International Development

Selective Knowledge: Reporting Bias in Microfinance Data

Selective Knowledge: Reporting Bias in Microfinance Data
Perspectives on Global Development and Technology.

Morduch, J. & Bauchet, J.
06/01/2010

Answering surveys is usually voluntary, yet much of our knowledge depends on the willingness of households and institutions to answer. In this study, we explore the implications of voluntary reporting on knowledge about microfinance. We show systematic biases in microfinance institutions' choices about which survey to respond to and which specific indicators to report. The analysis focuses on data for 2,072 microfinance institutions from MixMarket and the Microcredit Summit Campaign databases for the years 2004-2006. In general, we find that financial indicators are more often reported than social indicators. The patterns of reporting correlate with the institutions' region of operation, mission, and size. The patterns in turn affect analyses of key questions on trade-offs between financial and social goals in microfinance. For example, the relationship between operational self-sufficiency and the percentage of women borrowers is positive in the Microcredit Summit Campaign data but negative in the MixMarket data. The results highlight the conditional nature of our knowledge and the value of supporting social reporting.

Health Care in World Cities: New York, London and Paris

Health Care in World Cities: New York, London and Paris
Johns Hopkins University Press, April

Gusmano, M.K., Rodwin, V.G. & Weisz, D.
04/01/2010

New York. London. Paris. Although these cities have similar sociodemographic characteristics, including income inequalities and ethic diversity, they have vastly different health systems and services. This book compares the three and considers lessons that can be applied to current and future debates about urban health care.

Highlighting the importance of a national policy for city health systems, the authors use well-established indicators and comparable data sources to shed light on urban health policy and practice. Their detailed comparison of the three city health systems and the national policy regimes in which they function provides information about access to health care in the developed world's largest cities.

The authors first review the current literature on comparative analysis of health systems and offer a brief overview of the public health infrastructure in each city. Later chapters illustrate how timely and appropriate disease prevention, primary care, and specialty health care services can help cities control such problems as premature mortality and heart disease.

In providing empirical comparisons of access to care in these three health systems, the authors refute inaccurate claims about health care outside of the United States.

Click here for a brief excerpt of the content.

A qualitative analysis of environmental policy and children's health in Mexico

A qualitative analysis of environmental policy and children's health in Mexico
Environ Health. 2010 Mar 23;9:14

Cifuentes E, Trasande L, Ramirez M, Landrigan PJ.
03/01/2010

BACKGROUND:

Since Mexico's joining the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 1994, it has witnessed rapid industrialization. A byproduct of this industrialization is increasing population exposure to environmental pollutants, of which some have been associated with childhood disease. We therefore identified and assessed the adequacy of existing international and Mexican governance instruments and policy tools to protect children from environmental hazards.

METHODS:

We first systematically reviewed PubMed, the Mexican legal code and the websites of the United Nations, World Health Organization, NAFTA and OECD as of July 2007 to identify the relevant governance instruments, and analyzed the approach these instruments took to preventing childhood diseases of environmental origin. Secondly, we interviewed a purposive sample of high-level government officials, researchers and non-governmental organization representatives, to identify their opinions and attitudes towards children's environmental health and potential barriers to child-specific protective legislation and implementation.

RESULTS:

We identified only one policy tool describing specific measures to reduce developmental neurotoxicity and other children's health effects from lead. Other governance instruments mention children's unique vulnerability to ozone, particulate matter and carbon monoxide, but do not provide further details. Most interviewees were aware of Mexican environmental policy tools addressing children's health needs, but agreed that, with few exceptions, environmental policies do not address the specific health needs of children and pregnant women. Interviewees also cited state centralization of power, communication barriers and political resistance as reasons for the absence of a strong regulatory platform.

CONCLUSIONS:

The Mexican government has not sufficiently accounted for children's unique vulnerability to environmental contaminants. If regulation and legislation are not updated and implemented to protect children, increases in preventable exposures to toxic chemicals in the environment may ensue.

U.S. Ratification of the CRC and Reducing Child Poverty: Can We Get There from Here?

U.S. Ratification of the CRC and Reducing Child Poverty: Can We Get There from Here?
Child Welfare, 89(5): 159-175

Aber, J.L., Hammond, A.S. & S.M. Thompson.
01/01/2010

If the United States finally ratifies the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC), will it improve the country's to effectively combat child poverty and thereby improve child well-being? This article addresses this and related questions in two ways. First, the authors examine how ratification of the CRC has influenced the efforts of other wealthy Anglophone countries to reduce child poverty. Second, they draw on lessons learned from these other countries' efforts to generate predictions about America's postratification future. The authors conclude that, while the CRC is a compelling, practical tool, a communications strategy and business plan are necessary complements to achieve desired results.

"Shaping Tomorrow Today: Evaluating and Implementing Long-Term Decisions"

"Shaping Tomorrow Today: Evaluating and Implementing Long-Term Decisions"
Editor, RAND 2009

Robert Lempert, Paul C. Light
01/01/2009

In March 2009, the RAND Frederick S. Pardee Center for Longer Range Global Policy and the Future Human Condition hosted a workshop called “Shaping Tomorrow Today: Near-Term Steps Towards Long-Term Goals.” The workshop gave policymakers and analysts an opportunity to explore new methods and tools that can help improve long-term decisionmaking. The intent was to conduct this exploration collaboratively, drawing from many countries a mixed group of tool builders, analysts, planners, decisionmakers and interested lay observers. Their task was to consider how analysts and policymakers can determine when it is important to make long-term (as opposed to short-term) decisions, how to make better long-term decisions, and how best to support policymakers in thinking long term, using as case studies the areas of education, international policy, and climate change. These conference proceedings summarize the main discussions and presentations that took place during the two days of the workshop and include the papers written for workshop participants. They will be of interest to anyone engaged in the study and practice of thinking and acting meaningfully over the long term, with particular reference to problems faced by planners and policymakers in public institutions of governance.

The Unbanked: Evidence from Indonesia

The Unbanked: Evidence from Indonesia
October   World Bank Economic Review 22(3): 517-537

Morduch, J. & Jonston Jr., D.
10/01/2008

To analyze the prospects for expanding financial access to the poor, bank professionals assessed 1,438 households in six provinces in Indonesia to judge their creditworthiness. About 40 percent of poor households were judged creditworthy according to the criteria of Indonesia's largest microfinance bank, but fewer than 10 percent had recently borrowed from a microbank or formal lender. Possessing collateral appeared as a minor determinant of creditworthiness, in keeping with microfinance innovations. Although these households were judged able to service loans reliably, most desired small loans. Calculations show that the bank, given its current fee structure and banking practices, would lose money when lending at the scales desired. So, while innovations have helped to extend financial access, it remains difficult to lend in small amounts and cover costs.

The Knowledge Bank

The Knowledge Bank
in William Easterly, editor, Reimagining Foreign Aid. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Morduch, J.
07/01/2008

The urgency of reducing poverty in the developing world has been the subject of a public campaign by such unlikely policy experts as George Clooney, Alicia Keyes, Elton John, Angelina Jolie, and Bono. And yet accompanying the call for more foreign aid is an almost universal discontent with the effectiveness of the existing aid system. In Reinventing Foreign Aid, development expert William Easterly has gathered top scholars in the field to discuss how to improve foreign aid. These authors, Easterly points out, are not claiming that their ideas will (to invoke a current slogan) Make Poverty History. Rather, they take on specific problems and propose some hard-headed solutions.

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