Chris Blattman


Counterpoint: Economist takes on NYTimes ‘Malthusian’ tendencies | 

Flickr, nch05

Lotsa Nigerians

Last week, the United Nations’ predicted which countries can expect to see the biggest increases in urban populations – China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria and … the United States.

I’m still waiting for someone to provide a more detailed analysis of what this all means, since the US is included in a list of other “emerging” countries that many see as having problems with managing population growth.

But until that happens, let’s consider the New York Times’ close look at population growth in Nigeria, which is already the world’s 6th most populous nation with something like 167 million people.

As the Times’ Elizabeth Rosenthal writes in her report Nigeria tested by rapid rise in population:

In a quarter-century, at the rate Nigeria is growing, 300 million people — a population about as big as that of the present-day United States — will live in a country the size of Arizona and New Mexico. In this commercial hub, where the area’s population has by some estimates nearly doubled over 15 years to 21 million, living standards for many are falling.

The gist of the Times’ story is that it is population growth which is causing hardship for so many Nigerians.

Chris Blattman, an aid expert and Yale economist, thinks this is just hogwash. He criticizes the newspaper for reverting to the archaic theories of population doom along the lines of 18th century Rev. Thomas Malthus in his rejoinder to the Times’ story dubbed Mr. Malthus goes to Nigeria:

Ever year or so the Times likes to run a Chicken Little story, warning us of the impending demographic and youth time bomb. I’m willing to bet the tradition goes back several decades. The bomb, oddly enough, is still ticking. What about Asia and Latin America, where previous demographic crises have been predicted?

The point many like Blattman, and Michael Clemens at the Center for Global Development, want to make is that population growth, per se, is not the problem. Lack of economic growth is the problem. And, as Blattman notes implicitly, as communities prosper their birth rates decline.

Stop saying silly things like Dr. Jim Kim is ‘anti-growth’ | 


Dr. Jim Kim

President Barack Obama’s nomination of renowned physician activist Dr. Jim Kim to become head of the World Bank is controversial – apparently because he’s both a physician and an outspoken advocate for a particular approach to fighting poverty.

This has led all sorts of development experts — most of them economists — to give at best faint praise to Kim as a “good person” but then go on to damn him for not having the right kind of knowledge and/or expertise to run this institution devoted to promoting overseas development.

Many of my favorite development (economics) experts like Bill Easterly and Chris Blattman point to a book co-authored by Kim called Dying for Growth, in which he and his colleagues “present evidence that the quest for growth in GDP and corporate profits has in fact worsened the lives of millions of women and men.”

Blattman cites another opponent of Kim’s nomination, Lant Pritchett, who says:

Kim’s views against economic growth and private investment (detailed in his book, Dying for Growth) are already raising eyebrows in the press and causing concern among world leaders.

Oh dear me! The proposed head of the World Bank is “against growth!” Really? Continue reading

Can we end poverty, on a postcard? | 

Quick question: Can we end poverty or not?

One of the many annoying things journalists do is force people to give simple answers to complex questions.

Owen Barder

One of my favorite blogger-development experts out there who doesn’t shy away from taking on this often-impossible task is Owen Barder, a Brit based in Ethiopia but soon moving to join the good folks at the D.C.-based Center for Global Development.

Owen Barder writes in his blog, Owen Abroad, about a journalist who sent him four questions that, basically, ask him if he thinks it’s realistic to think we can end poverty, if the problem is urgent and what he thinks are the best global solutions. Continue reading

Why is everyone always picking on Jeff Sachs? | 

Okay, that’s not my real question. I think I know why people pick on Jeff Sachs.

Earth Institute

Jeff Sachs

Sachs, an economist and director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, makes bold statements. He criticizes powerful people. He’s in cahoots with the United Nations (I believe he owns a black helicopter). He frequently expresses pure outrage at the indifference shown to problems of global poverty and inequity. Heck, Sachs is influential and outspoken. It’s healthy to push back at such folks.

Lately, the pushback is focused on an initiative Sachs and his gang launched a few years ago called the Millennium Villages Project. It’s intended to show by 2015 how even small, inexpensive but targeted investments can make a big difference in poor communities. Fourteen communities in Africa were selected for the project. Continue reading