Person:
Umapathi, Nithin

Social Protection and Labor Global Practice, World Bank
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Fields of Specialization
Social assistance, Energy subsidies, Social insurance, Labor markets, Income transfers
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Social Protection and Labor Global Practice, World Bank
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Last updated: October 11, 2023
Biography

Nithin Umapthai works on the welfare state design spanning the design of income transfers, social insurance, and labor market interventions. He co-authored the EAP flagship report on Aging in East Asia and Pacific and has written on wide-ranging topics, including on social protection, education, early childhood interventions, and econometrics of program evaluation. He has published in peer reviewed journals such as Journal of Applied Econometrics, World Development, Journal of Development Studies, Journal of African Economies, Journal of Development Effectiveness, Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies and Asia Pacific Viewpoint. Over the last few years he has been active in advisory and technical assistance roles in supporting energy subsidy reforms. 

Citations 49 Scopus

Publication Search Results

Now showing 1 - 10 of 10
  • Publication
    Unconditional Cash Transfers in China: An Analysis of the Rural Minimum Living Standard Guarantee Program
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2015-07) Golan, Jennifer; Sicular, Terry; Umapathi, Nithin
    This paper examines China’s rural minimum living standard guarantee (dibao) program, one of the largest minimum income cash transfer schemes in the world. Using household survey data matched with published administrative data, the paper describes the dibao program, estimates the program’s impact on poverty, and carries out targeting analysis. The analysis finds that the program provides sufficient income to poor beneficiaries but does not substantially reduce the overall level of poverty, in part because the number of beneficiaries is small relative to the number of poor. Conventional targeting analysis reveals rather large inclusionary and exclusionary targeting errors; propensity score targeting analysis yields smaller but still large targeting errors. Simulations of possible reforms to the dibao program indicate that expanding coverage can potentially yield greater poverty reduction than increasing transfer amounts. In addition, replacing locally diverse dibao lines with a nationally uniform dibao threshold could in theory reduce poverty. The potential gains in poverty reduction, however, depend on the effectiveness of targeting.
  • Publication
    What Are the Benefits of Government Assistance with Household Energy Bills? Evidence from Ukraine
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2021-05) Alberini, Anna; Umapathi, Nithin
    In April 2015, the Government of Ukraine abruptly raised the tariffs of natural gas to residential customers, which were previously well below the cost of acquiring gas and delivering it to households. The tariff increase—700 percent—caused considerable distress to the population and led the government to scale up its existing energy assistance program, the housing and utilities subsidy program. This paper examines the welfare effect of the program and potential redesigns of the program. Using several waves of Ukraine’s Household Budget Survey, the analysis finds that electricity, gas, and fuels account for a considerable share of household income. After the tariff hike, the average household that did not receive the housing and utilities subsidy spends 11 percent of its income on electricity, gas, and fuels, implying that it meets the definition of “fuel poor.” The average share for households that do receive the subsidy is 6–8 percent. The housing and utilities subsidy cuts the rate of fuel poverty in half. It also brings considerable consumer surplus gains of 6–7 percent of income. This comes at a high price tag for the government, as the budget for the housing and utilities subsidy is 1–2.5 percent of gross domestic product. Considerable savings would be achieved with only a small loss of consumer surplus if the housing and utilities subsidy was cut in half. Linking the subsidy solely to income would also attain considerable savings, but at a high loss of welfare. The housing and utilities subsidy could also be paired with social tariffs, or an energy efficiency subsidy, with major savings for the government.
  • Publication
    Improving Nutritional Status through Behavioral Change : Lessons from Madagascar
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2007-12) Galasso, Emanuela; Umapathi, Nithin
