I visited India for the first time a few years ago, and ever since I have been thinking about the enormous problem of public defecation. It is not quite as au courant a topic as, say, human trafficking, but in terms of the number of lives affected, it has massive implications because of the spread of disease.
The latest attempt to make progress on this problem is a music video launched by UNICEF.
I came to the U.S. 7 years ago, worked in U.K./Switzerland/Netherlands/India prior to that. I work in human resources and have been fortunate to have been successful thus far in my career. We are moving on to a new location and a new job this year but this year will also perhaps give me an opportunity to invest some time/leadership on a cause that I have been very keen to “do something about”: contribute towards improving the lot of the girl child in India.
I have always thought of crowd-sourcing an incentive scheme by which we will “adopt” a few girls in their womb and give the parents a small amount every month, $50, to give birth to their girl child, to educate her till the age of 21. I was even more determined to do this in the wake of all the news about crimes against women in India — but then I heard your podcast on the “Cobra Effect.”
I would love to connect and get your thoughts on “scheming” this incentive forward!
Here’s a fascinating new working paper from Yale economist David G. Atkin, called “Endogenous Skill Acquisition and Export Manufacturing in Mexico” (abstract here; PDF of an earlier version here). The gist:
This paper presents empirical evidence that the growth of export manufacturing in Mexico during a period of major trade reforms, the years 1986-2000, altered the distribution of education. I use variation in the timing of factory openings across municipalities to show that school dropout increased with local expansions in export manufacturing. The magnitudes I find suggest that for every twenty jobs created, one student dropped out of school at grade 9 rather than continuing through to grade 12. These effects are driven by the least-skilled export-manufacturing jobs which raised the opportunity cost of schooling for students at the margin.
It makes sense, of course, that students on the margin might happily abandon school in favor of a good job. But is that necessarily a bad thing? How should a society balance jobs and educational ambition? And who should be thinking harder about this issue — India or China? Or perhaps the U.S.?
Freakonomics described the economics of a crack-selling gang — a tournament model where you don’t earn much unless you can get to the top of the pyramid. Columbia Business School professor Ray Fisman, who has shown up on this blog before, argues that politics isn’t all that different. In Slate, Fisman summarizes his new working paper, coauthored with Florian Schulz and Vikrant Vig, which uses disclosed finances of politicians in India in the last election cycle. The researchers found that being a politician doesn’t really pay off:
I recently visited India for the first time, spending a grand total of 30 hours there. During that time, however, my experiences ran the gamut. I spent the day in the Zakhira slum in New Delhi, and then just a few hours later, enjoyed a sumptuous dinner sitting next to former Australia Prime Minister John Howard, his wife Janette, and other luminaries.
My first impression of India was that the chaos on Indian roads was beyond belief: people walking and riding bikes on what appear to be freeways, motorcycles with three riders, open trucks crammed with people, the constant din of honking everywhere by everyone. On top of that, the people driving me never seemed to know how to get anywhere. It took over an hour to get from the airport to my hotel, a seemingly endless series of turns (including numerous u-turns) and my driver rolling down his window and yelling for directions at nearly every stoplight. I was surprised when the return trip to the airport, with a different driver, took only 20 minutes and was nearly a straight shot. I will say, however, that I saw only one cow on the trip.
I’m going to be in India this week, just for a few days. My time is completely booked except for a few hours on the morning of Friday, Dec. 2. I’m looking for an NGO that works with the downtrodden in New Delhi and is willing to show me around some poor neighborhoods there. In return, I will donate $5,000 to that NGO in appreciation.
Can any blog readers provide guidance on this? I know it is short notice.
In honor of the world’s estimated population hitting seven billion next week, Foreign Policy has compiled a list (with beautiful photographs) of the world’s seven fastest-growing cities. China and India dominate the list, but a few of the entries may surprise you. For example, number five is Kabul, Afghanistan.
