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 26
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2021-06) van der Weide, Roy ; Lakner, Christoph ; Mahler, Daniel Gerszon ; Narayan, Ambar ; Ramasubbaiah, RakeshUsing individual data from over 400 surveys, this paper compiles a global database of intergenerational mobility in education for 153 countries covering 97 percent of the world’s population. For 87 percent of the world’s population, it provides trends in intergenerational mobility for individuals born between 1950 to 1989. The findings show that absolute mobility in education—the share of respondents that obtains higher levels of education than their parents—is higher in the developed world despite the higher levels of parental educational attainment. Relative mobility—measuring the degree of independence between parent and child years of schooling—is also found to be greater in the developed world. Together, these findings point to severe challenges in intergenerational mobility in the poorest parts of the world. Beyond national income levels, the paper explores the correlation between intergenerational mobility and a variety of country characteristics. Countries with higher rates of mobility have (i) higher tax revenues and rates of government expenditures, especially on education; (ii) better child health indicators (less stunting and lower infant mortality); (iii) higher school quality (more teachers per pupil and fewer school dropouts); and (iv) less residential segregation.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2019-09) Narayan, Ambar ; Yang, JudyThe pace and success of economic growth in the developing East Asia and Pacific region (EAP) has been described as nothing short of a miracle. Education and its complementarities are often linked and credited significantly for the region's positive story on economic growth. During the early stages of the region's development, education kept pace and complemented labor needs; widespread basic literacy and numeracy met demands in manufacturing and assembling. This led to rapid improvements in educational mobility across generations in absolute terms, where mobility is understood as the rise in education levels from one generation to the next. On the other hand, progress has been slower and uneven in relative mobility, which is more closely linked to inequality in education and income and refers to the extent to which an individual's position in society is influenced by that of his or her parents.
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.
Knowing, When You Do Not Know : Simulating the Poverty and Distributional Impacts of an Economic Crisis(World Bank, 2012-01-12) Narayan, Ambar ; Sánchez-Páramo, CarolinaEconomists have long sought to predict how macroeconomic shocks will affect individual welfare. Macroeconomic data and forecasts are easily available when crises strike. But policy action requires not only understanding the magnitude of a macro shock, but also identifying which households or individuals are being hurt by (or benefit from) the crisis. Moreover, in many cases, impacts on the ground might be already occurring as macro developments become known, while micro level evidence is still unavailable because of paucity of data. Because of these reasons, a comprehensive real-time understanding of how the aggregate changes will translate to impacts at the micro level remains elusive. This problem is particularly acute when dealing with developing countries where household data is sporadic or out of date. This volume outlines a more comprehensive approach to the problem, showcasing a micro simulation model, developed in response to demand from World Bank staff working in countries and country governments in the wake of the global financial crisis of 2008-09. During the growing catastrophe in a few industrialized countries, there was rising concern about how the crisis would affect the developing world and how to respond to it through public policies. World Bank staff s was scrambling to help countries design such policies; this in turn required information on which groups of the population, sectors and regions the crisis would likely affect and to what extent. The volume is organized as follows. Chapter 1 summarizes the methodology underlying the micro simulation model to predict distributional impacts of the crisis, along with several case studies that highlight how the model can be used in different country contexts. Chapters 2 to 4 are written by experts external to the Bank, two of whom participated as discussants at a workshop on the micro simulation work organized in May, 2010 at the World Bank headquarters. Chapter 2 comments on the broader implications and shortcomings of applying the technique described in Chapter 1 and the ability or willingness of governments to respond adequately to its results. Chapter 3 draws parallels between the United States and developing countries to discuss the lessons that can be learned for mitigating the impacts of future crises. Chapter 4 discusses how the micro simulation approach can be sharpened to make it a better tool for distributional analysis moving forward.
Assessing Poverty and Distributional Impacts of the Global Crisis in the Philippines : A Microsimulation Approach( 2010-04-01) Habib, Bilal ; Narayan, Ambar ; Olivieri, Sergio ; Sanchez-Paramo, 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. This paper uses a micro-simulation approach to assess the poverty and distributional effects of the crisis in the Philippines. The authors find increases in both the level and the depth of aggregate poverty. Income shocks are relatively large in the middle part of the income distribution. They 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. The findings can 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.
Publication( 2009-08-01) Dasgupta, Basab ; Narayan, Ambar ; Skoufias, EmmanuelSatisfaction 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.
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, 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(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, 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.