Journal Issue: World Bank Research Observer, Volume 31, Issue 1

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Measuring Violent Conflict in Micro-level Surveys: Current Practices and Methodological Challenges
(Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the World Bank, 2016-02) Brück, Tilman ; Justino, Patricia ; Verwimp, Philip ; Avdeenko, Alexandra ; Tedesco, Andrew
This paper reviews current practices and common challenges in the measurement of the causes, functioning, and consequences of violent conflict at the micro-level. We review existing conflict- and violence-related survey questionnaires, with a particular focus on the World Bank's Living Standard Measurement Surveys. We discuss methodological challenges associated with empirical work in conflict-affected and fragile areas—such as operationalizing a definition of conflict, using the appropriate units of analysis, deciding on the timing of the survey, dealing with data biases, and conducting surveys in an ethically sound manner under conditions of insecurity—and propose ways to improve the usefulness of existing surveys to analyze conflict processes at the micro-level. Violent conflict, households, survey methods, questionnaire design.
Employer Voices, Employer Demands, and Implications for Public Skills Development Policy Connecting the Labor and Education Sectors
(Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the World Bank, 2016-02) Cunningham, Wendy V. ; Villaseñor, Paula
Educators believe that they are adequately preparing youth for the labor market while at the same time employers lament the students' lack of skills. A possible source of the mismatch in perceptions is that employers and educators have different understandings of the types of skills valued in the labor market. Using economics and psychology literature to define four skills sets—socio-emotional, higher-order cognitive, basic cognitive, and technical—this paper reviews the literature that quantitatively measures employer skill demand, as reported in a preference survey. A sample of 27 studies reveals remarkable consistency across the world in the skills demanded by employers. While employers value all skill sets, there is a greater demand for socio-emotional skills and higher-order cognitive skills than for basic cognitive or technical skills. These results are robust across region, industry, occupation, and education level. Employers perceive that the greatest skills gaps are in socio-emotional and higher-order cognitive skills. These findings suggest the need to re-conceptualize the public sector's role in preparing children for a future labor market. Namely, technical training is not equivalent to job training; instead, a broad range of skills, many of which are best taught long before labor market entry, should be included in school curricula from the earliest ages. The skills most demanded by employers—higher-order cognitive skills and socio-emotional skills—are largely learned or refined in adolescence, arguing for a general education well into secondary school until these skills are formed. Finally, the public sector can provide programming and incentives to non-school actors, namely parents and employers, to encourage them to invest in the skills development process.
Promoting Women's Economic Empowerment: What Works?
(Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the World Bank, 2016-02) Buvinić, Mayra ; Furst-Nichols, Rebecca
A review of rigorous evaluations of interventions that seek to empower women economically shows that the same class of interventions has significantly different outcomes depending on the client. Capital alone, as a small cash loan or grant, is not sufficient to grow women-owned subsistence-level firms. However, it can work if it is delivered in-kind to more successful women microentrepreneurs, and it should boost the performance of women's larger-sized SMEs. Very poor women need a more intensive package of services than do less poor women to break out of subsistence production and grow their businesses. What works for young women does not necessarily work for adult women. Skills training, job search assistance, internships, and wage subsidies increase the employment levels of adult women but do not raise wages. However, similar interventions increase young women's employability and earnings if social restrictions are not binding. Women who run subsistence-level firms face additional social constraints when compared to similar men, thus explaining the differences in the outcomes of some loans, grants, and training interventions that favor men. Social constraints may also play a role in explaining women's outcome gains that are short-lasting or emerge with a delay. The good news is that many of the additional constraints that women face can be overcome by simple, inexpensive adjustments in program design that lessen family and social pressures. These include providing capital in-kind or transacted through the privacy of a mobile phone and providing secure savings accounts to nudge women to keep the money in the business rather than to divert it to non-business uses.
The Price Is Not Always Right: On the Impacts of Commodity Prices on Households (and Countries)
(Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the World Bank, 2016-02) Lederman, Daniel ; Porto, Guido
This paper provides an overview of the impact that one-time changes in commodity and other prices have on household welfare. It begins with a collection of stylized facts related to commodities based on household survey data from Latin America and Africa. The data uncovers strong commodity dependence on both regions: households typically allocate a large fraction of their budget to commodities, and they often also depend on commodities to earn their income. This income and expenditure dependency suggests sizable impacts and adjustments following commodity price shocks. The article explores these effects with a review of the relevant literature. The authors study consumption and income responses, labor market responses, and spillovers across sectors. The paper provides evidence on the relative magnitudes of various mechanisms through which commodity prices affect household (and national) welfare in developing economies. Commodity price changes, Poverty and welfare impacts, Net consumers and net producers.
The Economic Effects of Counterfeiting and Piracy: A Review and Implications for Developing Countries
(Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the World Bank, 2016-02) Fink, Carsten ; Maskus, Keith E. ; Qian, Yi
Policy makers around the world recognize the potentially harmful consequences of trademark counterfeiting and copyright piracy. Indeed, many countries have recently initiated policy reforms to strengthen the enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR). Further, minimum standards of enforcement have been incorporated in many international treaties, especially trade agreements. This emphasis on enforcement raises basic questions about the actual impacts of IP rights infringement, which differ across the types of IPR and economic sectors. We review the academic literature and other studies in the public domain to evaluate what has been learned about these socioeconomic effects, with an emphasis on developing countries where possible. We also identify important gaps in our understanding of the consequences of counterfeiting and piracy and develop recommendations on how governments might collect data and conduct studies to better inform IPR enforcement policy.
Revisiting the 'Cash versus Food' Debate: New Evidence for an Old Puzzle?
(Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the World Bank, 2016-02) Ugo, Gentilini
The longstanding “cash versus food” debate has received renewed attention in both research and practice. This paper reviews key issues shaping the debate and presents new evidence from randomized and quasi-experimental evaluations that deliberately compare cash and in-kind food transfers in ten developing counties. Findings show that relative effectiveness cannot be generalized: although some differences emerge in terms of food consumption and dietary diversity, average impacts tend to depend on context, specific objectives, their measurement, and program design. Costs for cash transfers and vouchers tend to be significantly lower relative to in-kind food. Yet the consistency and robustness of methods for efficiency analyses varies greatly.