Poverty and Equity Global Practice of the World Bank
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Fields of Specialization
Welfare economics, Labor economics, Inequality, Poverty and social impact, Impact evaluation and economic shocks, Policy and program evaluation
Poverty and Equity Global Practice of the World Bank
Externally Hosted Work
Last updated August 29, 2023
Ambar Narayan, a Lead Economist in the Poverty and Equity Global Practice of the World Bank, leads and advises teams conducting policy analysis and research in development from a microeconomic perspective. Topics that he works on include inequality of opportunity, economic mobility, policy evaluation, economic transformation, country diagnostics, and impacts of economic shocks on households. Currently, he provides leadership to teams engaged in analyzing the distributional impacts of markets, institutions and private sector participation, and the inequality implications of COVID-19 for developing countries. Ambar has been a lead author for several large World Bank studies, including a recent global report on intergenerational mobility titled “Fair Progress?” as well as reports on inequality of opportunity, poverty, and the impacts of financial crisis in developing countries. In the past, he has worked in the South Asia region of the World Bank on knowledge and lending programs. He has authored a number of scholarly publications and working papers, which reflect the eclectic mix of topics he has worked on over the years. He holds a PhD in Economics from Brown University in the United States.
Publication Search Results
Now showing 1 - 10 of 30
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2013-10) Narayan, Ambar ; Saavedra-Chanduvi, Jaime ; Tiwari, SaileshFocusing on the welfare of the less well off as a measure of real societal progress is the fundamental principle underlying the WBG indicator of "shared prosperity", namely income growth of the bottom 40 percent in every country. This paper uses a database assembled by the World Bank Group to investigate some basic characteristics of shared prosperity, particularly its relationship with overall economic growth and inequality. Initial estimates using this dataset of 79 countries show that median income growth of the bottom 40 percent (circa 2005-2010) was 4.2 percent, a high number in comparison to the 3.1 percent per capita income growth of the overall population. In addition, the low and lower-middle income countries appear to be trailing the upper middle and high income countries in boosting shared prosperity. Establishing conceptual links between income growth of the bottom 40 percent, the overall growth rate and reviewing existing evidence on how these relate to inequality, the paper discusses two main ideas. First, shared prosperity is strongly correlated with overall prosperity implying that the whole host of policies that are important to generate and sustain growth remain relevant. Second, boosting shared prosperity will also require a concerted effort to strengthen the social contract, particularly in the area of promoting equality of opportunity. Growing evidence suggests that improving access for all and reducing inequality of opportunities -- particularly those related to human capital development of children -- are not only about "fairness" and building a "just society", but also about realizing a society's aspirations of economic prosperity.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2014-02) Skoufias, Emmanuel ; Narayan, Ambar ; Dasgupta, Basab ; Kaiser, KaiThis paper takes advantage of the exogenous phasing of direct elections in districts and applies the double-difference estimator to measure impacts on (i) human development outcomes and (ii) the pattern of public spending and revenue generation at the district level. The analysis reveals that four years after the switch to direct elections, there have been no significant effects on human development outcomes. However, the estimates of the impact of Pilkada on health expenditures at the district level suggest that directly elected district officials may have become more responsive to local needs at least in the area of health. The composition of district expenditures changes considerably during the year and sometimes the year before the elections, shifting toward expenditure categories that allow incumbent district heads running as candidates in the direct elections to "buy" voter support. Electoral reforms did not lead to higher revenue generation from own sources and had no effect on the budget surplus of districts with directly elected heads.
