Are Men or Women More Capable Drivers; Possible Implications Of Recent Study

March 3, 2012
Leave a Comment

        For my Economics 350 empirical research paper I hope to answer the long debated question; are men or women better drives?   I recently read a news article Lee Dye titled, “Are Men Better Drivers Than Women.”   Lee discussed several studies done  relating to the time old question which can be interpreted differently depending on who you examine them relative to other factors.

       Lee cites research done by Michael Sivak of the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute. Sivak and his colleague Brandon Shoettle were hoping to determine if there was a gender component in traffic accidents.   They reviewed police reports for two-car crashes nationwide, between 1988 and 2007.  Men drive about 20% more miles annually than women do.  So right off the bat you would assume that men would be involved in more accidents than women.  When initially gathering my data I tried to control for this possibility by examining the number of registered drivers across the country for each gender.  I found little difference in this data.  However, now that I think about it, I do believe while there are numerous possible different causes, men do seem to drive more than women.

       More research would have to be done to try to account for this difference but off the top of my head I would believe that it is partially due to societal norms deeply rooted in our culture.  In the U.S., historically men were considered the “head” of the family.  This had various affects, but men and women have historically been predisposed to different roles.  For example, traditionally men worked and preformed the more physical manual labor for the household while women were supposed to be in charge of “less strenuous” tasks such as cleaning, laundry and raising the children.  Although significant progress has been made in gender equality, deeply rooted societal norms take significant time to completely disappear.  So even today, I believe there is still somewhat of an  implicit notion among our culture which suggests than if a man and women are traveling together,  the man should drive.  Even though it appears this might need to be reversed, given current driving records, men might take the wheel more often than the passenger seat.  Other factors might be that men on average work more often than women or possibly partake in more trips.  Regardless men statistically drive 20% more than women.  In the revision of my data collection, I will have to include average miles anually driven to control for this differentiation in order to better examine gender’s effect on the # of fatal car accidents. 

       Sivak&Shoettle examined the percentage each gender was involved based on various types of accidents and whether the accident was between two men or two women.   They  found that for every scenario involving two female drivers the percentages far exceed those expected based on statistical estimates they had performed.   When the accident contained a male and a female the percentages nearly matched the expected values but when there were two males the percentages were lower than expected.  In other words women are more likely to crash into another women than a man and men are less likely to crash into another man.  The study clearly shows that gender plays a role here but the true implications are difficult to develop.   Why is there this over representation?  What does it imply?  Is the discrepancy completely due to errors in reporting?

        One would think that if two drivers are on the road and both are good drivers they would have less of a chance to get into an accident than if both were bad drivers or one was a bad driver.  Does this study somehow suggest that men might be if fact be more able drivers?  It could be possible by examining one other factor.

      Men are known to have much higher levels of testosterone than women and testosterone is generally linked to levels of aggression.  So males are most likely more aggressive drivers but does this necessarily make them more dangerous drivers?  I think this might be a possibility.

       If two aggressive yet capable drivers are on the same road it could be possible that they have less of a chance of getting into an accident than if one of the drivers was not aggressive but possibly a timid driver.  Aggressive drivers, controlling for pure skill, drive in very similar fashions because they have the same goals: to get where ever they are going as fast as possible while limiting their chance of crashing.  By putting an aggressive driver on the road with only aggressive drivers, they might actually be less likely to get into an accident by having similar goals and an understanding of the expected driving style (i.e. speed, shifting lanes) while also understanding the likely moves of the other aggressive drivers.  But how does this logic hold up with two female drivers?  If two timid or less aggressive drivers were on the same road, the same logic would seem to apply, however accidents involving two females was much higher than expected.  Does this imply that they are worse drivers?  This question as well as the discrepancy found in Sivak&Shoettle’s research long for clarification, but we may never truly know.  

