FEATURE STORY

Data and Measurement Essential to Reaching the World Bank’s Twin Goals

November 6, 2014

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In the picture (from left to right) are: Asli Demirguc-Kunt, Stephen O’Connell (USAID), Peter Lanjouw, and Dean Jolliffe.


STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • New Policy Research Report “A Measured Approach to Ending Poverty and Boosting Shared Prosperity: Concepts, Data, and the Twin Goals” launched at this year’s World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings
  • According to the report’s projections, status quo policies will not be enough to bring the global level of extreme poverty below 3 percent by 2030
  • The report focuses on how high-quality data and accurate measurement can help achieve the twin goals of ending poverty and boosting shared prosperity

This October the World Bank’s research department released a Policy Research Report entitled “A Measured Approach to Ending Poverty and Boosting Shared Prosperity: Concepts, Data, and the Twin Goals .” Prepared by a team led by Peter Lanjouw and Dean Jolliffe, economists in the research department, the report makes the case that campaigning around the World Bank Group’s twin goals of ending poverty and boosting shared prosperity requires an understanding of the theory and accompanying measurement challenges of the goals.

The World Bank hosted two events at its headquarters to highlight the report’s findings and facilitate a dialogue around the World Bank’s twin goals: first a Policy Research Talk in which Peter Lanjouw discussed the report in depth, followed by a high-profile launch during the 2014 World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings. The event centered on a panel that included World Bank Chief Economist Kaushik Basu, James E. Foster (George Washington University and Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative), Nora Lustig (Tulane), and Stephen O’Connell (USAID). Previously, Jolliffe had also presented the report at the World Bank’s country offices in Jakarta and Addis.

World Bank Research Director Asli Demirguc-Kunt, who hosted both events, emphasized the independent nature of the report and its contribution to the larger development discussion and the twin goals. “When institutions set goals, sometimes they are so unattainable that they are just aspirational. Or, they are so close within reach that they are merely there to show success when enough time passes. I think that this report does a very good job of showing that these goals are neither,” she said.

The World Bank’s poverty reduction goal of 3 percent of the world’s population living on less than $1.25 a day by 2030 is potentially attainable, but it is highly ambitious and will pose a challenge for both researchers and policy makers. As Lanjouw stated in his Policy Research Talk, “Reaching the poverty goal is ambitious. Business as usual and growth alone will not get us there by 2030.” Growth alone—absent any change in the distribution of incomes—would have to hit 4 percent each year in each developing country until 2030 to attain the goal, but this type of growth performance is improbable.

Taking into consideration both poverty reduction and the goal of increasing shared prosperity, Lanjouw touched on the complementarity of the twin goals. He highlighted how “growth in average income has historically played a large role in poverty reduction and is closely related conceptually and empirically to shared prosperity.” Policies that target shared prosperity will help countries reach that goal.

The report emphasizes that the twin goals, while useful as benchmarks because they are straightforward and practical, are only two options out of an array of possible indicators of poverty reduction. By placing the goals in the wider context of poverty and welfare analysis, the report makes clear that countries can select other indicators and goals as their circumstances require.



" Reaching the poverty goal is ambitious. Business as usual and growth alone will not get us there by 2030.  "

Peter Lanjouw

Research Manager, Development Research Group, World Bank


At the launch event, Dean Jolliffe also emphasized the critical role of measurement efforts and the importance of the underlying data. “We’re not just talking about more data, and more frequent data, we want to emphasize the quality of data and information and how we interpret it,” he said. Senior Director of the Poverty Global Practice Ana Revenga also underscored the importance of researchers and practitioners working closely together to create the best possible data collection and measurement.

USAID Chief Economist Stephen O’Connell, speaking at the launch event, emphasized the need for a multi-pronged approach to poverty reduction. “We cannot forget growth, but growth alone is not going to be enough to pull the train to get extreme poverty levels down.” Reflecting on the economic development experiences and challenges of China compared with countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, O’Connell said that “the countries where the poor now live are very different, and in very systematic ways, from the countries where the poor lived primarily at the outset of the first [Millennium Development Goal] campaign.” He recognized the challenges of data collection, particularly from extremely poor households. There was also agreement among the panelists that limited access to opportunity should be considered part of the larger portrait of poverty.

Demirguc-Kunt advocated the involvement of researchers in the data collection and analysis process. “This is exactly how we innovate on the ground and generate high quality data, and sometimes it is overlooked when we talk about the data for the twin goals initiative and the like. And this is precisely what we have been doing with the Living Standards Measurement Survey for over 30 years.”


" We’re not just talking about more data, and more frequent data. We want to emphasize the quality of data and information and how we interpret it.  "

Dean Jolliffe

Sr. Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

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