Person:
Simler, Kenneth

Global Knowledge and Research Hub, Malaysia, East Asia and Pacific
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Inequality and Shared Prosperity, Poverty, Growth
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Global Knowledge and Research Hub, Malaysia
East Asia and Pacific
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Last updated: January 31, 2023
Biography
Kenneth Simler is a Senior Economist at the World Bank’s Global Knowledge and Research Hub in Malaysia. His work focuses on the impacts of public policies on poverty and inequality, including both income and non-income dimensions such as food security, nutrition and education. He has published journal articles, books and book chapters on these topics as well as on poverty measurement and the spatial aspects of growth and development. Ken has a BA from Amherst College and MS and Ph.D. degrees from Cornell University.
Citations 29 Scopus

Publication Search Results

Now showing 1 - 10 of 14
  • Publication
    The Interplay of Regional and Ethnic Inequalities in Malaysian Poverty Dynamics
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2022-01) Rongen, Gerton; Ali Ahmad, Zainab; Lanjouw, Peter; Simler, Kenneth
    This study employs a synthetic panel approach based on nationally representative micro-level data to track poverty and income mobility in Malaysia in 2004–16. On aggregate, there were large reductions in chronic poverty and increases in persistent economic security, but those who remained poor in 2016 were increasingly likely to be poor in a structural sense. Further, the poverty and income dynamics differ notably across geographic dimensions. Such disparities are most striking when comparing affluent urban Peninsular Malaysia with poorer rural East Malaysia. Although there are important differences in welfare levels between the main ethnic groups in Malaysia, the mobility trends generally point in the same direction. While the findings show that there is still scope for poverty reduction through the reduction of interethnic inequalities, the study underscores the importance of taking regional inequalities into account to ensure a fairer distribution of socioeconomic opportunities for poor and vulnerable Malaysians. Hence, addressing chronic poverty is likely to require additional attention to less developed geographic areas, as a complement to the current policies that are largely ethnicity-based.
  • Publication
    Multidimensional Poverty in Malaysia: Improving Measurement and Policies in the 2020s
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2021-06-30) Simler, Kenneth
    It has long been recognized that poverty is multidimensional, comprising not only insufficient income but also deprivations in access to basic services, the quality of living conditions, personal security, and other aspects of well-being. Since 2010 there has been rapid growth in the development and use of quantitative measures of multidimensional poverty. This paper analyzes the construction and use of the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) in Malaysia, which the Malaysian government introduced in its national development plan for 2015–2020. It examines avenues for improving the relevance of the MPI in policy discourse by setting deprivation thresholds of the various MPI dimensions (health, education, living conditions, income) at levels more appropriate for an upper-middle-income country such as Malaysia. Recent national survey data are used to estimate the quantitative impact of incrementally adjusting the thresholds of indicators in the current MPI. The potential for new indicators is also explored, drawing from the MPIs used in other middle- and high-income countries. The role of the MPI for informing and monitoring anti-poverty policies is discussed, focusing on unpacking the dimensions of poverty embedded in the MPI, so that policies are better matched to the deprivations observed.
  • Publication
    March 2021 PovcalNet Update: What’s New
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2021-03) Arayavechkit, Tanida; Atamanov, Aziz; Barreto Herrera, Karen Y.; Belghith, Nadia Belhaj Hassine; Castaneda Aguilar, R. Andres; Fujs, Tony H.M.J.; Dewina, Reno; Diaz-Bonilla, Carolina; Edochie, Ifeanyi N.; Jolliffe, Dean; Lakner, Christoph; Mahler, Daniel; Montes, Jose; Moreno Herrera, Laura L.; Mungai, Rose; Newhouse, David; Nguyen, Minh C.; Sanchez Castro, Diana M.; Schoch, Marta; Sharma, Dhiraj; Simler, Kenneth; Swinkels, Rob; Takamatsu, Shinya; Uochi, Ikuko; Viveros Mendoza, Martha C.; Yonzan, Nishant; Yoshida, Nobuo; Wu, Haoyu
    The March 2021 update to PovcalNet involves several changes to the data underlying the global poverty estimates. Some welfare aggregates have been changed for improved harmonization, and the CPI, national accounts, and population input data have been updated. This document explains these changes in detail and the reasoning behind them. In addition to the changes listed here, a large number of new country-years have been added, resulting in a total number of surveys of more than 1,900. Moreover, this update includes important revisions to the historical survey data and for the first time, poverty estimates based on imputed consumption data.
