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After reading classmates comments I am better able to comprehend why the paper was left on such a dreary note. At first the paper seemed almost lamenting with an urging but pessimistic tone. However, I guess this was intended to scare people into action. I do wonder if the rest of the paper describes at all what action. Another note that is applicable to class discussion was Professor Casey's comments that it can't just be one country making changes. If we want to significantly reduce carbon release it has to be China and the U.S. who will bring India along with them in the near future. Even though I took AP Environmental Science in high school I feel largely ignorant in much of this week's lessons. The effects of climate change illustrated by either a 2 degree versus 4 degree change were highly worrisome and unknown to me. This type of information was not largely discussed in my previous classes related to this topic. In fact climate change was only ever discussed so broadly that I never thoroughly applied it to having differing levels of impact in different places, especially with poor nations. Now it clearly seems unfair to me that poorer developing countries cannot adapt to the various environmental changes, while other countries that are actually the source of the problem will be better suited to cope with these changes. The connection between increasing development and reducing poverty and climate change is something that I would strongly recommend teaching more thoroughly at an earlier age. I would recommend this paper to some of my high school courses while recommending teachers try to connect these two areas. Though many argue that people are fairly ambivalent to things that do not directly affect them I think articles as persuasive as this could make large impacts if more widely known about.
I also had some difficulty with the second article and I think my comments on the first article, especially after class discussion, would be more meaningful. Relating to what others have also commented on, I found the micro-finance article to address an area I had never really considered would be the most beneficial way to allocate resources to tackle poverty. It makes more sense though that this occurs through the banks making a profit also. This thought is also slightly concerning when evaluating motivation. Reading the article however, I see this type of system in a much more positive light. Additionally, the research into the design of such systems that is discussed in the article can continue to make micro-finance even more beneficial. There is another area mentioned in the article and expounded upon in class that I found very significant and different than I would have predicted. This is the way that savings accounts with high penalties for withdrawal helped people, especially those already with higher relative incomes, to save more since the social pressures to share were more easily escaped. This thought struck me as strange because I was brought up where it was respected to make smart decisions and save your money; however, in very poor places, this is seen as morally wrong. This makes sense, and programs like this therefore are making significant impacts by allowing these people to save more, and likely improve their standard of living more quickly than they otherwise would be able to. The only question here though is that banks have now altered the already very tight resource allocation within a struggling group. Upon reflection, is this possibly detrimental to those who depended on others for slight insurance when times were very hard to help them out of devastation? I don't know how significant of a problem this is, but this could be problematic especially if the already more capable/higher income families are chosen by banks for business over the poorest who need the most help. Is this inhibiting the workings of a kind of insurance system built into the culture of these poor communities? If so how significant is this, and could other forms of insurance then be used to target the poorest families? This is an area not many people have commented on that intrigued me. I would be interested in learning more about long term impacts on inequality distributions in communities where these systems have been used.
I found this article very revealing regarding the significant effects of education. There is clear evidence against the argument that sending a kid on a farm to school won't provide nearly the same returns to society as highly educating kids who we percieve will advance to high levels of education. I found the section which quoted Blaug I very helpful in understanding the direct way that human capital increases as education increases. Though Blaug's statements are not very surprising based on what I have learned from class so far, I still wished that I would've read this excerpt sooner because it really conceptualizes the effects of education beyond just basic knowledge of learning to read or write. That education makes farmers more flexible, motivated, and productive is highly significant. This especially relates so what many others have connected already with regard to the large effects current farming methods have not only economically but also environmentally. I enjoyed that this article argued and provided support for benefiting both of these aspects of agroforestry. Relating to the aspects of human capital addressed on page 515, I found most of the data unsurprising except income, as Professor Casey addresses. I think this is an important inclusion because contrary to a family being very poor, having higher education and exposure is more important in their choices than their income level. This is highly promising for encouraging the poorest farmers to use more modern tactics. It means that greater incomes of farmers (and therefore generating sources of incomes for funding) is not a primary necessity and other programs can be used instead which can reach a greater amount of farmers with the same allocation of funding. A final note in the paper about the auspicious outlook for farmers who have already successfully implemented agroforestry techniques is very promising and a good application of this idea.
