In her paper, “Identifying Synergies and Complementarities Between MDGs: Results from Cluster Analysis“, Maria Carmela Lo Bue argues that progress in the MDGs has been far from uniform, both on a country-country basis and between MDGs within a given country. There is, for instance, no correlation between GDP growth and non-income MDGs. The purpose of this research is to explain this lack of correlation and to expose the lack of synthesis between MDG achievements. In so doing, we also have to make academic decisions about how a lack of synergy should be measured. One of the guiding principles of the MDGs is that achievements in one goal should bring additional benefits in other human development spheres. This means that unbalanced performance is a signal of malfunctioning transmission channels.
Whilst much research exists demonstrating the links between different sectors of development, such as between health, gender and education, there as been relatively little research into how and why these linkages or transmission channels become broken.
The first challenge in fulfilling this goal is to draw up a reliable statistical process by which broken links can be described. The first step was to produce indicators from standardized performance. From these standardized residuals it was possible to draw an regression and to initiate cluster analysis. One innovation in the method was to taper expectation based upon the initial conditions within a country.
This method produced clusters of performers, with whom there was a strong correlation between advances in different MDGs. However, the clusters also exposed ‘partial performers’, those in which performance was disproportionate in one or some of the measures.
The next step was to explain why it was that these bad and partial performers had come about. To do so, the multinomial logistic regressions were pitched against structural factors at play in the country, such as growth of GDP, geography or the development of institutions.
The results at this stage showed that a good institutional framework is a leitmotiv for good performance in multiple areas. In addition relative risk ratios associated with ethic fractionalization are significantly associated to partial performance in health relation clusters. Highly fractionalized societies pose constraints on synergies, especially in areas involving maternal health.
Furthermore, whilst adverse geographical conditions and HIV prevalence were expected to be coefficients they were not found to be statistically significant.
Household Trajectories in Rural Ethiopia - What Can a Mixed Method Approach Tell us About the Impact of Poverty on Children? - Laura Camfield
The presentation started with the explanation of a new mixed methods taxonomy. The research team had been able to build up a new set of markers for poverty and development through surveys, aimed at both children and adults, conducted in the local population. This produced local and context-based understandings of poverty. One advantage of such approach was that was able to look specifically at the conditions of children, who are often lost in more general statistical sweeps which examine only households.
Another innovation in the research process, particularly when looking into child poverty, was to determine the timing of phenomena, not simply their intensity. For instance, changes in the family dynamic would have different repercussions on the child depending on their correspondent stage in the school system.
By deriving this taxonomy from the reports of local populations, the project produced a qualitatively based taxonomy, from which could be derived quantitative data.
These methods had been applied to a rural population in Ethiopia. There were two samples of children examined: those joining the program aged 6-18 months and those joining at 8 years.
Whilst household indicators showed much improvement from 2002 - 2009, the research methods employed were able to discern that this did not necessarily correspond with an improvement in childhood indicators. In addition, whilst there was much upward movement out of the category termed ‘Ultra-Poor’, there was also a flow of traffic in the other direction. The overall percentage of the population falling into this category remained at 8%, although its makeup changed.
For those families that did emerge from poverty, those which were run as a female household were less likely to see this increase in wealth transmit into an improvement in the indicators.
It also brought to light developments with the Ethiopian Productive Safety Net Programme, a form of Central Protection. This programme has recently moved into its second phase, a change which has mandated forced graduations from the program, leaving many without its support. As the benefits of the program have become a scarce resource, political connections have become increasingly important in getting access to this government support.
Female Secondary Education for Infant Survival: A Reassessment on the Relationship in the Countries of Medium Human Development 2000-2009 - Mikko Perkio
The aim of the project was to use infant survival as the key formula of development. It sought to explain the relationship of this particular indicator to others, to understand its relation to other societal factors, one of which was female secondary education. In this way it would be possible to model social dynamics around the issue of infant survival.
The existing literature records varying results. Some studies have shown that secondary education leads to fewer children and greater levels of literacy, both of which enable women to engage the state bureaucracy more effectively and thus increase the likelihood of their infant’s survival. On the other hand, a number of other studies have found no such dependency, and instead postulate that fertility, urbanization and high secondary school enrolment are more reliable indicators.
This project sought to include new variables closer to everyday life, such as access to drinking water or the gender parity of secondary schooling. Atop each of these new variables the master variable was taken to be female secondary education.
The sample examined was 60 countries of medium human development. Whilst 75 countries fall into this bracket, the study excluded country’s with high HIV counts or which have been afflicted by Civil War.
The study found that the dependency of the correlation between female secondary school attendance and infant survival increased between the two periods of examination, 2000 and 2009.
In addition, the introduction of these more sensitive variables removed the potency of urbanization in these studies, whilst GDP and immunization also become less focal predictors.