    This paper provides evidence of the effects of a large-scale intervention that focuses on the quality of nutritional and child care inputs during the early stages of life. The empirical strategy uses a combination of double-difference and weighting estimators in a longitudinal survey to address the purposive placement of participating communities and estimate the effect of the availability of the program at the community level on nutritional outcomes. The authors find that the program helped 0-5 year old children in the participating communities to bridge the gap in weight for age z-scores and the incidence of underweight. The program also had significant effects in protecting long-term nutritional outcomes (height for age z-scores and incidence of stunting) against an underlying negative trend in the absence of the program. Importantly, the effect of the program exhibits substantial heterogeneity: gains in nutritional outcomes are larger for more educated mothers and for villages with better infrastructure. The program enables the analysis to isolate responsiveness to information provision and disentangle the effect of knowledge in the education effect on nutritional outcomes. The results are suggestive of important complementarities among child care, maternal education, and community infrastructure.
  • Publication
    Eligibility Thresholds for Minimum Living Guarantee Programs : International Practices and Implications for China
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2013-11) Umapathi, Nithin; O'Keefe, Philip
    Using a simple framework, this paper discusses the underlying reason of the variation of threshold level in developed countries, from the least generous 20 percent to around 60 percent of median wage, with an average of 35 percent. The generosity of minimum guarantee social assistance programs is deeply rooted in social values and principles that further underpin the policy objectives. Many Organizations for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries set their policy targets for minimum living standard programs beyond basic needs and aim to guarantee a minimum socially acceptable level for a decent living. Thresholds are also refined to reflect the differences in family size and demographic structure, difference in regional cost of living and changes in prices and local wages. In some countries the thresholds show some regional variation due to local discretionary powers of sub-national authorities to set the threshold depending on the co-financing mechanisms. These lessons are valuable for China as the Chinese government has made efforts to standardize the implementation and management of its own minimum income guarantee (Di Bao) programs. The policy recommendations for China include accelerating the convergence of localized approaches, raising the administrative level for setting thresholds to higher level, defining the roles of central and local governments in financing and management, and establishing a transparent budgetary management system to transfer and allocate social assistance funds.
  • Publication
    Robustness of Subjective Welfare Analysis in a Poor Developing Country: Madagascar 2001
    (World Bank, Washington, D.C., 2004-01) Lokshin, Michael; Umapathi, Nithin
    The authors analyze the subjective perceptions of poverty in Madagascar in 2001 and their relationship to objective poverty indicators. They base their analysis on survey responses to a series of subjective perception questions. The authors extend the existing empirical methodology for estimating subjective poverty lines on the basis of categorical consumption adequacy questions. Based on this methodology they calculate the household-specific, subjective poverty lines and compare the poverty profiles derived from different subjective welfare questions. The results show that the aggregate poverty measures derived from consumption adequacy questions accord quite well with the poverty measures based on objective poverty lines. The subjective welfare analysis can be used in poor developing countries for evaluating socioeconomic and distributional impacts of various policy interventions.
  • Publication
    Macroeconomic Implications of Aging in East Asia Pacific: Demography, Labor Markets and Productivity
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2014-08-08) Flochel, Thomas; Ikeda, Yuki; Moroz, Harry; Umapathi, Nithin
    This background paper was prepared for the East Asia Pacific aging report. The East Asia and Pacific region grew at an unparalleled rate in the past 50 years. This economic boom is partly attributable to unprecedented demographic changes in East Asia during this period. But demographics are only part of the story. The size of the economic bonus or burden which results from population aging depends on how policy influences labor force participation, savings, human capital accumulation and total factor productivity.
  • Publication
    Unconditional Cash Transfers in China: Who Benefits from the Rural Minimum Living Standard Guarantee (Dibao) Program?
    (Elsevier, 2017-05) Golan, Jennifer; Sicular, Terry; Umapathi, Nithin