Article Website: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/battle-sexes-men-drivers-women-dyehard-science/story?id=13841063


Posted in Uncategorized

Are Males Currently Better Drivers Than Women? An Examination Of Gendered Trends In Driving and Aggression

February 24, 2012
1 Comment

             Famous composer Irving Berlin captured the battle of the sexes in his well-known song “I Can Do Anything Better Than You” from the 1946 Broadway musical “Annie Get Your Gun.” Gunslingers Annie Oakley and Frank Butler are involved in a debate over who can shoot straighter.  While Berlin’s storyline proved entertaining, the real issue at hand was gender and capability; that same argument has been waged numerous times, and in many different ways, throughout history.  This project’s main objective is to use statistical analysis of gathered data to help solve the heavily debated gender-related issue that sits behind the wheel. Who are better drivers: males or females?

             Over the years, there has been a great deal of debate over which gender yields better drivers.  American culture is bombarded by male dominance.  Although great strides have been made in gender equality, sexist stereotypes are still pervasive.  Far too many people still carry the preconceived notion that males are better drivers than females without actually looking into the statistics available. It is by no means fact that males are better drivers than females.  Considerable amounts of research must be done before even approaching the issue of gender and driving.

              In the current demanding economic era, any gendered gap in cost must be examined.  Auto Insurance is significantly higher for males than it is for females; this causes a problem for many male car owners.  Analysis into gender differences in driving quality could help explain the gap in Auto Insurance or provide a basis for argument against the premium difference.    Through statistical analysis of empirical data, displaying by gender involvement in fatal accidents, I intend to answer my research question, ‘are males better drivers than females?’  Statistical information on the situation of women and men in all spheres of society is an important part of promoting equality and in monitoring progress towards complete equality.  By fostering an understanding of the actual situation of women and men, gender statistics can help eliminate gender-based stereotypes.

              I am using the Fatality Analysis Reporting system, provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, to gather my data.  The data consist of the number of people, broken down by state and gender, involved in an automobile accident in 2007 over thirty-five states.  By comparing the number of male drivers involved in fatal accidents to the number of female drivers involved in fatal accidents, you can tell which gender drives more dangerously.  Dangerous driving can be defined as driving in a manner that puts you and/or another person’s life at risk.

             Although my thesis and topic is fairly developed, I still need to gather some additional data.  I plan to provide some sort of control data as well as some other possible measure of driving ability.  In addition, I am trying to find some sort of data on levels of testosterone.  Although, I am comparing driving between genders, the notable relevant difference seems to be levels of testosterone.  Testosterone is directly linked to levels of aggression and females have significantly lower levels of testosterone juxtaposed to males.  As in any experiment, there will be additional outside effects which will work to discredit the conclusions if not included or accounted for.  For example, some will argue that males drive more miles per year than females, therefore having a greater chance to be involved in an accident.  I don’t believe this fact alone can offset the obvious evidence in favor of female drivers but it is something to take into account.  Through my process of completing this experiment additional externalities will likely become apparent. Hopefully by the end of this project I will have the majority of possible factors accounted for so the true conclusions may be valid and explicative.    



Posted in Uncategorized

Are American Corporations and Gangs that different?

February 24, 2012
Leave a Comment

         Venkatesh had worked his way up to the sixth floor of that dilapidated apartment building, before running into a group of teenagers shooting dice.  His presence immediately agitated them.   Venkatesh nervously began his scripted introduction, “I’m a student at the University of Chicago, and I am administering…”  One of the teenagers, now angry, interjected, “Fuck you, nigger, what are you doing in our stairwell?!”

          In 1989, Sudir Venkatesh, a UC San Diego graduate in mathematics, enrolled at the University of Chicago, seeking a PhD in sociology.  Venkatesh was born in India, but   raised in the suburbs of upstate New York and southern California.  Although he was uninterested in the field work known to sociology, Venkatesh’s advisor promptly sent him into one of Chicago’s poorest African American neighborhoods.  Sudir’s graduate advisor, poverty scholar William Julius Wilson, gave him a seventy-question survey, in attempt to gain information on the poor ethnic minorities.  

          In chapter three of “Freakonomics,” Levitt and Dubner give a full account of Venkatesh’s failed survey attempt, and his eventual investigation of the “Black Disciples,” a major crack-dealing gang in Chicago.  Levitt and Dubner  employ Venkatesh’s account and findings to approach the phrase “conventional wisdom,” coined by economist Kenneth Galbraith.

