Methods of Development | Learning Your ABCs… and D, for Development

Source: Aude Guerrucci, Poverty Action Lab
Source: Aude Guerrucci, Poverty Action Lab

The University of California Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation hosted an event the first week of March titled “Ending Poverty through Education: New Evidence from India and Africa.” The half-day conference included presentations from Karthik Muralidharan, Leigh Linden, Michael Kremer, and Annie Duflo. The comparison between Dr. Muralidharan’s presentation on “Achieving Universal Quality Education in India: Challenges and Opportunities” and Dr. Kremer’s “Girls’ Scholarships in Kenya = Education as Liberation?” is particularly interesting when debating which mechanisms serve best to incentivize and produce successful education programs.

Dr. Muralidharan’s papers reflect several randomized control trials in India that test incentives within the education system.  His research shows that enrollment has increased to over 95% in primary schools, but that the students are still unable to read and are not learning. He noted that the difference in objectives is between quality and quantity; for example, more money has been spent on education, but has not been used to target the issue of teacher absenteeism. Continue reading


Methods of Development | Color-Blocking the Development Process Part 2

Race is an important, and often neglected, part of the development process. It usually makes things just a bit more complicated when it comes to distribution of resources and access to education and employment. South Africa is an emerging BRICS country whose race issue has been hard to ignore because of the geographical implications of the apartheid system. However, South Africa’s efforts to counteract the effects of apartheid have been both successful and unsuccessful, creating opportunity but also allowing inequalities to persist.

Nelson Mandela and François Pienaar at the 1995 Rugby World Cup | Source: Getty and The Telegraph

South Africa’s racial inequalities took center stage in the early 1990s with the end of apartheid and Nelson Mandela’s call for South Africa to become a “rainbow nation.” This objective was portrayed in 1995 by the rugby team and Rugby World Cup, also depicted in the film Invictus. The apartheid system physically separated people of different racial origins into distinct geographical areas that limited interracial mixing. South Africa chose four categories to define its people under the apartheid system: white, Indian/Asian, coloured, and black.

Unfortunately racism persists in South Africa and leads to tumultuous political situations and violent acts. A recent example is the vocal outcry that erupted from a poster issued by South Africa’s Democratic Alliance that illustrates an interracial couple with the caption “In OUR future, you wouldn’t look twice.” Black South Africans continue to suffer disproportionately as compared with whites. As a result, affirmative action plans were implemented; helping black South Africans gain jobs and entrance to universities. Continue reading

Methods of Development | Color-Blocking the Development Process Part 1

Quotas in universities for non-white students are becoming the trend in Brazil | Source: BBC News

Two recent articles in The Economist have covered the issue of race in Brazil and South Africa. That’s two of the BRICS countries possibly hindered by something that their governments have taken very little action to remedy thus far. But how to address historical asymmetries in a political arena?

In emerging economies like South Africa and Brazil, where race was largely ignored until a few decades ago, people are still trying to decide if there’s even an issue at all.

In Brazil, differences in skin tone merit a rather large spectrum. Race in Brazil is so nuanced, for example, that one census allowed people to identify their own race—which resulted in 134 categories. Unfortunately, this spectrum has also contributed to the notion that race issues do not exist because race cannot be as concretely identified as in other countries where racial mixing was less frequent. Continue reading