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Research Newsletter Archive

A monthly summary of the latest research by the Development Research Group, the principal research department of the World Bank

2020 Monthly Newsletter

August   The newsletter is on hiatus for the month of August. 
Labor Markets The July research newsletter rounds up recent research on labor markets and also highlights possible longer-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the structure of labor markets in developed and developing economies.

Emerging and Ongoing Threats to Human Development  The June research newsletter highlights research on both persistent, longer-term threats to human development and the new threat represented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Development Policy and COVID-19 (Coronavirus) The May research newsletter highlights recent research on COVID-19, the implications of the pandemic for development policy, and debates on optimal policy responses to support poor households through the crisis.

Democratizing Democracy The April research newsletter highlights approaches to reinvigorate democratic systems in developing countries.

The Distributional Effects of International Trade The March newsletter highlights facts and misconceptions surrounding the distributional effects of international trade that have led to overstating the net costs of trade liberalization.

Detecting and Combating Corruption and State Capture The February newsletter highlights new approaches to fighting corruption via three case studies: Tunisia under Ben Ali, customs in Madagascar, and financial flows into offshore financial centers known for bank secrecy following international aid disbursements. 

10 Transformative Charts from the Past Decade of Development The January research newsletter highlights some of the research presented over the last decade in the Development Research Group's Policy Research Talk series.

2019 Monthly Newsletters (PDF)

December Cash Transfer Programs The December research newsletter focuses on cash transfer programs and how they reduce poverty, increase school enrollment, improve nutrition, but can also have spillover effects on nonbeneficiary households.
November Transnational Crime and Conflict  The November research newsletter focuses on the rise in transnational crime, conflict, and violence and the urgent need for international cooperation using improved data and tools to study the drivers behind these threats.
October A Global View of Inequality  The October newsletter focuses on the fall in global inequality between 2008 and 2013, largely driven by rising incomes in populous developing countries that helped close the gap with high-income countries. 
September Productive Cities in the 21st Century The September newsletter provides a roundup of papers presented at the 6th Urbanization and Poverty Reduction Research Conference held on September 9, 2019. 
August Measuring Intergenerational Mobility  The August newsletter focuses on measuring intergenerational mobility in a developing country context with limited data.
July Building Bureaucracies That Work The July newsletter focuses on research and data that are changing our understanding of the way government bureaucracies function and how we might make them work more effectively. 
May Historical Shocks and Long-Term Development The May newsletter focuses on how historical conflicts and large shocks have led to institutional legacies that shape modern development outcomes. The research highlighted looks at the development of state capacity in the aftermath of war and rebellion, the role of peacekeeping in a post-conflict situation, predicting conflict, and more. 
April Structural Transformation and Urban Development The April newsletter focuses on a decade’s worth of research on how cities have evolved in many of the world’s poorest countries. History demonstrates that the underlying economic structure of cities can vary significantly. The research highlighted shows how urbanization along with economic growth is needed to increase economic specialization within rural areas and between cities and rural areas.
March Inequality of Opportunity The March newsletter focuses on a new body of research that sheds light on the extent to which inequality is the result of unequal life chances versus individual effort. The research highlighted relates to various measurements that can reveal the consequences of unequal life changes and how inequality relates to growth. 
February Closing the Human Capital Gap The February newsletter focuses on research to close the human capital gap. Human capital—health, knowledge, and skills—is a major determinant of an individual’s lifetime income, and hence of a country’s per capita income. The research highlighted relates directly to the metrics tracked by the Human Capital Index. 
January Gender and Opportunity The January newsletter focuses on gender—the extent of gender inequality in the world, the price that women and society pay, the factors causing it, and possible remedies to create equal opportunity for women. A number of studies are breaking new ground by utilizing unusual sources of data to understand how gender bias creeps into society. 

2018 Monthly Newsletters (PDF)

December Household Debt and Financial Decision Making The December newsletter focuses on household debt and financial decision making. Data from the IMF show that household debt-to-GDP ratios in emerging markets have doubled over the last ten years. This issue sheds new light on the black box of household financial decision making from new Global Findex data, research on India’s Jan Dhan Yojana debt forgiveness program for farmers, the effect of disclosure formats for loans, and why a commitment savings product in Ghana was only partially successful.
November Intergenerational Mobility The November newsletter focuses on intergenerational mobility. With the launch of the Global Database on Intergenerational Mobility, covering 148 economies, confirms the depth of the problem. The rest of the newsletter highlights research on the challenges of measuring mobility in settings where data is often incomplete and hard to come by. Additional research looks at the complex interplay between growth and inequality. 
October  World Bank’s Human Capital Index The October newsletter focuses on the research foundations of the World Bank’s new Human Capital Index. The index is a key pillar of the Bank’s Human Capital Project, an initiative to create political momentum for investments in the education and health of the next generation.The newsletter highlights the careful research that underpins the Human Capital Index’s methodology—in particular Aart Kraay’s recent working paper on the HCI methodology—but also work that fills in pieces of the puzzle.   
September Exporter Dynamics, Superstar Firms, and Trade Policy The September newsletter focuses on international trade. Better data and new experimental evidence are providing a deeper understanding of the behavior of exporters and how policy can help developing countries compete in global markets. New research shows how stringent product standards in a destination market can deter exporters; how China’s trade liberalization deepened its engagement in global value chains and increased the domestic value-added of its exports; and how an export promotion program in Tunisia had mixed results. 
July  Machine Learning and Big Data The July newsletter focuses on machine learning and big data. Rapid advances in computing power and decreases in the costs of certain types of data are allowing us to address long-standing development questions in completely new ways. A number of studies in this month’s newsletter take advantage of satellite imagery to proxy for data that are often in short supply in low-income economy contexts. Nighttime lights allow us to estimate local GDP in the West Bank; satellite imagery in Ethiopia is helping us monitor land use and soil degradation in real time; images of buildings can be used to construct population maps.
May Financial Inclusion The May newsletter covers the new Findex report, working papers related to financial inclusion, as well as new policy briefs on the fintech revolution and on financial integration in East Asia and Pacific, the latest Research Digest on fragility, conflict, and violence, and a round-up of blog posts on topics like governance, the cost of judicial delays, the impact of business plan competitions, and many others.  


