necessary to continue to take policy actions that favor women at the expense of men, and it may be necessary to continue doing so for a very long time" also resonated with me. The kind of policy actions described within this piece (especially regarding the micro-credit industry and the challenges associated with providing women the resources and education to use the credit well) illustrated just how deeply embedded into our various institutions the challenges women face are. I think this is reflective of the challenges that other vulnerable populations, and it is crucial that we recognize that equality might mean comparative disadvantage for those who have traditionally had unearned advantage and/or privilege at the expense of others.
Toggle Commented Oct 9, 2020 on Duflo for Friday at Jolly Green General
Having known little to nothing about the Morrill Land Grant Act, this article was quite enlightening. Something that jumped out at me in particular was the incredible irony of the origins of the idea of agricultural college; there were so many young men obtaining education that they needed a new field to send them into, so they taught them to study something the poor had been doing for thousands upon thousands of years. I think this really speaks to what we've talked about in class a few times now; you can't just come into farming communities and try to impose new methodology on them because you think you know better. I find it so interesting that this was one of the initial reasons for the proposal of an agricultural college system, and I wonder how closely that is tied with the relationship between college students coming into farming communities now to help them 'improve.' It was also quite interesting to read a couple of the founding father's arguments for the public funding of education; I hadn't actually read anything like this before, and I think it's a really great way to approach people who argue that publicly funded education (or the expansion of it to preschool and post-high school education) isn't the government's responsibility.
Toggle Commented Oct 1, 2020 on For Friday's Discussion at Jolly Green General
Quiggin's piece has me reflecting on our previous conversation about culture. His argument largely centers around the fact that developed countries are unwilling to devote the time, energy, and resources in the short term to both ensure that future generations are left with similar or better capabilities than we currently have (I'm very curious about his paper that argues that we could sustain a 15 hour workweek by 2060!), but to also provide for those in developing nations or who are otherwise experiencing poverty in the present. This is obvious as Quiggin continually returns to the 'We CAN do it, but WILL we?' motif. However, Quiggin points out toward the end of the piece that Americans, on average, feel that foreign aid should be "reduced" to ten percent of the government budget. So, if Americans view this level of foreign investment as acceptable now, perhaps we ARE willing to devote the resources necessary to ensure equitable access of consumption, both now and intergenerationally. Of course, this number is based on a serious misunderstanding of how the government budget is allocated, BUT if there is this serious of a misunderstanding, perhaps our policy is not actually reflective of our culture; perhaps it is not, as Quiggin points out, an unwillingness to sacrifice resources and living standards (I say sacrifice hesitantly, as I'm not sure that the level of consumption that Quiggins compels us to give up is that severe in contrast to the cruelties of poverty experienced globally), but a system that not only fails to reflect the morals of its citizens, but also fails to educate them on how the system actually works. That is to say, that if Americans had a fundamental understanding of how our government spends its budget, and took even a beginning ethics course (or, perhaps people are so fundamentally good that this latter big wouldn't be necessary), I think we would have a population more than willing to make the 'sacrifices' required of them in order to ensure these sustainability and development goals. There are so many ways to think about this ethically-- we can think about Sen's developmental freedoms as being expanded, not only for those lifted out of poverty or for those in the future able to live on a planet that is still alive, but for those now who would no longer be forced into exposure to so many pollutants; those that would be able to afford food; even those in already developed nations would eventually experience a shortened work week. We can think about this from a Singer perspective-- the sacrifice of say, not eating out for a few years in order to ensure equity is certainly a sacrifice worth making; we can think of this from the point of view of Rawls, and ask ourselves if we were to not know where we would come out on the other side when building an ideal society, not only socioeconomically and geographically, but intertemporally-- any way we choose to think about this, I think there's a really clear answer, and I think that the reason we're not, as Quiggins says, 'willing' to make those sacrifices is because we live in a system that we don't know enough about and that isn't working for the majority any longer.