Poverty Measurement what’s Gender got to do with it? - Scott Wisor
The aim of the project was to integrate gender into poverty measurement.
The identifiable trends in global poverty are highly contingent upon the types of measures used. Using the internationally agreed poverty line of $1.25 leads to the identification of a decrease in the global population in poverty from 1.8 to 1.4 billion at international poverty line. However, if the measure used is instead the $2.50 mark then there has been no discernable decrease in poverty over the same period. And again, if you measure poverty by hungers figures you find even a slight increase in levels of poverty.
Researchers have postulated that a possible trend is the feminization of poverty, as women become disproportionately poor and exploited due to their gender. However, existing figures don’t allow us to guage whether this is the case, since they mostly use household data for their samples. There are occasions on which data is provided for demale headed households, but this does little to redress the problem since the vast majority of women continue to live in male headed households.
Furthermore, gender inequity indices don’t reveal when a single individual has suffered multiple depravations, over a period of time, therefore failing to identify trends of persistent or repeated discrimination.
The first step in resolving this issue is to make the individual the unit of analysis.
The second is to work towards a more sophisticated understanding of ‘poverty’. This is difficult, since the term is essentially subjective and we are unlikely to secure an exclusive conclusion. Nevertheless, whilst our understanding may never be perfect, there is significant scope for improvement on current understandings.
Drawing on the work of Sally Hassinger, it is possible to identify three ways in which we might seek to define poverty.
1) Conceptually, using a priori reasoning
2) Descriptively, by identifying what usage does our general use of the word track in the world.
3) Ameliorative, by examining the purpose of poverty reduction and our beliefs about the effects that we would like to have.
One of the goals of the project is to use a public, democratic process as a way of coming up with the definition. Yet the outcome of any such referendum will itself be affected by prexisting concepts of gender. Thus there is a need to develop counter mechanisms in the public process, such as separating men from women, and further subdividing by age, when conducting interviews. It is only by this process of isolation that the opportunity to speak will be provided to those groups which are traditionally marginalised.
Going the Last Mile in Analysing Multi-Dimensional Well-Being and Poverty: Indices of Social Development - Arjan de Haan
The presentation began with an explanation of the importance of quantifying information. This is especially the case from an advocacy persepctive, and it is telling to note that the widespread introduction of quantifiable targets, such as the Millenium Development Goals, came from the demands of donors, not from the 1995 Copenhagen Summit.
This trend has often been resisted by the development community, which has often expressed a predeliction for qualitative data. But in today’s development culture it is the case that if the product of your work is not measurable then is efficacy is called into question.
The move towards quantifiable measurements has been followed by a broadening of the types of measurements and indicators employed, as methods become more diverse and sophisticated.
The role of this project was to compile the pre-existing data and to systematise it, producing a database of development indicators. This would allow third parties to relate different development outcomes and to identify trends over time by drawing on the results of a number of different studies.
The database was put together by collecting 200 indicators from 25 reputable and independent data sources, aggregated into indices. The breadth of data included in the project means that different types of information are collated. The project also used matching percentiles as the best possible method to draw on existing databases.
The database presents five chosen indicators, which are:
1) Civic Activism
E.g. % people participating in demonstration, access to radio, TV, newspaper, Civicus civil society rating.
2) Clubs and Associations
E.g. % of free time used for groups and associations.
3) Inter group cohesion
E.g. Proportion of people who reject others as neighbours.
4) Interpersonal Safety and Trust
E.g. The extent to which individuals feel they can rely on people they have not met before.
5) Gender Equality
The Q&A revolved around 3 main topics: the use of indices, methods of unblocking transmission impasses and the concept of scale in research projects.
1. Q: There is a resistance in the development community to the use of indices in making decisions in resource allocation. It is contested that the use of indices conflates experience into a single data point, inevitably resulting in a simplification. What is your opinion of this use of indices, and is its use reflective of a political position within the development community?
A: Its not really political decisions that lead to decisions on indicators, but its Data Availability, resources on the ground and practical constraints.
2. Q: What are the strategies to unblock transmission impasses?
A: The research can undoubtedly be used to derive policy implications and to target funding more effectively. But the project was committed only to the investigation of the structure of these failed transmission points, not to testing and evaluating possible remedies for the issue.
3. Q: Why is the research here presented not conducted on multiple scales? There has been much stress upon the individual as the principal statistical unit, but should be not also look at household, as well as regional trends? It is possible that observations seen on one level might actually only be explicable by looking at another level (for example when macro changes into micro).
A: Whilst combining different scales is useful, and indeed often preferable, the singularity of focus is predominantly an issue of data availability. Community level research conducted in the past has not been sufficiently reliable.
Report by Oliver Ilot.