“One of the oldest cities in the world, it is growing rapidly despite — or perhaps because of — the security concerns that plague Afghanistan,” writes Kedar Pavgi. “The city has 6 million inhabitants, and continues to expand at 4.74 percent a year. But the city faces serious resource shortages. By 2050, the city will need six times the amount of water it currently uses in order to quench the thirst of its inhabitants.
One of the biggest story lines of the 21st century is going to be the continued economic rise of China and India. According to the World Bank, both countries grew at a rate of 9.1% in 2009. Here’s a chart of their growth since the 1960s:
While their recent growth has been roughly similar, China and India also boast the two largest populations on the planet. But a new study by RAND shows the giants heading down different demographic paths. From the abstract:
Demographic contrasts between China and India will become more pronounced in the coming decades, and these differences hold implications for the countries’ relative economic prospects. China’s population is larger than India’s, but India’s population is expected to surpass China’s by 2025. China’s population is older than India’s and beginning to age rapidly, which may constrain economic growth, whereas an increasing percentage of India’s population will consist of working-age people through 2030, giving India an important demographic advantage. How much these demographic changes affect economic growth will depend on several other factors, including the infrastructure, education system, and health care systems in each country and how well each country integrates women into its workforce.
A recent Slate article by Jesse Bering outlines the strange and true world of culture-bound syndromes — mental illnesses that occur in certain geo-specific populations or “sociocultural milieus.” Perhaps the most famous is “amok,” the root of “run amok,” and a problem in Malaysia, Polynesia, Puerto Rico and the Navajo Nation. The syndrome affects males 20–45, who become homicidally violent after a perceived insult. After which, of course, the subject remembers very little. Sound like a good cover? It gets weirder.
In China, we find Koro: “in which the patient is convinced that protruding bodily organs, such as the male genitalia or female nipples, are retracting or disappearing into his or her body.” Koro, however, has a habit of jumping all over the globe, and has been well documented in Thailand, India and Africa. Koro’s internationalism, like that of other culture-bound diseases, throws the specificity of “culture” into question, and the genre of these illnesses remains murky, nearly impossible to define, and fertile ground for wild postulating. Mythology in particular permeates the “culture-bound” discussion. Perhaps it is the particular oral traditions of a people who jump beyond the campfire into the lives – and bodies – of their listeners.
And as for what America has to add? Muscle dysmorphia!
The subtitle is Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men. The book is forthcoming, and the author is Mara Hvistendahl, who was a very good research assistant of mine some years back. Mara transcribed many hours of interview tape with an economist named Steve Levitt for a profile I was writing. She has become an excellent reporter and writer; here’s my blurb:
“Yes, it’s a rigorous exploration of the world’s ‘missing women,’ but it’s more than that, too: an extraordinarily vivid look at the implications of the problem. Hvistendahl writes beautifully, with an eye for detail but also the big picture. She has a fierce intelligence but, more important, a fierce intellectual independence; she writes with a hard edge but no venom — rather, a cool and hard passion.”
We’ve written about prostitution more than a few times on this blog, and in SuperFreakonomics, we devoted an entire chapter to the economics of prostitution. Now comes an interesting bit of new academic research from India that draws similar conclusions: once you put aside your moral views, it’s not hard to see that entry into the profession is driven by salary and career options.
Automobile ownership proceeds at a pace that depends on the absolute level of a nation’s economic development. Driven by growth in China and India, the number of people who own cars is expected to reach 2 billion by 2030.
Slate takes a look at India’s half-billion-dollar-a-year reproductive-tourism industry. “The primary appeal of India is that it is cheap, hardly regulated, and relatively safe,” writes Amana Fontanella-Khan. “Surrogacy can cost up to $100,000 in the United States, while many Indian clinics charge $22,000 or less. Very few questions are asked. Same-sex couples, single parents and even busy women who just don’t have time to give birth are welcomed by doctors.”
Fascinating article in today’s Washington Post by Emily Wax about how Indian brides-to-be are holding out for one particular convenience before committing to marriage: an indoor toilet.
