Over the past 40 years, regulatory reforms have been undertaken on the assumption that markets are efficient and self-corrective, crises are random events that are unpreventable, the purpose of an economic system is to grow, and economic growth necessarily improves well-being. This narrow framework of discussion has important implications for what is expected from financial regulation, and for its implementation. Indeed, the goal becomes developing a regulatory structure that minimizes the impact on economic growth while also providing high-enough buffers against shocks. In addition, given the overarching importance of economic growth, economic variables like profits, net worth, and low default rates have been core indicators of the financial health of banking institutions.
Official poverty thresholds are based on the implicit assumption that the household with poverty-level income possesses sufficient time for household production to enable it to reproduce itself as a unit. Several authors have questioned the validity of the assumption and explored alternative methods to account for time deficits in the measurement of poverty. I critically review the alternative approaches within a unified framework to highlight the commonalities and relative merits of individual approaches. I also propose a two-dimensional, time-income poverty measure that accounts for intrahousehold disparities in the division of household labor and briefly discuss its uses in thinking about antipoverty policies.
In most economies, the potential of saving energy via insulation and more efficient uses of electricity is important. In order to reach the Kyoto Protocol objectives, it is urgent to develop policies that reduce the production of carbon dioxide in all sectors of the economy. This paper proposes an analysis of a green-jobs employer-of-last-resort (ELR) program based on a stock-flow consistent (SFC) model with three productive sectors (consumption, capital goods, and energy) and two household sectors (wage earners and capitalists). By increasing the energy efficiency of dwellings and public buildings, the green-jobs ELR sector implies a shift in consumption patterns from energy consumption toward consumption of goods. This could spur the private sector and thus increase employment. Lastly, the jobs guarantee program removes all involuntary unemployment and decreases poverty while lowering carbon dioxide emissions. The environmental policy proposed in this paper is macroeconomic and offers a structural change of the economy instead of the usual micro solutions.
Over the last 20 years or so, mainstream economists have become more interested in spatial economics and have introduced largely neoclassical economic concepts and tools to explain phenomena that were previously the preserve of economic geographers. One of these concepts is the aggregate production function, which is also central to much of regional growth theory. However, as Franklin Fisher, inter alios, has shown, the conditions necessary to aggregate microproduction functions into an aggregate production function are so stringent that in all probability the aggregate production function does not exist. This paper shows that the good statistical fits commonly found empirically are solely due to the use of value data and an underlying accounting identity. The result is that the estimates obtained cannot be regarded as providing evidence of the underlying technological structure of the spatial economy, including the aggregate elasticity of substitution, the degree of returns to scale, and the rate of technical progress.
The literature on public employment policies such as the job guarantee (JG) and the employer of last resort (ELR) often emphasizes their macroeconomic stabilization effects. But carefully designed and implemented policies like these can also have profound social transformative effects. In particular, they can help address enduring economic problems such as poverty and gender disparity. To examine how, this paper will look at the reform of Argentina’s Plan Jefes into Plan Familias. Plan Jefes was the hallmark stabilization policy of the Argentine government after the 2001 crisis. It guaranteed a public sector job in a community project to unemployed male and female heads of households. The vast majority of beneficiaries, however, turned out to be poor women. For a number of reasons that are explored below, the program was later reformed into a cash transfer policy, known as Plan Familias, that still exists today. The paper examines this reform in order to evaluate the relative impact of such policies on some of the most vulnerable members of society; namely, poor women. An examination of the Argentine experience based on survey evidence and fieldwork reveals that poor women overwhelmingly want paid work opportunities, and that a policy such as the JG or the ELR cannot only guarantees full employment and macroeconomic stabilization, but it can also serve as an institutional vehicle that begins to transform some of the structures and norms that produce and reproduce gender disparities. These transformative features of public employment policies are elucidated by turning to the capabilities approach developed by Amartya Sen and elaborated by Martha Nussbaum—an approach commonly invoked in the feminist literature. This paper examines how the access to paid employment can enhance what Sen defines as an individual’s “substantive freedom.” Any policy that fosters genuine freedom begins with an understanding of what the targeted population (in this case, poor women) wants. It then devises a strategy that guarantees that such opportunities exist and removes the obstacles to accessing these opportunities.
