Gender gaps in education


Interesting new paper from Dr Ashwini Despande of Ashoka University on gender gaps in school education in India, which underlines the persisting gaps in the quality of education offered to girls as compared to boys. The paper notes that “the gender gap in private schooling increased slightly over the period, with the largest increase in families with unwanted girls. The expenditure gap between girls and boys was driven by families with unwanted girls” during 1995-2018.

These gaps can have large implications for economic growth in a country where numerous studies have highlighted the culture of son preference stunting the rights of the girl child to education and work opportunities. Even as the total fertility rate (TFR) has rapidly declined in India during 2001-2011 and some change has been recorded in the culture of son preference, there is a decline in the already low female LFPRs indicating the low priority accorded to women’s place in the labour force. As the paper notes, “growth, development, and structural shifts in India have not acted as natural antidotes to gender discrimination. Sex selection and educational investments in children appear to be part of family strategies to achieve upward mobility”.

Read more here.

Market for Economists 2021

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Here is an interesting paper on what the academic job market looks like for new PhD economists in 2021. The findings reveal that while the supply of PhD economists is likely to be stable, the share of employers with at least one position open is likely to go down with a drop in demand.

Read the full paper here.

QUB Podcast

Economic History

QUB Belfast has a postgraduate podcast now and the first issue is already out. Do check out Student Voices without any further delay. This looks very promising and I am biased for obvious reasons. 🙂

Follow them on Twitter as well.

Bubonic Plague replay 2020

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If you thought this is done with and buried by our ancestors in history, you are terribly wrong. A California resident has now tested positive for the plague, becoming the first case in five years since the disease has been detected in the state. The plague originated in Asia over 2,000 years ago and was likely spread by trading ships.

The plague changed Europe and Asia in the mid-1300s. It arrived in Europe in 1347 when ships from the Black Sea docked at the port of Messina in Sicily. Most sailors on the ship died of the plague and the ships came to be known as the “death ships”. Over the next five years, the plague killed more than 20 million people in Europe. Social distancing and quarantine were the methods of preventing the spread of the plague.

The pandemic had run its course by the early 1350s, it kep reappearing for centuries. With advances in science and public-health practices, the occurrence and impact of the disease was greatly mitigated. Yet, it is still to be eliminated even today. With the invention of antibiotics, the plague can be treated but around the world, there are still 1,000 to 3,000 cases of plague every year, according to the WHO.

Here is a lovely piece I read that lays out the details rather well. Here is a list of pandemics that changed history. We can definitely add Coronavirus to this.

Stephen Marglin

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Everyone this week has been raving about this interview and it’s not for no reason. Harvard economist Stephen Marglin talks about his India connection in this interview with Maya Adereth, Shani Cohen and Jack Gross on Phenomenal World. Interesting conversation, richly framed. Don’t miss it.

Mumbai floods

Future of Capitalism, Top Reads

Floods in Mumbai are an annual affair. I know this may hurt some people but the day I visited Mumbai for the first time, it was raining cats and dogs, and exactly 21 days later, a major flooding of the financial capital took place. Financial Times reported this last year – the headline points to a historic high – and we are back again with those headlines this week. Mumbai is under water and things are worse than previous years, reports scream.

Environment researchers point to the extreme precipitation events that have been occurring with great frequency in India, led by a combination of rising temperatures and changes in the monsoon. Add to these poor civic planning, unfettered growth in population in the cities, and resultant environmental degradation. Every year, millions across India are displaced from their homes due to floods and Mumbai is no exception. Copious rains even bring the buildings and landfills down on people in the city.

But, contradictions abound. We are aware of the risks of climate‐induced flooding and yet, development plans continue to ignore these risks. Mumbai, one of India’s largest coastal cities, is the hub of both planned and unplanned developments and the adaptive resilience frameworks that prepare cities for climate induced calamities are in short supply here too, which continue to endanger lives.

Here are the economic effects of the floods that are likely to occur based on past experience:

Poor families will become poorer

They already have low incomes and housing in low-lying and flood-prone areas. During the 2005 floods in Mumbai, families living below the poverty line in Mumbai faced damage costs amounting to 1,480 percent of their average monthly incomes.

Direct and indirect impacts on low-income households

Housing structures, households assets, vehicles and work tools on which their livelihood depends may be damaged. They may own little but when compared with their earnings, even their low damage costs will be higher than economically well-off families, endangering their critical asset base. They will also face the indirect impacts of floods, such as shortages of food, water, and fuel, and disruption of services. Workdays and even jobs will be lost.

Social protection will be partial

In Mumbai, during the 2005 floods, the government offered some households a fixed amount to assist with food and clothing. However, this was less than 10% of the total losses suffered by the households. Many migrant households were excluded from this. Many used their savings or borrowed from informal sources to rebuild their lives. This pushed them into indebtedness and poverty.

Insurance coverage will be negligible or none

More than 90% of the affected families during the 2005 Mumbai floods had no insurance of any kind.

Small businesses will incur losses and lose customer confidence

Physical structures of the business units will be destroyed leading to losses of finished products, inventory, and raw materials. Businesses would also have to cover the expenses of cleaning premises, restarting operations, or shifting production elsewhere. During the 2005 floods, businesses took longer to recover and lost customer confidence.

Compensation and insurance will not help rebuild

Profit-making ventures will likely find themselves using their own resources to cope up with the damages. Post the Mumbai floods in 2005, a few SMEs that had opted for flood insurance received less than the claimed amount after months of delay.

Business recovery will take time

After the Mumbai floods, business recovery time averaged 3–4 days, with maximum recovery time stretching to 1–2 weeks. Several SMEs remained without power, water, and other basic services for 10–15 days. Many businesses could not repay loans. Loss of credit and clients aggravated financial distress, and some businesses closed operations.

A look at the table below outlines the extent of the damage costs faced by retail businesses in Mumbai in the aftermath of the 2005 floods:

Source: ADB Paper here.

Ruth Alice Allen

Economic History, Subscriber Only

‘East Texas Lumber Workers’ (1961) is yet another pioneering work of Allen focusing on the economic conditions of the Texan lumber country, in which Allen viewed people’s physical, social and economic environments as the most important influence on their behaviour. Besides these, Allen worked on a range of collections and monographs on the labour history of Texas, historical account of a famous rail strike that rocked the region in 1886, and other labour issues in Texas, leaving behind a rich historical record that researchers can benefit from even today.

Allen spent six years of her retirement at Huston-Tillotson College, a predominantly black school in Texas, and retired in 1968. In 1979, she died at the age of 90.


BA in 1921 and her MA in 1923 – University of Texas at Austin
PhD – University of Chicago
Professor – University of Texas until retirement in 1959
Post retirement teaching position – Huston-Tillotson College

Fiscal measures and global debt

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Here is the latest on fiscal measures (courtesy: IMF) deployed by different countries:

Source: IMF blog

This stimulus collectively amounts $11 trillion worldwide. Yet, the state of global public debt is worrying too.

Source: IMF Blog

Authors Vitor Gaspar and Gita Gopinath write:

In the face of a sharp decline in global output, a massive fiscal response has been necessary to increase health capacity, replace lost household income and prevent large-scale bankruptcies. But the policy response has also contributed to global public debt reaching its highest level in recorded history, at over 100 percent of global GDP, in excess of post-World War II peaks.

Read more here.

Recommended: An April 2020 Bloomberg piece by Andy Mukherjee and another June 2020 piece by Somnath Mukherjee on public debt in India.