But wait, you may say: women in India don’t have the leverage to make such demands, do they?
We posted earlier about how a blogger named Dave Prager tried to figure out why the buses in Delhi kill so many people. Now he’s back to explain how Delhi’s upscale alcohol ads create demand for his empty liquor bottles, and give his maid a nice side income.
I recently had occasion to visit India for the first time to speak at a conference put on by the media conglomerate India Today. Sadly my visit was very short, just a toe-touch. Still, it was fascinating from start to finish. On the way over, one of the flight attendants told me she was using her down time in New . . .
| Earlier, we asked blog readers whether an Israeli arms firm could actually sell missiles to India with a Bollywood song-and-dance number. Apparently, they’ve sold quite a few — but despite, not because of the commercial, which reportedly evoked “incredulity and derision” from the Indian public and defense establishment. One senior defense officer told the Times of India: “We are . . .
| Banking on Bollywood’s ability to sell almost anything in India, an Israeli arms firm thought it might work for weapons as well, and presented this song-and-dance missile commercial at an Indian trade fair. We already asked what Indian blog readers thought of the Bolly-infused, Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire, so what about this commercial? Will it actually sell missiles? (HT: Mayur . . .
I blogged a while back about the remarkable documentary film Smile Pinki that follows two young children as they have cleft surgery. One of those children is named Pinki. Last night Smile Pinki won an Academy Award. Pinki was there, having flown in from India.
I rarely have occasion these days to see new movies in theaters, but I had the good fortune recently to see two of the Oscar-nominated best films, Frost/Nixon and Slumdog Millionaire, within 24 hours. It was a strange coincidence that both of them were time-jumping stories built around TV shows.
A reader named Abhishek Rawat writes in to describe, and then solve, a puzzle he has noticed in his native India:
In India all major cities have public transport vehicles called autorickshaws. They are mounted on three wheels, operate on very low horsepower, and have a center of gravity that allows them to swivel in impossible twists around the traffic. In short, they’re the perfect transportation vehicle for people who do not have a personal transport and do not wish to take the bus.
I have been posting on this site about the trials and tribulations of young donors. I’m in the middle of chronicling the life of Michael, an heir to a trust, who must soon begin giving away $78 million (U.S.). More on his philanthropic journey in the next post. Another group is stumbling into the American philanthropic scene. Young South Asians . . .
Wild monkeys assaulted the deputy mayor of New Delhi on Saturday as he sat on his terrace, reading the morning paper. In the scuffle, S.S. Bajwa lost his balance, tumbled from his building, and died the next day from injuries sustained in the fall. The attackers were rhesus macaques, which have overrun parts of Delhi in the past, harassing its . . .
Whenever I see a poker tournament on TV or wander through a casino, I am always struck by a particular absence: there seem to be very few Indian-Americans playing poker. Considering that there are so many Indians of poker age in this country who thrive in finance, computer science, engineering, and other fields that incorporate math, probability, risk, etc. — . . .
Anupama Chopra knows first-hand about Bollywood, India’s burgeoning film industry. As a former film writer for India Today magazine and the wife of famed Indian writer/director Vidhu Vinod Chopra, she’s spent more than 15 years watching from the inside as the industry weathered widespread social change, rapid expansion, and economic globalization. Her new book, King of Bollywood: Shah Rukh Khan . . .
Here’s my nominee for quote of the day, from a (gated) front page article in today’s Wall Street Journal: “This plant will save humanity, I tell you.” The person who said that is O.P. Singh, a horticulturist for the railway ministry of India. What plant is he talking about? A shrubby weed called jatropha, whose seeds contain an oil that . . .
The business woes of the U.S. newspaper industry, and of most other traditional media, have been exhaustively chronicled, most vigorously in newspapers themselves. (I sometimes think that the entire journalism/ music/film/TV industry just needs a 5-year bridge loan to help it safely migrate to the digital future, when online distribution and advertising are robust enough to support them.) So it . . .