Social Policy

Microfinance Meets the Market

Microfinance Meets the Market
February Journal of Economic Perspectives 23(1), Winter:  167-192.

Morduch, J., Cull, R. & Demirguc-Kunt, A.
02/01/2009

In this paper, we examine the economic logic behind microfinance institutions and consider the movement from socially oriented nonprofit microfinance institutions to for-profit microfinance. Drawing on a large dataset that includes most of the world's leading microfinance institutions, we explore eight questions about the microfinance "industry": Who are the lenders? How widespread is profitability? Are loans in fact repaid at the high rates advertised? Who are the customers? Why are interest rates so high? Are profits high enough to attract profit-maximizing investors? How important are subsidies? The evidence suggests that investors seeking pure profits would have little interest in most of the institutions we see that are now serving poorer customers. We will suggest that the future of microfinance is unlikely to follow a single path. The recent clash between supporters of profit-driven Banco Compartamos and of the Grameen Bank with its "social business" model offers us a false choice. Commercial investment is necessary to fund the continued expansion of microfinance, but institutions with strong social missions, many taking advantage of subsidies, remain best placed to reach and serve the poorest customers, and some are doing so at a massive scale. The market is a powerful force, but it cannot fill all gaps.

Public Pensions, Public Budgets, and the Risks of Pension Obligation Bonds

Public Pensions, Public Budgets, and the Risks of Pension Obligation Bonds
Society of Actuaries, Public Pension Finance Symposium

Calabrese, Thad.
01/01/2009

Budgeting is the core financial task in subnational governments. Although limited research has outlined the relationship between the annual operating budget and public pension funds, the existing literature has not considered the manner in which financial resources are measured within government budgets, how this measurement of resources might affect public budget decisions, and how the interaction of the budget with the actuarial model can lead public budget managers to engage in financially damaging transactions such as pension obligation bonds. This paper fills this void, and argues that the short-term nature of public budgeting coupled with the actuarial model's use of expected investment returns rather than a market discount rate for pension liability measurement causes governments to shift risk to future generations. This paper also recommends that a blended discount rate for pension liabilities be considered more appropriate when governments fund their annual pension expenditures using debt rather than equity (such as tax revenues).

Recent Changes in Dutch Health Insurance: Individual Mandate or Social Insurance

Recent Changes in Dutch Health Insurance: Individual Mandate or Social Insurance
Expanding Access to Health Care. T.F. Buss and P. Van de Water (eds.) National Academy of Public Administration. New York: M.E. Sharpe.

Okma, K.
01/01/2009

The U.S. health care system faces well-known problems: 47 million people without health insurance, rapidly rising costs that consume 16 percent of the country'e economic output, and widely uneven quality of care. Even many people with coverage are experiencing serious problems paying for the rapidly rising costs of health care and insurance.

This book--a joint product of the National Academy of Public Administration and the National Academy of Social Insurance--undertakes a sweeping analysis of the management and administrative issues that arise in expanding health care coverage. The book identifies the core administrative functions that need to be performed in assuring access to health coverage, describes how these functions are performed at present and under proposed alternatives, draws lessons from experience in the U.S. and abroad, and assesses suggested administrative approaches designed to facilitate the improvement and expansion of health care coverage.

Adequate health care is one of today's most crucial domestic policy concerns. Expanding Access to Health Care is designed to bring together in one place some of the best thinking on the subject, not as an exercise in advocacy, but rather to lay out the issues in a balanced way so that policymakers, researchers, and citizens can better understand the complex details of health care reform.

Seeing Power in Action: The Roles of Deliberation, Implementation, and Action in Inferences of Power

Seeing Power in Action: The Roles of Deliberation, Implementation, and Action in Inferences of Power
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45, 1-14.

Magee, J.C.
01/01/2009

Six experiments investigate the hypothesis that social targets who display a greater action orientation are perceived as having more power (i.e., more control, less dependence, and more influence) than less action-oriented targets. I find evidence that this inference pattern is based on the pervasive belief that individuals with more power experience less constraint and have a greater capacity to act according to their own volition. Observers infer that targets have more power and influence when they exhibit more implementation than deliberation in the process of making decisions in their personal lives (Study 1a), in a public policy context (Study 1b), and in small groups (Study 2). In an organizational context, observers infer that a target who votes for a policy to change from the status quo has more power than a target who votes not to change from the status quo (Study 3). People also infer greater intra-organizational power and higher hierarchical rank in targets who take physical action toward a personal goal than in those who do not (Studies 4–5).

Power and the objectification of social targets

Power and the objectification of social targets
Power and the objectification of social targets. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2008, Vol. 95, No. 1, 111-127

Gruenfeld, D. H, Inesi, M. E., Magee, J.C. & Galinsky, A.D.
07/01/2008

Objectification has been defined historically as a process of subjugation whereby people, like objects, are treated as means to an end. The authors hypothesized that objectification is a response to social power that involves approaching useful social targets regardless of the value of their other human qualities. Six studies found that under conditions of power, approach toward a social target was driven more by the target's usefulness, defined in terms of the perceiver's goals, than in low-power and baseline conditions. This instrumental response to power, which was linked to the presence of an active goal, was observed using multiple instantiations of power, different measures of approach, a variety of goals, and several types of instrumental and noninstrumental target attributes. Implications for research on the psychology of power, automatic goal pursuit, and self-objectification theory are discussed.

Public Opinion toward Legislating for the Future: An Update

Public Opinion toward Legislating for the Future: An Update
Policy Report for New York University's Brademas Center for the Study of Congress,

Light, P.C.
04/01/2008

The past two years have been unsettled at best for Congress. Public approval toward Congress remains low, legislative debates have been contentious, polarization remains high, and Congress has a mixed record in dealing with major long-term issues such as Social Security and Medicare. The State Children's Health Insurance program has been delayed awaiting a compromise that might expand coverage, immigration reform has been waylaid by the intensity of opposition across the party lines, energy reform was diluted by ongoing disputes about how to reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil, and the war in Iraq continues to dictate the pace of major legislative debates.

A Complex(ity) Strategy for Breaking the Environmental Logjam (with David R. Johnson), in Breaking the LogJam: An Environmental Law for the 21st Century

A Complex(ity) Strategy for Breaking the Environmental Logjam (with David R. Johnson), in Breaking the LogJam: An Environmental Law for the 21st Century
NYU Environ. L. Rev. (Fall 2008)

Noveck, Beth (selected chapters)
01/01/2008

In this essay, we explore how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) might use technology to improve the agency's level of scientific expertise and to obtain useful information sooner to inform EPA policymaking. By creating a self-reinforcing collaboration between government and networked publics, new web-based tools could help produce change within government and without - namely governmental decisions informed by better data obtained through citizen participation and civic action coordinated with governmental priorities. The agency has the opportunity to help break the logjam of environmental policymaking by developing transparent and participatory mechanisms for expert citizen participation. The key insight is not to throw open the floodgates to undifferentiated public input, but to design group-based processes that enable online communities to collaborate on finding and vetting information for agencies.

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