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Research Roundup on Public Sector and Governance (January 2012)

Research Roundup on Public Sector and Governance (2012)
HD roundup: education and health

A hybrid approach to efficiency measurement with empirical illustrations from education and health
Inefficiency is commonplace, yet exercises aimed at improving provider performance efforts to date to measure inefficiency and use them in benchmarking exercises have not been altogether satisfactory. This paper propose a new approach to measuring overall efficiency that blends the themes of Data Envelopment Analysis and Stochastic Frontier Analysis. The hybrid approach estimates inefficiency non-parametrically by comparing actual performance with comparable real-life "best practice" units on the frontier. Four applications in the education and health sectors are used to illustrate the features and strengths of this hybrid approach. 
Working Paper 5751, Aug. 2011

HD roundup: accountability

Civil society, public action, and accountability in Africa
This paper examines the potential for civil society action to increase state accountability for development in Sub-Saharan Africa. It further develops the analytical framework of the World Development Report 2004 to emphasize the underlying political economy drivers of accountability and implications for how civil society is constituted and functions. It argues that the most important domain for improving accountability is through the political relations between citizens, civil society, and state leadership. The evidence broadly suggests that when higher-level political leadership provides sufficient or appropriate powers for citizen participation in holding within-state agencies or frontline providers accountable, there is frequently positive impact on outcomes. However, the big question remaining for such types of interventions is how to improve the incentives of higher-level leadership to pursue appropriate policy design and implementation. The paper argues that there is substantial scope for greater efforts in this domain, including through the support of external aid agencies.
Working Paper 5733, Jul. 2011

HD roundup: moral behavior

Does the association between education and moral behavior affect economic growth?
This paper incorporates morality—defined as lower utility from consuming goods obtained through appropriative rather than productive activities—into a simple static general equilibrium model in which agents choose whether to be producers or appropriators. The analysis focuses on the relationship between the correlation between morality and human capital on the one hand, and aggregate economic performance on the other. The main effect tends to cause this relationship to be positive, and secondary effects may reinforce or oppose the main effect. Empirical tests find evidence that higher within-country correlation between morality and ability increases per-capita income levels. Results are robust to correcting for endogeneity and to changes in sample and specification.  
Working Paper 5720, Jun. 2011

HD roundup: shared understanding

A society's shared understanding and what it means for development
In countries characterized by "societal fragility," relevant groups often understand and prioritize core problems and solutions differently. As a result, collective action and the socially constructed and historically produced administrative capacity that collective action entails are weakly developed. To build the rule of law and dispute-resolution systems, donors and governments need to understand that individuals not only use the grievance mechanisms, but alter the function of those systems as they use them. Seven recommendations relevant to the Bank's agenda on conflict and fragility are drawn from examples from Indonesia and elsewhere.
Working Paper 5707, Jun. 2011

HD roundup: basic service delivery

Redress procedures regarding basic service delivery are weak in many countries
When basic service delivery goes awry, it's important for citizens to be able to file grievances and complaints. These redress procedures are important for basic fairness. It also can help address problems discovered while implementing social policies and help policy makers evaluate policy design. Yet a preliminary assessment shows that the systems of redressing complaints about basic services are weak in many countries. To function effectively, they require well-designed and inter-linked procedures, as well as a set of organizations that stimulate and aggregate demand for redress, especially if a country's citizenry aren't well aware of their rights. On the supply side, there are three kinds of redress procedures: courts, administrative venues within government agencies and independent institutions outside government departments. On the demand side, the key institutions are nongovernmental organizations/civil society organizations and the news media, both of which require a receptive political and economic climate to function effectively.
Working Paper 5699, Jun. 2011

HD roundup: accountability

Better development results when citizens can act collectively to hold politicians to account
The paper offers preliminary evidence that in countries where political parties are organized to facilitate citizen collective action, public services appear to be better and citizens are less vulnerable to predatory behavior by governments. It also underlines a seldom-remarked facet of East Asian exceptionalism: non-democracies in East Asia are much more likely to exhibit institutionalized ruling parties, independent of their leaders, than non-democracies elsewhere in the world. Democracies in East Asia, though, are not exceptional: they are no more likely—and perhaps less likely—to exhibit these arrangements than other democracies. The evidence underlines the need for greater research and policy emphasis on the organizational characteristics of countries that allow citizens to hold leaders accountable.
Working Paper 5676, Jun. 2011

HD roundup: secondary education

Public investments in secondary education can increase the pool of potential teachers in Pakistan
This research suggests that public investments in secondary schools in Pakistan can boost the supply of low-cost teachers, making it easier for the market to offer an affordable, private-school education. Private schools are three times more likely to emerge in villages with government-sponsored secondary schools for girls. By contrast, there is little or no relationship between the presence of private schools and the other types of schools, including girls' primary schools and boys' primary and secondary government schools. Since private schools receive no government subsidies, their locations reflect local demand and supply. In addition, villages with secondary schools for girls have twice as many educated women but their private-school teachers are paid less (27 percent lower wages), indicating a net increase in teacher supply. Therefore, in an environment with poor female education and low mobility, secondary schools for girls substantially increase the local supply of skilled women and drive down teachers' wages. As a result, private education is more affordable. These findings highlight the prominent role of female teachers in boosting access to education, which is in line with historical evidence from developed economies.
Working Paper 5674, Jun. 2011

HD roundup: good project

Good countries or good projects? Macro and micro correlates of World Bank project performance
Data from more than 6,000 World Bank projects between 1983 and 2009 were used to investigate macro and micro correlates of project outcomes. The analysis shows that country-level "macro" measures of the quality of policies and institutions are strongly correlated with project outcomes, but that the success of individual development projects varies much more within countries than it does between countries. Moreover, measures of project size, the extent of project supervision, and evaluation lags are all significantly correlated with project outcomes, as are early-warning indicators that flag problematic projects during the implementation stage. Measures of World Bank project task manager quality also matters significantly for the ultimate outcome of projects. These results are discussed in the context of donor policies aimed at aid effectiveness.   
Working Paper 5646, May 2011

HD roundup thumbnail: school grants

School grants fully anticipated by households crowd out private spending on education
Cash grants to schools are an increasingly popular policy lever to boost student learning in low-income countries. But do they work? Analysis of data from Zambia and India show that when households do not account for these grants in their own spending patterns, the additional resources brought in by the school grants increase student learning. But once the grants are fully anticipated by households, they reduce private spending on education almost dollar for dollar (a dollar in Zambia and 80 cents in India). Not surprisingly, anticipated school grants have zero impact on test scores in both settings, because households realign their spending patterns optimally. For policy makers, the lesson is not that school grants should be given in an unanticipated fashion. Instead, schooling grants should support activities less likely to crowd-out private spending, such as teacher inputs and school infrastructure.
Working Paper 5629, Apr. 2011

HD roundup thumbnail: mass media

Mass media and public services: more accountability or larger private spending?
Unique data from Benin shows that literacy rates among school children are higher in villages exposed to signals from a larger number of community radio stations. The effect is identified based on a "natural experiment" in the northern communes of Benin where within-commune variation in village access to radio stations is exogenous to observed and unobserved village characteristics. In contrast to prior research, this media effect does not operate through government accountability: government inputs into village schools and household knowledge of government education policies are no different in villages with greater access to community radio. Instead, households with greater access are more likely to make financial investments in the education of their children.
Working Paper 5559, Feb. 2011

 More research on public sector & governance in 2011 (Part 1 | Part 2)

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Last updated: 2012-01-09

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