Toggle Commented Nov 6, 2014 on Econ 280 for Thursday at Jolly Green General
The more articles and perspectives I read in this class the more I come to understand things that are logical that I had simply never thought of before. Additionally, certain seemingly inaccurate or severely lacking versions of stories that have been told to me are becoming more obvious. The first idea that I had not intuitively thought much about was Schultz's section on how land is overrated. It seemed common sense for me (as Professor Casey talked about it class with the graphs that he never will use) that simply increasing land or workers increases output when they are products of output. Sadly I had not ever given as much thought to this as chapter 8, and these two articles explain the huge significance of human quality over quantity. Thinking about land it makes sense, as any other input to production, that as there is more scarcity, greater advances in technology will inevitably occur. This is logical and also ties in with the fact that when more kids are surviving until adulthood and also living longer, (weighing costs and benefits) parents will substitute quantity for quality. One thing that the articles stress is the reinforcing cycle that parents will feel more comfortable having less kids AND investing in each of them more if child mortality rates are lower (if malaria contraction in not a significant factor) and life expectancies are higher. Thinking about things in terms of just incentives and opportunity costs this makes perfect sense. The reality of parents having so many kids (to compensate for many of them dieing to malaria) and more surviving than expected leads to failures that are reinforcing. If developing nations with less security and health problems can be brought up to a point where parents can safely know that most of their children will survive, this actually creates a positively reinforcing cycle rather than the previously negative one. The reoccurring pattern of an initial push which spins a positive cycle is an important theme throughout development economics that I hadn't given as much thought to as was warranted. For example changing the pattern in sub sahara Africa from a poverty trap and low human capital to one that enables greater investment in human capital over generations is an ideal reinforcing goal. These are just some of multiple ideas that seem to be common sense but that I had not actually ever thought through.
Toggle Commented Oct 29, 2014 on Econ 280 for Thursday at Jolly Green General
While some of the first comments indicated displeasure at the approach taken by Udry to analyze child labor, I actually found the article very different than I expected, but in a thought provoking way. I expected the focus of the article to be why child labor is so detrimental and how helping change it will be beneficial. In reality the isolation of just the decision making as an economic cost benefit analysis by parents was actually helpful in understanding (as we talked about on the first day of class), that families tend to make rational decisions. This is supported by the effectiveness of many of the projects cited such as Food-For-Children that moved primary school enrollment from approximately 75 to 90%. In this article Udry isolates the cost-benefit analysis to explain the constant theme that based on conditions and knowledge that families have, they do in fact act with reason and using this knowledge enables us to implement sound policies. I don't think anyone has really commented on part of the article that Udry isolates that I had not previously taken into consideration. This topic is leaving a bequest. Before reading I understood that parents under desperate measures pull their kids out of school which leads those kids' future incomes to be lower (and the poverty trap). However, I never analyzed this from the perspective that if only there was a way to have parents alway leave a bequest proportional to how much benefit the child provided the family in monetary terms, the child would grow up to benefit from the most utility-maximizing choice made by the parents. Additionally, the possibility of saving and pulling a family out of the poverty trap over generations would be possible. This also gets rid of the issue talked about in the article referring to agency. This way the subjective decisions made by parents to pull their children out of school at least later leaves that grown child some insurance. This next generation then also hopefully will have a lower necessity to pull their children out of school and a more positive cycle could evolve. Obviously this is just the idea of making a required bequest to mitigate the effects of lost education. How to implement this in actuality is complex and as many others have pointed out, where will this money come from. The subsidies to families is a positive way to start the cycle toward more enrollment. I want to read more about the effectiveness of certain policies over others though after reading Juan's early eye opening comments about these policies in his experiences.
Toggle Commented Oct 23, 2014 on 280 Paper for Thursday at Jolly Green General
I thought that the comparison of European maps of Africa to the growing need for precise, accurate measurements in Economics set the tone and focus of the article well. I had not thought about the fact that old info being replaced by newer info and new standards could actually leave blanks in theories. This makes perfect sense however, and this metaphor example actually indirectly supports another important point made by Krugman about metaphors being models. This point is that whether we want to believe it or not, we explain and understand our world through models. Actually, until professor Casey referenced metaphors as a heuristic modeling technique in class, I would have been less inclined to think that models were as essential to development economics as I now do, especially after reading this article. Maybe, as Krugman suggests, we should not get caught up in the fact that we primarily use models. Instead, using the same quote as Samantha, we should be "self-conscious" in using models and know that they are "maps rather than reality". This way we hopefully will avoid "blanks" but still be able to progress in explaining development.