Conflict, Violence, and Fragile States

The April newsletter focuses on the challenges faced by fragile and conflict-affected states. Recent papers include a path-breaking analysis of Daesh’s oil revenues using satellite data; the impact and design of peacekeeping missions; and the conditions that lead to radicalization.


Fiscal Space

The February newsletter focuses on the growing fiscal vulnerabilities in many emerging markets and developing economies (EMDEs). Recent papers on the topic examine the evolution of fiscal space over the last three decades; the impact of fiscal space on the effectiveness of fiscal stimulus; and priority steps EMDEs can take to rebuild their fiscal space.


Divorce, Widowhood, and Women’s Welfare in Africa


The January newsletter focuses on the fate of widows and divorcees in Africa, where the impact of marital death and divorce falls heavily on women, who are often excluded socially and lose their property after a marriage ends. Recent papers on this understudied topic examine the welfare status of divorced and widowed women in 20 countries across Africa; marital trajectories in Senegal; and the living standards of widows and their children in Mali.


Inequality of Opportunity 

2017 Monthly Newsletters (PDF)



International Banking

The December newsletter focuses on international banking. Recent papers tackle the performance of international banks in developing countries; the impact of foreign monetary policy on credit supply; the cushion provided by capital markets during a shock to bank lending.


Moving for Prosperity

The November newsletter focuses on migration. Recent papers examine the impact of alternative transit routes on unilateral migration policies; the increasing role of high-skilled migrants in global migration patterns; the effect of tax incentives on enticing high-skilled emigrants to return home.



The October newsletter focuses on urbanization. Recent papers on the issue examine better approaches to measuring urbanization; the role of land governance; urban land markets; road investments; and public transit.   


Promoting Effective Governance


The September newsletter focuses on promoting effective governance. Recent papers examine the challenges civil servants face in serving the poor; how civil society leaders can use social pressure to improve governance; exploring why the implementation of a participatory anti-poverty project in India worsened as it expanded.


Financial Education


The August newsletter focuses on financial education. Recent papers cover topics such as the limited benefits of generic classroom-based education for adults; the role of programs that complement financial education; the low quality of information provided by banks to potential clients about their products; and the success of a South African soap opera in encouraging positive financial outcomes.


Measuring and Monitoring Global Poverty

The June-July newsletter focuses on global poverty measurement. Recent papers on poverty measurement cover topics such as new methodological foundations for setting an international poverty line; the most recent update to the international poverty line; a new supplemental approach to measuring global poverty that incorporates an element of relative poverty.


Early Childhood Development

The May newsletter focuses on early childhood development. Recent papers cover topics such as the factors related to learning gaps in school; the benefits of mass deworming; the impact of a conditional cash transfer program in Tanzania; school readiness programs. 


Gender Inequality

The April newsletter focuses on gender inequality. Recent papers cover topics such as the cost of land tenure insecurity on the productivity of female farmers in Africa; gender discrimination in the diffusion of agricultural technology; the role of radio programming in increasing political participation by women; the state of poverty in female-headed households in Africa; policies that target poor households often miss women and children.


Labor Markets Policies

The March newsletter focuses on labor market policies. Recent papers cover topics such as hiring subsidies to overcome labor market frictions; the efficacy of a vocational training program; the use of big data to better understand workforce skills; and the benefits of wage subsidies during an economic crisis.  


Agricultural Productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa

The February newsletter focuses on agricultural productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa. Recent papers cover topics such as the impediments to rural transformation in Sub-Saharan Africa; new approaches to agricultural extension in Mozambique; improving land tenure security in Benin; and the farm size-productivity relationship in Rwanda.


Economic Geography

The January newsletter focuses on economic geography. Recent papers examine topics such as the impact of transport investments on development outcomes; the spatial impacts of hukou and highways in China; the impact of roads on market access and agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa; and the role of rural transport in reallocating labor in India.