Digitalization is accelerating as countries fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. In this context, the impact of mobile phone ownership on welfare (represented by consumption) is estimated for South Africa using rich household survey data in a panel format, the National Income Dynamics Study (NIDS) with 5 waves spanning 2008–17. The literature argues mobile phone ownership facilitates greater and more affordable access to information and generate welfare gains. We attempt to disentangle the two-way relationship between consumption and mobile phone ownership, which is inherently difficult, and add to the literature by investigating distributional effects. Estimated results suggest that consumption of mobile phone owners tends to be 10–20 percent above that of non-owners. Benefits tend to accrue more on individuals with relatively low levels of consumption, potentially as a greater number of new users, likely with higher marginal positive effects on consumption, and a faster rate of user cost reduction help reap greater gains.
Amine Hammadi, Marshall Mills, Nelson Sobrinho, Mr. Vimal V Thakoor, and Ricardo Velloso
Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) tend to lag those in most other regions in terms of
governance and perceptions of corruption. Weak governance undermines economic
performance through various channels, including deficiencies in government functions and
distortions to economic incentives. It thus stands to reason that SSA countries could
strengthen their economic performance by improving governance and reducing corruption.
This paper estimates that strengthening governance and mitigating corruption in the region
could be associated with large growth dividends in the long run. While the process would
take considerable time and effort, moving the average SSA country governance level to the
global average could increase the region’s GDP per capita growth by about 1-2 percentage
We shed new light on the determinants of growth by tackling the blunt and weak instrument problems in the empirical growth literature. As an instrument for each endogenous variable, we propose average values of the same variable in neighboring countries. This method has the advantage of producing variable-specific and time-varying—namely, “sharp”—and strong instruments. We find that export sophistication is the only robust determinant of growth among standard growth determinants such as human capital, trade, financial development, and institutions. Our results suggest that other growth determinants may be important to the extent they help improve export sophistication.
This paper presents new results on the relationship between income inequality and education expansion—that is, increasing average years of schooling and reducing inequality of schooling. When dynamic panel estimation techniques are used to address issues of persistence and endogeneity, we find a large, positive, statistically significant and stable relationship between inequality of schooling and income inequality, especially in emerging and developing economies and among older age cohorts. The relationship between income inequality and average years of schooling is positive, consistent with constant or increasing returns to additional years of schooling. While this positive relationship is small and not always statistically significant, we find a statistically significant negative relationship with years of schooling of younger cohorts. Statistical tests indicate that our dynamic estimators are consistent and that our identifying instruments are valid. Policy simulations suggest that education expansion will continue to be inequality reducing. This role will diminish as countries develop, but it could be enhanced through a stronger focus on reducing inequality in the quality of education.
Mr. Serhan Cevik, Richard Harris, and Fatih Yilmaz
Standard models—based exclusively on macro-financial variables—have made little progress in explaining the behavior of exchange rates. In this paper, we introduce a neglected set of “soft power” factors capturing a country’s demographic, institutional, political and social underpinnings to uncover the “missing” determinants of exchange rate volatility over time and across countries. Based on a balanced panel dataset comprising 115 countries during the period 1996–2011, the empirical results are generally robust across different estimation methodologies and show a high degree of persistence in exchange rate volatility, especially in emerging market economies. After controlling for standard macroeconomic factors, we find that the “soft power” variables—such as an index of voice and accountability, life expectancy, educational attainment, the z-score of banks, and the share of agriculture relative to services—have a statistically significant influence on the level of exchange rate volatility across countries.
Do foreign-educated individuals play a role in promoting democracy in their home countries? Despite the large amount of private and public resources spent on foreign education, there is no systematic evidence that foreign-educated individuals foster democracy in their home countries. Using a unique panel dataset on foreign students starting from 1950, I show that, indeed, foreign-educated individuals promote democracy in their home country, but only if the foreign education is acquired in democratic countries. The results are robust to reverse causality, country-specific omitted variables, and inclusion of a variety of control variables. The results are stronger for small countries.
An error-correction model identifies determinants of growth consistent with results from panel regressions based on a standard Cobb-Douglas production function for El Salvador for 1970-1995, with structural factors affecting the technology variable and macroeconomics and expectations explaining the deviations from the long-run trend. Consistency of the parameters is satisfactory, especially considering that half of the sample period was affected by a civil war, 40 percent of the working population migrated to foreign countries during that period, and the rapid process of economic reform after the advent of peace resulted in overlapping structural patterns.