The idea that different countries within their own situational context may need a much different package of strategies was an idea that was repeated constantly throughout the article. The most memorable and creative way that this point was articulated though, was the use of an objective viewer, the martian. This, to me, was a very clever way to establish the point that just applying a general anecdote procedure for different general situations is not the best solution. The martian attempting to deduce what strategies each country used based on rates of developments of different sectors of the economy was a clever way to explain this point in a different way. The Martians guesses would not correlate to reality. This relates with another key argument of the paper that professor Casey touched on in class. This is that someone attempting to prescribe strategies for development for a country needs to be knowledgeable about the specific dynamics of that country such as its history, current institutions, ect. Though sometimes imitation of successful development schemes can be placed on developing countries with similar backgrounds, it makes sense that, like a doctor, an economist should take into consideration the country and it's individual characteristics rather than just models.
Toggle Commented Oct 1, 2014 on ECON 280 Paper at Jolly Green General
One aspect of the article that I found myself continuously thinking about relates to HeeJu's belief that a female " quota actually creates a fair ground for female and male leaders to work together and better represent a balanced interests of all citizens". Duflo mentions the Beaman et al. study that used India's reservation policy for 1/3 of villages to elect a woman to head of council. The findings in implicit association tasks for men found that all of the bias against women (as well as women and leadership) is erased. Additionally the fact that people vote more for women after their seats are no longer reserved is highly encouraging to quota polices in politics. The paper continues to talk about the longer term effects of these policies such as the progress toward closing the gap in aspirations for teenage boys and girls 10 years after implementation. Clearly Heeju ran into others' beliefs that there should be equal opportunity for men and women to be elected to positions of power; however, past stereotypes and traditional views of women make this less possible for women. Heeju's points as well as Duflo's section 3.3 page 1071 point to a promising direction of the possibility of implementing more positions allow women to more effectively break typical gender roles and influence policy.
Toggle Commented Sep 24, 2014 on ECON 280 paper #2 at Jolly Green General
Many of my classmates and particularly Andrew's questions about this tipping point were similar to my concerns as I read these findings by Gitter and Barham. I was taken aback at first when reading about this tipping point at which when women's power level reaches a certain point, girl's attendance in school drops. I hadn't thought that the mother's increased priority of spending, compared to men, on children's nutrition and education was due to anything other than her role as more nurturing/child-centered. Though there is still large support for this within this paper and the other reading by Duflo (2012), the fact that girls were increasingly taken out of school past a certain education level of their mothers made me reevaluate my original assumptions. This leads me to question whether women seem to see child health or education as a more important concern than men, but do they switch thinking somewhat when the returns on child labor to them specifically (in the power role) is too tempting? Is this simply that the mother's are thinking in terms of maximizing utility for the entire household because in this role of power she thinks she can best allocate this increase in spending opportunity? Or is it more from an elevated position of power over funds that she cannot pass up. I would be interested to see follow up on these women of power levels above the tipping point. For example does the concentration of their spending still predominantly go toward child benefits?
Toggle Commented Sep 24, 2014 on ECON 280 paper #1 at Jolly Green General
The most striking part of the article was the investigation into why the poor tend not to save money. Additionally it was surprising to learn about their tendency not to use their small amount spending money to maximize nutritional value or capital in their entrepreneurial activities. This was most evident to me regarding the farmers inability to invest in fertilizer that would give them 100% returns. These lack of attempts at saving or investing for the future (when security is already so uncertain for the poor) was at first very confusing to me. However, this makes perfect sense when looking at the values and societal expectations that I have been exposed to since childhood. People from a similar background as myself think that it is normal and necessary to save, because we are exposed to the United States' growth-oriented culture. Constantly being surrounded by the need for maximizations and reaching full potential is commonplace. Alternatively, most of these troubled countries do not have the same exposure (let alone ability) that enables them to act in accordance with these growth maximizing ideas. Taking the lack of access to resources, loans, infrastructure in combination with the lack of exposure to ideas of growth and maximization of profits as a societal norm (such as it is in the US), it is easier to understand why people would not save and invest their money back into their own lives to maximize potential profit in the long term. This look at cultural norms also connects to the differences in collectivistic versus individualistic countries such as the US. In many countries an extremely poor person is used to not being very well fed will spend some of their little income on festivities to be attended with family and neighbors. This makes sense when taking the culture and already poor lifestyle into consideration. The activity of belonging or finding whatever kinds of meaning/happiness that they can out of life would sensibly come before a few more days of a little bit less to eat.
Toggle Commented Sep 17, 2014 on 280 reading for Thursday at Jolly Green General
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