Breaking Up the Breadwinner

For the last few decades, female empowerment has become an ever increasing component of international development. Many studies have proven that conditional and unconditional cash transfers to women have had substantial impacts on human development through education and health. Under Bolsa Familia and Progresa/Oportunidades, cash transfers are given to mothers based on whether their children go to school or get preventive health care. These programs have been proven to increase school attendance. In a different realm, micro-finance institutions, such as Grameen Bank and BRAC in Bangladesh, have focused their lending to women. This is largely because women are considered to invest more wisely and repay loans more often than men.

Much of the research rests on the assumption that men and women have different preferences, generally speaking. The idea is that men prefer to spend more money on consumption goods, like clothes or alcohol, while women prefer to spend money on goods that benefit the household as a whole, such as education or healthcare. Experiments have seen this played out in numerous, creative ways. Esther Duflo and Christopher Udry showed that in Cote d’Ivoire, men and women farmed different crops, with male crops being sold for profit and female crops being used for consumption by the household. Essentially, an increased production of female crops led to more food consumption and nutrition, while male crops had no effect on food consumption and nutrition. In another study in South Africa, grandmothers were more likely improve the nutrition of children, and especially young girls, compared to the grandfathers.

Within this context, a new paper by Matthias Doepke and Michele Tertilt has come out with the provocative title “Does Female Empowerment Promote Economic Development”? The argument behind the article is that different spouses don’t have separate preferences but that they have different comparative advantages in the household. In the model by Doepke and Tertilt, one spouse has a higher wage while the other spouse has a lower wage. Human capital, such as education and nutrition, is considered to be a comparative advantage for the spouse with a lower wage, which tends to be the wife. A transfer from the husband to the wife tends to lead to more investment in education and nutrition, along with consumption by the wife for herself. All this is at the expense of the husband spending money on himself.

OECD gender wage gap

At an economy-wide level, the husband is considered to have more physical capital, such as land or farming equipment, while the wife has more human capital, such as education and child rearing. The distinction between the two is that the land, farming equipment, or other physical assets are passed onto the children. Theoretically, cash transfers between spouses increases spending in general, at the expense of savings and investment that could be used on physical assets. If the economy as a whole is more service-based or dependent on education and knowledge, cash transfers would be more beneficial to economic growth in general. However, if the economy is based more on physical capital, such as farm land or industrial equipment, then transfers to the wife may be slightly detrimental as there would be less to leave to the children. No matter the economic structure, growth is affected by higher inequality between the spouses. Once there is no wage difference between the spouses, there is no effect on transfers, meaning that no matter the situation, wage parity is a desirable outcome.

All cash transfers, conditional or unconditional, are not necessarily bad or should be stopped. The structural context of employment, equity, and capital affects female empowerment’s effect on economic development. Places such as Latin America, where the service sector is a more important component of the economy, are more likely to increase sustained growth through female empowerment. There are many assumptions inherent in this article, particularly since this is an economic model not based completely on empirical evidence. The overall environment is just important as the cure.


“A New Era of Philanthropy and Investment in Global Health” – A Close Look at the Global Health Giving Trends

As the world holistically tackles global issues in accordance with Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), numerous studies have been conducted on the global giving pattern in order to raise the cost-effectiveness of development assistance. However, few of them focus specifically on the global health sector. 

To fill in this gap, PSI partnered with Devex and Fenton Communications to publish a survey report on the global health funding . The report compiles global giving data from donors, and documents interviews with representatives from the pivotal global funding organizations. Although the aggregate giving data on global health is unavailable as explained in the letter from the editors, the work seeks to inspire further explorations and attentions into the “future of global health financing and inspire collaboration that leads to sustainable global health solutions.”

The report analyzes the giving patterns of government sector of the 23 members of OECD/DAC and the foundation sector including corporate and private donors.

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Combating the New Drug Lords of Fake Medicine

Falsified medication is a problem that every country in the world has to deal with and one that is extremely hard to get a handle on. The WHO have no solid data, but the problem is estimated to range from 1% of all drugs in North America to more than a third of all malaria medicine and maybe more. On October 25, 2012 The European Institute in Washington, D.C. hosted a panel discussion on “Transatlantic Cooperation in Stemming the Spread of Falsified Medications” featuring speakers from the industry, law enforcement, academia and legislative branches. They echoed the disappointing message that we are not yet effectively stopping the flow of counterfeits and that this is not a problem we can hope to stop. We might however be able to curb the trend.