    This paper analyzes China’s rural minimum living standard guarantee (dibao) program, one of the largest minimum income cash transfer schemes in the world, and examines possible changes to the program design. Despite its size and central position in China’s current poverty reduction strategy, little is known about the rural dibao program’s performance and targeting effectiveness. Our analysis uses annual household survey data from the China Household Income Project matched with published administrative data for the years 2007–09. We find that the program provides sufficient income to poor beneficiaries but does not substantially reduce the overall level of poverty. Conventional targeting analysis reveals large inclusionary and exclusionary targeting errors; propensity score targeting analysis yields smaller but still large targeting errors. Simulations of possible changes to the program design reveal that expanding coverage can potentially yield greater poverty reduction than increasing transfer amounts. Replacing locally diverse dibao lines and transfer amounts with a nationally uniform dibao threshold and transfer could in theory reduce poverty further, but the potential gains are modest without improvements in targeting. This paper makes several contributions. To our knowledge this is the first household-level empirical analysis of China’s dibao program in rural areas, so the findings provide new, policy-relevant information. Moreover, the literature has not settled the question of whether such programs should be centralized or decentralized. We show that in practice the potential gains of centralizing the eligibility rule and transfer amount are conditional on the efficiency of targeting. By varying the program’s key design parameters our analysis also yields insights into alternative policy recommendations to improve the program performance.
  • Publication
    Any Guarantees? China's Rural Minimum Living Standard Guarantee Program
    (World Bank Group, Washington, DC, 2014-08) Golan, Jennifer; Sicular, Terry; Umapathi, Nithin
    This paper examines China's rural minimum living standard guarantee (dibao) program, one of the largest targeted transfer schemes in the world. Using household survey data matched with published administrative data, the authors provide background on the patterns of inequality and poverty in rural China, describe the dibao program, estimate the program's impact on poverty, and carry out targeting analysis. The authors find that the program provides sufficient income to poor beneficiaries but does not substantially reduce the overall level of poverty, in part because the number of beneficiaries is small relative to the number of poor. Conventional targeting analysis reveals rather large inclusionary and exclusionary targeting errors; propensity score targeting analysis yields smaller but still large targeting errors. Simulations of possible reforms to the dibao program indicate that expanding coverage can potentially yield greater poverty reduction than increasing transfer amounts. In addition, replacing locally diverse dibao lines with a nationally uniform dibao threshold can in theory reduce poverty. The potential gains in poverty reduction, however, depend on the effectiveness of targeting.
  • Publication
    Average and Marginal Returns to Upper Secondary Schooling in Indonesia
    (2011-11-01) Carneiro, Pedro; Lokshin, Michael; Ridao-Cano, Cristobal; Umapathi, Nithin
    This paper estimates average and marginal returns to schooling in Indonesia using a non-parametric selection model estimated by local instrumental variables, and data from the Indonesia Family Life Survey. The analysis finds that the return to upper secondary schooling varies widely across individual: it can be as high as 50 percent per year of schooling for those very likely to enroll in upper secondary schooling, or as low as -10 percent for those very unlikely to do so. Returns to the marginal student (14 percent) are well below those for the average student attending upper secondary schooling (27 percent).
  • Publication
    Cash Transfers in the Context of Energy Subsidy Reform: Insights from Recent Experience
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2023-06-30) Mukherjee, Anit; Okamura, Yuko; Gentilini, Ugo; Gencer, Defne; Almenfi, Mohamed; Kryeziu, Adea; Montenegro, Miriam; Umapathi, Nithin
    Energy subsidies, which have a long history of use by governments around the world, have been rising in recent years after a brief period of decline. Despite their significant wider costs, subsidies are used by governments for various policy, and political, reasons. Faced with recent external shocks, governments around the world have had to manage difficult tradeoffs between the need to protect their citizens against substantial increases in the cost of living and the fiscal risks that greater and continued subsidies impose. General consumption subsidies, such as universal price subsidies for fossil fuels, tend to be regressive. Over the past several decades, as part of the evolving understanding of energy subsidy reforms, there has been growing recognition of the potential of targeted cash transfers to support the poor and vulnerable to help governments achieve desired policy outcomes at lower fiscal cost and in a sustainable manner. The use of cash transfers to mitigate the impact of price increases from an energy subsidy reform puts a country’s social protection framework in the spotlight, along with the role social protection can play in bolstering national commitments to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. While getting prices right is important in eliminating distortions and incentivizing efficient use of energy, cash transfers can help countries mitigate and adapt to climate change and make the transition to a green economy by smoothing the adjustment to changing energy costs.