           Galbraith thought conventional wisdom, or generally held beliefs, was a negative term describing knowledge often found to be false. He stated, “economic and social behaviors are complex, and to comprehend their character is mentally tiring.  Therefore we adhere, as though to a raft, to those ideas which represent our understanding.”  Conventional wisdom, to Galbraith, must be simple, convenient and comforting. While conventional wisdom is not always false, sloppy actions or self-interested thinking can lead to these false, general notions.  Journalists and experts architect the majority of conventional wisdom, and can be “self-interested to the point of deceit.”  Creative lies are successful in drawing attention, as well as the money and political power needed to address the true problem.

           When crack hit the scene in the 1990’s, police departments everywhere were scrambling to acquire the necessary resources to counter the sudden increase in violence and drug usage.  As described by Levitt and Dubner, law enforcement was unsuccessful in all of its attempts to slow the damage and needed a way to quickly gain support and resources. Law enforcement claimed the war on drugs to be unfair.  These new drug dealers were heavily armed and backed by an ‘endless’ supply of cash.  The idea that drug dealing was so lucrative, infuriated the common law-abiding citizen.  The media portrayed crack dealing as one of the highest paying jobs in America.  However, Levitt and Dubner state that if you spent any actual time around the housing projects where crack was usually dealt, you would probably notice that most of these crack dealers not only still lived in the projects, but often in their mother’s house.  This anomaly seemed strange.  If crack dealing is so profitable, why do dealers remain in poor areas, in their mother’s home?  To extract the truth behind such an anomaly the authors offer Venkatesh’s account and findings. 

           After Venkatesh’s survey failed, he continued returning to the apartment but with different questions properly suited to this area of society.  He began gathering information on the gang and its operation.  Venkatesh had the rare opportunity to investigate an uncharted arena.  Never before had data been gathered had such a group of society.  Venkatesh was given unfettered access to all of the gang’s operations; he practically living with the members for around six years.  He learned about the full structure of the gang and even acquired its complete financial records.  

           Venkatesh found that worked a lot like any major American business.  Levitt and Dubner go even further, stating the Black Disciples were almost a mirror image of McDonald’s.  The gang which Venkatesh was researching, was only one “franchise”  of many, under a larger Black Disciples organization.  J.T. was the  “franchise” manager.  J.T. was the manager, not because of his violent nature or strong stature.  J.T. was simply the most qualified leader.  J.T. was a college graduate with a degree in business.  He collected data, and constantly sough superior management strategies.  The gang kept accurate ledgers, tracking: sales, dues, wages, as well as benefits paid to families of murdered members.  Furthermore, J.T. reported to about 20 men above him, called the board of directors who oversaw all of the different branches in the Black Disciples.  J.T. paid the board a set percentage of his revenue, and was left to manage the rest (sounds more like a common American franchise than a gang). With the help of economist Steven Levitt, Venkatesh began to investigate the financial records given to him.

J.T. was paid a salary of $8,500 per month, equaling an annual salary of about $100,000; all of which was tax free. Furthermore, he earned additional income off the books from local businesses in need of protection.  J.T. was only one of about a hundred others at this same level.  The 20 bosses above J.T. were earning about $500,000 a year (pg.99). At this point it appears that some drug dealers could afford to live large and might actually have endless funds.  Although these top 120 members were paid very well, similar to many legal corporations, they sat on top of a gigantic pyramid. 

Although members of the gang who had reached J.T.’s level or higher might be paid very well, the step down to the next level of the pyramid is quite a significant drop.  After the 20% is paid to the head bosses and J.T. takes out his salary, $9,500 is left each month to pay the wages of every other member;  that is only $1000 more than what J.T. makes each month.  The three officers below J.T. each take home $700 a month, which works out to be about $7 an hour; compared to the $66 an hour J.T. makes.  As you move down each level of the pyramid, the earnings continue to plunge.  The foot soldiers underneath the three officers earn only $3.30 an hour, which is less than half of the minimum wage (pg.100).  After the first stat appeared to support the conventional wisdom, which claims drug dealing to be one of the most profitable jobs in America, this second stat comes back to reveal the full story.  So yeah, the top 2.2% of the Black Disciples gang were making significant income, but the remaining 97.8% of the members were forced to live well below the national poverty line.  Therefore, most drug dealers have no choice but to remain in their mothers house.  Crack gangs closely mirror the standard capitalist enterprise; only those close to the top make high wages.  As skewed and unfair as it may seem, this is the nature of capitalism; an economic system driven by greed and endless wants. Capitalism breeds selfish workers who all strive to reach the top no matter what they must do, and stay there. 