А counterfeit medicine is one which is deliberately and fraudulently mislabeled with respect to identity and/or source. Counterfeiting can apply to both branded and generic products and counterfeit products may include products with the correct ingredients or with the wrong ingredients, without active ingredients, with insufficient active ingredients or with fake packaging – WHO

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India’s Headache on Mental Health

Even though depression is estimated to be the leading cause of disability worldwide and schizophrenia is estimated to affect 33 million people in developing countries, mental illnesses are still not acknowledged as major diseases in many developing countries. Since these diseases often cause long term disability rather than death and often have an early age of onset, studies focusing on prevalence or mortality rates largely underestimate the devastating effects. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) estimated in 2001 that brain disorders are responsible for at least 27 percent of all ‘years lived with disability’ in developing countries.  When combining both death and disability from brain disorders it comprise nearly 15 percent of the developing countries burden of disease

In many developing communities diagnoses of mental disorders have no conceptual equivalent, and where they do the illnesses are stereotyped in pejorative language (‘imbecile’, ‘idiot’, ‘stupid’ and ‘mentally-invalid person’, is used to refer to the mentally challenged). Continue reading

Winning the War on Malaria: Part Two

Versatile as it may be, DDT is not a silver bullet in the fight against malaria. Like any other prevention method, it has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Although authoritative groups such as the World Health Organization have ruled that the benefits of indoor DDT spraying outweigh potential health risks, there are still uncertainties associated with the chemical. Toxicology reports vary in their conclusions, but most do agree that in large enough concentrations, DDT is a possible carcinogen. Consensus has yet to be established in various studies, but some have found potential links between DDT and cancer, decreased fertility, and adverse affects on the immune system.

Another major concern is that of environmental impacts. If not properly used, DDT may contaminate the surrounding environment by air, land, or water. This can become problematic if the chemicals enter food or drinking supplies of an ecosystem. Wildlife can be negatively impacted, particularly those of the aquatic and avian variety.

An inevitable outcome of DDT spraying is the development of a more resistant mosquito population

But perhaps the greatest drawback is the ability of mosquitoes to develop DDT resistance. It is possible for the effectiveness of DDT to be diminished if it is overused: natural selection has a tendency to favor mosquitoes that develop resistance. The mosquitoes that survive the encounters with DDT are more likely to breed, leading to even more resistant generations. Already, pockets of resistance exist where DDT has lost much of its effectiveness, leading to localized increases in malaria. DDT has done much to combat malaria, but it certainly has its limits. Continue reading

The Ring, Ring Heard ‘Round the World

A joint post by Elizabeth Eckard and Laura Esposito

Cellphone store in Accra, Ghana | Source: Shaul Schwarz/Reportage for the New York Times

Mobile phones, heralded as a developed country luxury, have changed their (ring)tone.

Mobile phone sales have dominated in recent years: according to the UN, more than 5 billion people have cellular subscriptions worldwide, with 57% of people in developing nations subscribing. More important than the sales, however, are the variety of ways that consumers are benefiting from mobile technology. With entertainment “apps” abounding, those in developing countries have more practical uses for their phone apps. For example, mobile banking (m-banking) has integrated more people into their country’s economies and created new opportunities for disaster-relief cash transfers. Moreover, rural populations are profiting from less time spent traveling to and from markets and urban centers.

In an event at the Center for Global Development, Zap It to Me: Impacts of a Mobile Phone-Based Cash Transfer Program in Niger, Jenny Aker discussed her recent paper on the effects of a mobile cash transfer compared to both a manual cash transfer and a cash transfer where a phone is provided and Zap-enabled. The paper illustrates that the mobile cash transfer, provided to combat the drought in Niger, reduced travel time and costs. In addition, mobile transfers reduce labor costs associated with distributing the transfer and prevent recipients from losing income as a result of picking up their money. Continue reading

What a “wider” Middle East is doing about their Diabetes epidemic

Tour of the Middle East- Part 6: Oman

–          This series of posts will take you on a country by country tour of the Middle East, showing how economic and social development occurs in one of the most unstable regions in the world.

Diabetes have unfortunately become a common illness in American households.  The Middle East, however, has been experiencing “growing” pains when it comes to their knowledge about this serious disease.  What the rest of the world might not know, is that six Middle East countries, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and Saudi Arabia, are on the top 10 list of countries with the highest rates of diabetes in the world.

With approximately 12.3 percent of Oman’s population affected by diabetes, the country is in the midst of fighting a disease that is often underestimated.  While registered diabetes patients totaled 66,702 in 2010, that number is suspected to be only half of the total amount.  The rest are patients often unaware of the effects of diabetes, battling symptoms that may seem innocent enough at first, but potentially deadly in the long run.  However, it is early detection that can be the key to overcoming diabetes.  Ahmed Al Kharousi, of the Oman Diabetes Association (ODA), is helping lead this initiative:

“We believe that education will enhance the empowerment of patients and relatives, for a better quality of life.” Continue reading