Narayan, Ambar

Poverty and Equity Global Practice of the World Bank
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Welfare economics, Labor economics, Inequality, Poverty and social impact, Impact evaluation and economic shocks, Policy and program evaluation
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Poverty and Equity Global Practice of the World Bank
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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 - 6 of 6
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    Do African Children Have an Equal Chance? : A Human Opportunity Report for Sub-Saharan Africa
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2015) Dabalen, Andrew ; Narayan, Ambar ; Saavedra-Chanduvi, Jaime ; Suarez, Alejandro Hoyos ; Abras, Ana ; Tiwari, Sailesh
    This 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.
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    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, Jaime
    This 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.
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    Equality of Opportunities and Fiscal Incidence in Cote d'Ivoire
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2012-04) Abras, Ana ; Cuesta, Jose ; Hoyos, Alejandro ; Narayan, Ambar
    This study analyzes opportunities for children in Cote d'Ivoire, where opportunities refer to access to basic services and goods that improve the likelihood of a child maximizing his or her human potential. The principle that guides this analysis is one of equality of opportunity, which is that a child's circumstances at birth should not determine his or her access to opportunities. The analysis computes the Human Opportunity Index, which measures the extent to which access to basic services is universal and evenly distributed among children of different circumstances. Opportunities are limited in Cote d'Ivoire, despite some improvements in access to electricity and timely access to primary education. Otherwise, trends on access remain stagnant. Scale effects (variations across the board) are behind these trends, with little improvement observed from equalizing interventions. Circumstances such as region and household head characteristics affect a child's access to opportunities, while household incomes and a child's gender and ethnicity play a relatively small role in access differentials. Public spending on education opportunities is shown to be regressive and pro-rich, especially when analyzed across the distribution of circumstances rather than acroos income level.The groups of children that are particularly behind in terms of educational opportunities are those whose household heads lack primary education and reside in rural areas. Closing the enrollment gap of these children should be a priority for targeted educational interventions. However, improving opportunities may require more than a single type of intervention: opportunities with low coverage may need to be scaled up, while those with large inequalities of access may require equalizing interventions.
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    Measuring the Quality of Education and Health Services : The Use of Perception Data from Indonesia
    ( 2009-08-01) Dasgupta, Basab ; Narayan, Ambar ; Skoufias, Emmanuel
    Satisfaction surveys offer a potentially convenient and cost-effective means for measuring the quality of services. However, concerns about subjectivity and selection bias impede greater use of satisfaction data. This paper analyzes satisfaction data about health and educational services from the 2006 second round of the Governance and Decentralization Survey in Indonesia to assess whether satisfaction data can serve as reliable indicators of quality, despite dubiously high levels of reported satisfaction. The authors use an expectation disconfirmation model that posits that a user s satisfaction with a facility improves with the (positive) difference between the actual quality of the facility and the household s expected standard for quality, which is influenced by its socioeconomic characteristics. The findings show that, after taking into account the expectations of households, reported satisfaction does vary significantly with objective indicators of quality. The analysis also checks for possible selection bias affecting the results by using a two-stage selection model. The model yields policy-relevant insights into the aspects of service delivery that most affect satisfaction, highlights differences across rich and poor districts, and shows that once the role of expectations has been factored in, the variation in user satisfaction can be highly informative for policymakers and researchers alike.
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    COVID-19 and Inequality: How Unequal Was the Recovery from the Initial Shock?
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2021-06) Agrawal, Sarthak ; Cojocaru, Alexandru ; Montalva, Veronica ; Narayan, Ambar ; Bundervoet, Tom ; Ten, Andrey
    The restrictions on mobility and economic activity that were put in place to mitigate the health impacts of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic have had an unequal impact both across and within countries, with vulnerable populations within developing countries being affected disproportionately. An important concern is that the recovery may be similarly inequitable. Across the 17 developing countries in our sample, where policies became more conducive to mobility and economic activity, we indeed observe a partial recovery of employment and incomes in most countries, as well as improvements in food security. Although job recovery and lower policy stringency were accompanied by an overall fall in the share of the food-insecure population from 13 percent to 9 percent, those living in rural areas witnessed slower declines in food insecurity. However, the recovery was not only incomplete, but also uneven within countries. In particular, the recovery in employment among those who suffered larger initial shocks - - women, non-college-educated, and urban workers - - was not sufficient to significantly reduce the initial disparities in losses. By August-September, female employment had only recovered 30 percent of what was lost between pre-pandemic and May-June (versus 49 percent for men). Finally, more recent data for a smaller number of countries up to January 2021 indicates that while food security continued improving in these countries, recovery in employment appears to have stalled, while the disparities by gender and education persisted.
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    COVID-19 and Economic Inequality: Short-Term Impacts with Long-Term Consequences
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2022-01) Narayan, Ambar ; Cojocaru, Alexandru ; Agrawal, Sarthak ; Bundervoet, Tom ; Davalos, Maria ; Garcia, Natalia ; Lakner, Christoph ; Mahler, Daniel Gerszon ; Montalva Talledo, Veronica ; Ten, Andrey ; Yonzan, Nishant
    This paper examines the short-term implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for inequality in developing countries. The analysis takes advantage of high-frequency phone survey data collected by the World Bank to assess the distributional impacts of the pandemic through the channels of job and income losses, food insecurity, and children’s education in the early days of the pandemic and subsequent period of economic recovery leading up to early 2021. It also introduces a methodology for estimating changes in income inequality due to the pandemic by combining data from phone surveys, pre-pandemic household surveys, and macroeconomic projections of sectoral growth rates. The paper finds that the pandemic had dis-equalizing impacts both across and within countries. Even under the assumption of distribution-neutral impacts within countries, the projected income losses are estimated to be higher in the bottom half of the global income distribution. Within countries, disadvantaged groups were more likely to have experienced work and income losses initially and are recovering more slowly. Inequality simulations suggest an increase in the Gini index for 29 of 34 countries in the sample, with an average increase of about 1 percent. Although these short-term impacts on inequality appear to be small, they suggest that projections of global poverty and inequality impacts of COVID-19 under the assumption of distribution-neutral changes within countries are likely to underestimate actual impacts. Finally, the paper argues that the overall inequality impacts of COVID-19 could be larger over the medium-to-long term on account of a slow and uneven recovery in many developing countries, and disparities in learning losses during pandemic-related school closures, which will likely have long-lasting effects on inequality of opportunity and social mobility.