Ideas to Action:

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A worker stands next to the heliostats at the Cerro Dominador solar power plant in Chile

For Richer Countries, Climate Mitigation Should Begin at Home

The world’s poorest countries—those classified as low- and lower-middle-income—contribute just one seventh of global emissions despite being home to half of the global population. A just solution to these countries’ dual challenges of climate change and development should be a central concern of the COP, and political realities suggest the best thing richer countries could do in that regard is develop cost-competitive low carbon technologies as a byproduct of speeding their own path to decarbonization.

A crop of the cover of Your World, Better by Charles Kenny

Your World, Better?

The last eighteen months have shattered any pretense that global development can be taken as given. As ‘impatient optimist’ Bill Gates declared “The COVID-19 pandemic has not only stopped progress — it's pushed it backwards.” Beyond health, the COVID-19 crisis increased global poverty as well as national level inequality and cut into education.

Cape Town at morning rush hour

Anarchy Undelivered

Twenty-five years ago, travel writer and journalist Robert Kaplan wrote an article for The Atlantic, headlined “The Coming Anarchy.” It was an apocalyptic account of Kaplan’s visit to West Africa and his dark vision that much of the world would end up looking like war-torn Sierra Leone. Kaplan suggested recently that he thought “The Coming Anarchy” had stood the test of time. I disagree, and think the fact that Kaplan was wrong matters: global jeremiads are a force for isolationism. I discussed why with The Atlantic’s Matthew Peterson on a new podcast.  

 
Detail of chart showing that taxes can exacerbate poverty in the poorest countries

Chart of the Week: Taxing the Poor to Give to the Bureaucrat?

The world’s poorest people have been getting richer recently. But they remain incredibly poor. The 10 percent of the world’s population still consuming $1.90 or less a day are subsisting on a small fraction of the resources available to people at the US poverty line. So you’d hope that the governments of the countries where they live would be trying to raise their consumption levels. But the reality is more complex.

Chart of the Week #4: Angus Deaton and the Location of Poverty

On Wednesday, Angus Deaton published an op-ed in the New York Times that paints a compelling picture of the depth of poverty in America, and the need for more money and more policy attention to fix it. It's a sobering read, and we strongly agree that America’s most destitute deserve far more support. But in comparing US poverty to poverty in developing countries, we think he’s got his numbers wrong.

The (Sometime) Tyranny of (Somewhat) Arbitrary Income Lines

As Lant Pritchett reports, the World Bank has introduced two new poverty lines: $3.20 for lower middle income countries, and $5.50 for upper middle income countries. I’m with Lant that this is broadly a good thing. But the process by which the World Bank came up with its new poverty lines suggests it might be worth revisiting some of the pitfalls of income thresholds at the individual or national level. 

Do Weak Governments Doom Developing Countries to Poverty?

When you read what economists have to say about development, it is easy to be disheartened about the prospects for poor countries. One big reason is that slow changing institutional factors are seen as key to development prospects. I’ve just published a CGD book that’s a little more optimistic: Results Not Receipts: Counting the Right Things in Aid and Corruption.

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