The Impact of the Financial Crisis on Poverty and Income Distribution : Insights from Simulations in Selected Countries(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2010-03) Habib, Bilal ; Narayan, Ambar ; Olivieri, Sergio ; Sanchez, CarolinaAs the financial crisis has spread through the world, the lack of real-time data has made it difficult to track its impact in developing countries. The authors use a micro-simulation approach to assess the poverty and distributional effects of the crisis. In Bangladesh, Mexico, and the Philippines, the authors find increases in both the level and the depth of aggregate poverty. Income shocks are relatively large in the middle (and, in Mexico, the bottom) parts of the income distribution. The authors also find that characteristics of people who become poor because of the crisis are different from those of both chronically poor people and the general population. Findings will be useful for policy makers wishing to identify leading monitoring indicators to track the impact of macroeconomic shocks and to design policies that protect vulnerable groups.
Inequality of Opportunities in the Labor Market : Evidence from Life in Transition Surveys in Europe and Central Asia(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2012-10) Abras, Ana ; Hoyos, Alejandro ; Narayan, Ambar ; Tiwari, SaileshThis paper attempts to quantify the degree of inequality of opportunity in labor market outcomes for a selection of countries in the Europe and Central Asia (ECA) region. We adapt the Human Opportunity Index (HOI) methodology that has been widely used to study opportunities of children to measures of inequality in the labor market for working age adults, using data from the Life in Transition Surveys (LiTS) conducted in 2006. We decompose the observed inequalities into components that are attributable to circumstances an individual was born into (e.g., gender, parents’ education, minority status, etc) and other characteristics (education and age). We conduct additional exercises with this measure, which examine: (i) comparisons with an expenditure-based measure of inequality of opportunity; (ii) the extent to which the measures of inequality resonate with individual perceptions of life satisfaction and fairness; and (iii) how the results for ECA countries compare with similar measures in the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region. Our findings show substantial inequality of opportunity (attributable to circumstances that an individual was born into) in employment status in the ECA region and a high degree of heterogeneity across countries in the circumstances that matter the most for inequality. The correlations between measures and perceptions of inequality among citizens across ECA countries suggest that inequality between groups, including measures of inequality of opportunity, matter more than overall measures of inequality for citizen perceptions of "fairness". The results are robust to different definitions of jobs as opportunities.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2014-05-01) Skoufias, Emmanuel ; Narita, Renata ; Narayan, AmbarThis paper summarizes the results of the impact evaluation of the Access to Information pilot project on empowerment of citizens in poor municipalities in the Dominican Republic. Among the dimensions of empowerment investigated are civic knowledge, awareness and use of the right to information, perceptions of and trust in public services and institutions, civic participation, and measures of local governance. Data were collected in two rounds: a baseline round at the end of 2010 and a follow-up round in mid-2012. No impact is found on awareness and the use of information under the specific Access to Information rules. However, it is observed that individuals address more general complaints to governments as a result of the Access to Information program regardless of whether these are classified under the ATI law or not. Some positive and statistically significant impacts are found on local government responsiveness, prioritization and decisions about the municipal budget, and trust in and satisfaction with some local government services.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2010-02) Kotikula, Aphichoke ; Narayan, Ambar ; Zaman, HassanThe poor in Bangladesh are more likely to belong to households with a larger number of dependents and lower education among household members, be engaged in daily wage labor, own little land, and be less likely to receive remittances. This poverty profile for 2005 is similar to the profile in the mid-1980s and hence at first glance it would appear that little has changed over time. A closer look at national household survey data suggests a more nuanced story. This paper uses the latest two rounds of the Bangladesh Household Income and Expenditure Survey to decompose the micro-determinants of poverty reduction between 2000 and 2005, closely following a similar analysis using five earlier rounds of the Survey. The comparison of results shows that the spatial distribution of poverty seen in earlier decades has changed with time and the drivers of poverty reduction are different in several respects.