  • Publication
    Using Remittance Transaction Data for Timely Estimation of the Foreign Worker Population in Malaysia
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2020-07) Ahmad, Zainab Binti Ali; Simler, Kenneth; Yi, Soonhwa
    Malaysia has been grappling with understanding how many foreign workers reside in the country and thus faces challenges in formulating evidence-based foreign worker policies. This paper uses micro-level remittance transaction data collected from money transfer service providers to estimate the number of foreign workers. Most foreign workers remit a large portion of their earnings to support family members back home. They are low-income earners, sensitive to remittance costs, and opt for money transfer service providers to remit money rather than regular banks, where transfer services are more expensive. Therefore, the remittance data provide a useful source to conduct the investigation. Existing estimates range from two million to five million foreign workers; our results narrow that range to between 2.99 million and 3.16 million foreign workers in Malaysia as of 2017-18. The estimated state and nationality distributions of foreign workers are consistent with the Ministry of Home Affairs data, lending support to the validity of the estimates. Nevertheless, the Bank Negara Malaysia remittance data could potentially underestimate the number of workers in states with low access to money service providers and nationalities that have access to alternative money transfer mechanisms such as commercial banking and informal transfer channels.
  • Publication
    Using Remittance Transaction Data for Timely Estimation of the Foreign Worker Population in Malaysia
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2020-06-06) Ahmad, Zainab Ali; Simler, Kenneth; Yi, Soonhwa
    Malaysia has been grappling with understanding how many foreign workers reside in the country and thus faces challenges in formulating evidence-based foreign worker policies. This paper investigates how to use micro-level remittance transaction data collected from money transfer service providers to estimate the number of foreign workers. Most foreign workers remit a large portion of their earnings to support family members back home. They are low-income earners, are sensitive to remittance costs, and thus opt for money transfer service providers to remit money rather than regular banks, where transfer services are more expensive. Therefore, the remittance data provide a useful source to conduct the investigation. Existing estimates range from two to five million foreign workers; our results narrow that range considerably, estimating a total of 2.99 million to 3.16 million foreign workers in Malaysia as of 2017–18. State and nationality distributions of foreign workers in our estimates are consistent with the Ministry of Home Affairs data, lending support to the validity of our estimates. Nevertheless, authors note that the Bank Negara Malaysia remittance data could potentially underestimate the number of workers in states with low access to money service providers, as well as nationalities that have access to alternative money transfer mechanisms such as commercial banking and informal transfer channels.
  • Publication
    Pinpointing Poverty in Europe: New Evidence for Policy Making
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2016-04-13) Simler, Kenneth
    Because the World Bank and the EU have the common objective of building competitive and sustainable economies and reducing poverty and social exclusion and because of the World Bank’s extensive experience, the EC and the Bank entered into an agreement to assist EU member states in undertaking expert analysis of census and survey data to create accurate, detailed geographical presentations of poverty. This note highlights the context and main findings of the ongoing European Commission (EC)–World Bank project, Poverty Mapping in the European Union, including the EU goals of reducing poverty and social exclusion and the difficulties of precisely identifying the poor in the EU.