Toggle Commented Sep 24, 2020 on Readings for Friday at Jolly Green General
Like Sarah mentioned, I'm interested to read more about the social implications of such fast economic development. Can we really consider it 'development' in the manner that Sen describes (individual autonomy, etc.) if women (and laborers on the whole) are suffering in their quality of life in order to promote this growth? How much of that can we really attribute to 'Confucian Ethos'?Sadly, that is how many developed or developing countries created economic growth: by exploiting workers. To what extent might it be morally required of us to actually slow growth and ensure the rights of everyone to Sen's freedoms, promoting a slower development in contrast to just getting it done as quickly as possible? I think it's important that we slow down and ensure that growth is equitable; after all, it's not like post-development the groups of workers that were exploited will suddenly be on level footing with everyone else. I fear that this type of development creates a system that ensures that minority and vulnerable populations will constantly be trying to 'catch up' with everyone else.
Toggle Commented Sep 17, 2020 on Miracle on the Han for Friday at Jolly Green General
I really enjoyed the author's discussion of the limitations of formal models, and regardless of those limitations, the necessities for those models. It feels rare that we as students get to challenge the concepts that are presented to us in classes, at least until the college level of education. However, Krugman makes a wonderful point in presenting these formal models as a starting point that isn't wholly reflective of the real world; as a couple of my peers have already mentioned, these models are meant to be built upon and adapted as we learn and are able to improve them. One thing that stuck out to me in particular was Krugman's argument that "...the most vociferous critics of economic models are often politically motivated. They have very strong ideas about what they want to believe; their convictions are essentially driven by values rather than analysis, but when an analysis threatens those beliefs they prefer to attack its assumptions rather than examine the basis for their own beliefs." I understand the point that Krugman is trying to make in that political motivations can often contaminate the results of academic research, but I also feel that our beliefs (to be clear, I don't mean political beliefs per se, but in more of a gut-level or moral sense) can guide us to see flaws within the model. For example, if our findings point to a typically racist ideology, such as the argument that black people commit more crime, I think that on a gut level (as humans striving to be antiracist) we can reject that idea and see where the model might have gone wrong (because we know, for instance, that policing is concentrated in black neighborhoods, and that black people are more likely to be convicted of crimes).
Toggle Commented Sep 10, 2020 on Krugman for Friday at Jolly Green General
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Sep 3, 2020
While reading this, the main thing that stood out to me was the incredible contrast between the challenges that individual countries faced when trying to achieve developed status, expand their economies, or increase the freedoms that their citizens enjoy. Like others have mentioned, it seems that 'good governance' as mentioned in our overview of the SDGs continues to be a key theme here, and maybe those ideas of what good governance is have begun to be explored, but I feel that this is just a very brief overview of what good governance might look like; the myriad of challenges facing developing countries could imply that good governance means something quite different for different nations, especially when you take into consideration various cultural values and practices. To tie this back to Sen again, this is my thought process when summarizing the challenges we (assuming 'we' are a developed nation collaborating with other nations to aid in their development): how do we 1.) identify the freedoms that are important to individual, diverse nations, knowing that they could vary; 2.) ensure that our definition of 'good governance' aligns with these prioritized freedoms in a way that respects varying cultural norms; 3.) enact policy that will expand these freedoms?
Toggle Commented Sep 3, 2020 on Reading for next Friday at Jolly Green General
As others have mentioned, I am a bit skeptical of Sachs' idea that the private sector could be mobilized to support the SDGs (to use Matthew's terminology) 'out of the goodness of their hearts.' There are many instances of the private sector influencing public policy which lead me to believe that this is just too optimistic. I would imagine that policy incentives would need to be enacted in order to coerce the private sector to support (directly or indirectly) these goals. Surely, that would only happen if the government itself was supportive of these goals; however as Sachs mentions in the article, the MDGs have previously received huge support and verbal commitment from various states that haven't followed through with the promised action, which leads me to believe that the UN would need to provide greater incentives to countries to support the SDGs rather than on purely moral grounds, and we know that the UN isn't great at that. All of this leads me to believe that as practical as Sachs may try to be making his suggestions, more than anything we need a complete moral overhaul of our culture of hyper-consumption. All of that being said, I do think that his presentation of the SDGs is a very useful extension of the MDGs if garnering the support is possible, which it might be at the individual consumer level: it is clear that Millenials and Gen-Z have much more concern for the environment, for example, than previous generations and ethical consumerism seems to be 'trendy' as of late. (My apologies for the late submission.)
Joey Dickinson is now following The Typepad Team
Aug 27, 2020