Publication(World Bank Group, Washington, DC, 2014-09-23) Olivieri, Sergio ; Radyakin, Sergiy ; Kolenikov, Stainslav ; Lokshin, Michael ; Narayan, Ambar ; Sánchez-Páramo, CarolinaSimulating Distributional Impacts of Macro-dynamics: Theory and Practical Applications is a comprehensive guide for analyzing and understanding the effects of macroeconomic shocks on income and consumption distribution, as well as using the ADePT Simulation Module. Since real-time micro data is rarely available, the Simulation Module (part of the ADePT economic analysis software) takes advantage of historical household surveys to estimate how current or proposed macro changes might impact household and individuals welfare. Using examples from different economic and social contexts, the book explains macro-micro linkages in an easy and intuitive way. After developing a sound theoretical foundation, readers are then shown how to explore their own scenarios using the Simulation Module. Step-by-step instructions illustrate data entry and show how to make adjustments using the Module’s options. Exercises present how different sections of the simulation process operate independently. This book will be a valuable reference for analysts needing to evaluate the potential impact of structural reforms and to generate projections for hypothetical scenarios. Results created by the Simulation Module will be helpful in informing governmental policymaking.
Publication(Washington, DC: World Bank, 2015) Dabalen, Andrew ; Narayan, Ambar ; Saavedra-Chanduvi, Jaime ; Suarez, Alejandro Hoyos ; Abras, Ana ; Tiwari, SaileshThis study explores the changing opportunities for children in Africa. While the definition of opportunities can be subjective and depend on the societal context, this report focuses on efforts to build future human capital, directly (through education and health investments) and indirectly (through complementary infrastructure such as safe water, adequate sanitation, electricity, and so on). It follows the practice of earlier studies conducted for the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region (Barros et al. 2009, 2012) where opportunities are basic goods and services that constitute investments in children. Although several opportunities are relevant at different stages of an individual s life, our focus on children s access to education, health services, safe water, and adequate nutrition is due to the well-known fact that an individual s chance of success in life is deeply influenced by access to these goods and services early in life. Children s access to these basic services improves the likelihood of a child being able to maximize his/her human potential and pursue a life of dignity.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2015-06) Tiwari, Sailesh ; Lara Ibarra, Gabriel ; Narayan, AmbarThis paper attempts to determine the extent to which inequality in wage earnings in the Russian Federation is unfair. Unlike other similar attempts that can, at best, produce a lower bound on the estimate of the share of inequality that is unfair, this paper exploits the longitudinal nature of the data to come up with a lower bound as well as an upper bound. The upper bound is further refined to take into account the indirect effect of circumstances at birth (gender, parental wealth, etc.) on effort. Results show that the upper bound on the inequality of opportunity may be three to four times the measured lower bound and significantly higher for females than males in the sample. Finally, comparison with the United States and Germany show that although total inequality is lower in Russia, the share of unfair inequality is distinctly larger. The markedly large explanatory role of extraneous factors, such as gender and parental characteristics, in wage inequality calls for a close examination of governments’ efforts to address inequities in the labor market.
Outcomes, Opportunity and Development : Why Unequal Opportunities and Not Outcomes Hinder Economic Development(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2013-12) Molina, Ezequiel ; Narayan, Ambar ; Saavedra-Chanduvi, JaimeThis paper studies the relationship between inequality of opportunity and development outcomes in a cross-country setting. Scholars have long debated the impact of inequality on growth, development, and the quality of institutions in a society. The empirical relationships are however confounded by the notion that "inequality" can be seen as a composite of inequality arising from differences in effort and ability, which would tend to encourage competition and productivity, and inequality attributable to unequal opportunities, particularly in terms of access to basic goods and services, which might translate to wasted human potential and lower levels of development. The analysis in this paper applies a measure of educational opportunities that incorporates inequality between "types" or circumstance groups. Theories from economic history are used to instrument for this type of inequality in a large cross-country dataset. The results seem to confirm the hypothesis that this measure of inequality of opportunity is a better fit for structural inequality than the Gini index of income. The results suggest that inequality of endowments at the outset of history led to unequal educational opportunities, which in turn affected development outcomes such as institutional quality, infant mortality, and economic growth. The findings are robust to several checks on the instrumental variable specification.