  • Publication
    Simulating Poverty in Europe : The Potential Contributions of Employment and Education to Reducing Poverty and Social Exclusion by 2020
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2013-10) Ajwad, Mohamed Ihsan; Simler, Kenneth; Azam, Mehtabul; Dasgupta, Basab; Bonch-Osmolovskiy, Misha; Topinska, Irena; Ajwad, Mohamed Ihsan
    This paper sheds light on the impact of improving employment and education conditions on poverty and social exclusion indicators. More specifically, it answers the following question: Will achieving the Europe 2020 national targets on employment and education lead countries to achieve the Europe 2020 poverty and social exclusion target with no other policy interventions? The paper presents a simple partial equilibrium model that is flexible enough to be implemented in a number of different settings and uses widely available household survey data. The simulation model analyzes poverty and social exclusion outcomes in response to changes in education completion rates and employment rates. The model is applied to ten of the European Union's new Member States -- Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia -- and the model's performance is evaluated through a validation exercise. The Europe 2020 national employment targets are ambitious in many of the new Member States, given historical employment patterns in the countries. Especially in light of the slow and uncertain recovery, labor markets remain weak and employment rates in 2020 could fall short of rates targeted by national policy makers. In this eventuality, the poverty and social exclusion goals may not be reached in many of the new Member States without additional policy measures.
  • Publication
    From Farm to Firm : Rural-Urban Transition in Developing Countries
    (World Bank, 2011-05-26) Dudwick, Nora; Hull, Katy; Katayama, Roy; Shilpi, Forhad; Simler, Kenneth
    Around the world, countries are becoming urbanized at an astonishing pace. As countries develop economically, their economies shift from mainly rural and agrarian to increasingly urban and nonagricultural. This rural-urban transformation presents both opportunities and challenges for development. When managed effectively, the transformation spurs growth and reduces poverty. When managed poorly, however, the process can result in stark welfare disparities, the marginalization of entire regions, and poorly functioning cities that fail to realize the potential gains from agglomeration economies. This book investigates the rural-urban transformation underway in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, emphasizing the influence of country conditions as well as the potential of good policies to minimize disparities and ensure that everyone shares in the benefits of urbanization. The first part of this book investigates urbanization and rural-urban welfare inequalities on three geographic scales global, national, and local featuring countries and cities in Sub-Saharan Africa on the national and local levels. The second part of the book sheds light on the texture of transformation in five countries in South Asia, each at a different stage in the process: Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
  • Publication
    The Short-Term Impact of Higher Food Prices on Poverty in Uganda
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2010-02) Simler, Kenneth R.
    World prices for staple foods increased between 2006 and 2008, and accelerated sharply in 2008. Initial analysis indicated that the adverse effects of higher food prices in Uganda were likely to be small because of the diversity of its staple foods, high level of food self-sufficiency, and weak links with world markets. This paper extends the previous analyses, disaggregating by regions and individual food items, using more recent price data, and estimating the impact on consumption poverty. The analysis finds that poor households in Uganda tend to be net buyers of food staples, and therefore suffer welfare losses when food prices increase. This is most pronounced in urban areas, but holds true for most rural households as well. The diversity of staple foods has not been an effective buffer because of price increases across a range of staple foods. The paper estimates that both the incidence and depth of poverty have increased -- at least in the short run -- as a result of higher food prices in 2008, increasing by 2.6 and 2.2 percentage points, respectively. The increase in poverty is highest in the Northern region, which is already the poorest in Uganda. The need for mitigating social protection measures appears to be greater than previously recognized. Not only are the negative impacts larger, but they are also much more widespread geographically. This suggests the need for continued close monitoring of the situation, including monitoring the adequacy of existing safety nets and feeding programs.
  • Publication
    Estimating Utility-Consistent Poverty Lines with Applications to Egypt and Mozambique
    (2010) Arndt, Channing; Simler, Kenneth R.
    A fundamental premise of absolute poverty lines is that they represent the same level of utility through time and space. Disturbingly, a series of recent studies in middle- and low-income economies show that even carefully derived poverty lines rarely satisfy this premise. This article proposes an information-theoretic approach to estimating cost-of-basic-needs (CBN) poverty lines that are utility consistent. Applications to date illustrate that utility-consistent poverty measurements derived from the proposed approach and those derived from current CBN best practices often differ substantially, with the current approach tending to systematically overestimate (underestimate) poverty in urban (rural) zones.