This paper considers public employment guarantee programs in the context of South Africa as a means to address the nexus of poverty, unemployment, and unpaid work burdens—all factors exacerbated by HIV/AIDS. It further discusses the need for genderinformed public job creation in areas that mitigate the “time-tax” burdens of women, and examines a South African initiative to address social sector service delivery deficits within the government’s Expanded Public Works Programme. The authors highlight the need for well-designed employment guarantee programs—specifically, programs centered on community and home-based care—as a potential way to help offset the destabilizing effects of HIV/AIDS and endemic poverty. The paper concludes with results from macroeconomic simulations of such a program, using a social accounting matrix framework, and sets out implications for both participants and policymakers.
This paper presents a comparative analysis of the approaches to poverty based on income and wealth that have been proposed in the literature. Two types of approaches are considered: those that look at income and wealth separately when defining the poverty frontier, and those in which these two dimensions are integrated into a single index of welfare. We illustrate the implications of these approaches on the structure of poverty using data for two industrialized countries—for example, the United States and Spain. We find that the incidence of poverty in these two countries varies significantly depending on the poverty definition adopted. Despite this variation, our results suggest that the poverty problem is robust to changes in the way poverty is measured. Regarding the identification of the poor, there is a high level of misclassification between the poverty indices: for most of the pairwise comparisons, the proportion of households that are misclassified is above 50 percent. Interestingly, the rate of misclassification in the United States is significantly lower than in Spain. We argue that the higher correlation between income and wealth in the United States contributes to explaining the greater overlap between poverty indices in this country.
Argentina’s experience shows that direct job creation programs that offer employment at a base wage can have the unique capacity to empower and undermine prevailing structures that produce and reproduce poverty and gender disparities. Because the latter two problems are multidimensional, the ELR cannot be treated as a panacea, but rather as an important policy tool that remedies some of the most entrenched and resilient causes of poverty and gender inequality. The paper examines survey evidence based on narratives by female participants in Jefes to assess these potentially transformative aspects of the ELR proposal.
Over the last two decades, those at the bottom of the income scale have seen their incomes stagnate, while those at the top have seen theirs skyrocket; without intervention, the recession that began in December 2007 was likely to exacerbate this trend. Will the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) be able to keep the situation from getting worse for those at the bottom of the income scale? Will ARRA reverse the upward trend in inequality that we’ve seen in the recent past? The authors of this new working paper employ a microsimulation of ARRA to address these questions. They find that, despite a large amount of job creation, ARRA is likely to have little impact on overall income inequality, or on the income gaps between relatively advantaged and disadvantaged groups.
This paper argues that the two objectives are not mutually exclusive by revisiting Argentina’s experience with Plan Jefes and its subsequent reform. Plan Jefes is the only direct job creation program in the world specifically modeled after the modern ELR proposal developed in the United States. With respect to macroeconomic stability, the paper reviews how it exhibits some of the key stabilizing features of ELR that have been postulated in the literature, even though it was not designed as an unconditional job guarantee. Plan Jefes also illustrated that public employment programs can have a transformative impact on persistent socioeconomic problems such as poverty and gender disparity. Women—by far the largest group of program beneficiaries—report key benefits to their communities, families, children, and (importantly) themselves from participation in Jefes.
Widespread economic recessions and protracted financial crises have been documented as setting back gender equality and other development goals in the past. In the midst of the current global crisis—often referred to as “the Great Recession”—there is grave concern that progress made in poverty reduction and women’s equality will be reversed. Indeed, for many developing countries it is particularly worrisome that, through no fault of their own, the global economic downturn has exacerbated effects from other crises manifest in food insecurity, poverty, and increasing inequality. This paper explores both well-known and less discussed paths of transmission through which crises affect women’s world of work and overall wellbeing. As demand for textile and agricultural exports decline, along with tourism, job losses are expected to rise in these female-intensive industries. In addition, the gendered nature of the world of work suggests that women will see an increase in their share among informal and vulnerable workers worldwide, and will also supply more of their labor under unpaid conditions. The latter is particularly important in the context of developing countries, where many production activities take place outside the strict boundaries of the market. The paper also makes this point: examined through the prism of gender equality, the ability of the state to implement countercyclical policies matters greatly. If policy responses at the national and international levels end up aggravating inequities, gender equality processes face many more barriers, especially among the poor.