“You got all these niggers below you who want your job, you dig?…..So, you know, you try to take care of them, but you know, you also have to show them you the boss.  You always have to get yours first, or else you really ain’t no leader.  If you start taking losses, they see you as weak and shit.”(J.T., pg.101)

In the words of capitalism, be the shark not the fish. Or don’t be afraid to step on some heads in order to climb to the top.

            Now we know that the idea of  rich drug dealers is simply a mirage.  Few gang members actually see a livable income.  Not only are these members well under paid, but their work environment coincides with severe repercussions.  Venkatesh used the financial records to create an adverse-events index of J.T’s gang over the four years available to him. If you were a member of the gang for all four years, on average you would be: arrested 5.9 times, injured 2.4 times and have a 1 in 4 chance of being killed.  In fact, Levitt and Dubner cite from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that over a four year time period working the most dangerous job in America, timber cutting, only coincides with a 1 in 200 chance of being killed (pg.101).  In 2003, Texas killed just 5% of the 500 inmates on death row.  Therefore, you face a higher chance of dying selling crack in Chicago than you do sitting on death row in Texas. 

            Now we know the true nature of being a drug dealer.  The supposed endless wealth and power is merely a  fashioned fantasy.  The police want more funding, and the media wants a story, but the income is low and the working conditions poor.  So why any rational worker would choose such a profession seems inexplicable.  The explicit reason would appear to rule these dealers to be completely irrational.  Only an irrational worker would choose a profession with this level of danger and such a low level of income.  However, is it really their true choice to enter this type of profession?  Dubner and Levitt believe these gang members are not irrational nor do they truly ‘choose’ the profession.  Kids growing up in the projects of Chicago, or any projects for that matter, undergo a fairly rational decision making process resulting in them becoming hardcore gang members and/or drug dealers.  These kids are simply a product of their environment. In a wealthy private school, economic or medical or law professions are idealized as wealth glamorous jobs; it’s what they know and are surrounded by.  Similarly, in the projects, kids idealize drug dealing and gang membership; it is what they and are surrounded by.  Transfer children from the projects to a pleasant neighborhood and a private school, and they might become lawyers or doctors.  But in a neighborhood such as J.T’s, the pathway to a legitimate well paid job is nearly invisible.  In this neighborhood 56% of children lived below the poverty line, fewer than 5% of the adults had a college degree, and barely 1 in 3 adult men worked at all.  The median income for J.T.’s neighborhood was just $15,000 a year, well below half the U.S. average (pg.102). 

            Crack dealing is clearly not the glamorous profession portrayed by the media.  It is a low paying very dangerous job.  With this in mind why would any rational person choose this life of crime?  The 97.8% of the gang are just responding to the environment which they were raised in.  In a capitalistic market a large numbers of people are competing for very few “prizes.”  Criminals respond to incentive structures just like everyone else.  When the potential prize is significant, workers will “die” to have a shot at it.  It is a law of labor; with high numbers of people able and willing to do a job, the job usually won’t pay well.  The number of corners to sell crack on are less than the number of people willing to do such a job.  Children growing up in the projects do what they know.  They don’t see others going off to college, or working legitimate jobs.  They see crime all around them and drug dealers/gang members as people in the neighborhood with some income and power.  They do what they know.  Although each person does make the final choice of their profession, our capitalistic system, societal norms and the environment they are forced to live in, lead them to a life of crime.

 Capitalism has created a competitive game.  While some people are born at the top, the majority of people are born into this world at the bottom of the pyramid

Posted in Uncategorized

Poor Economics; Low-Hanging Fruit for Better (Global) Health?

February 7, 2012
1 Comment

Assigment #2

           Chapter 3, in Banerjee and Duflo’s, “Poor Economics,” is properly titled, “Low-Hanging Fruit for Better (Global) Health?”  The authors believe there to be large numbers of “low-hanging fruit” available, and ponder the several reasons why these “low-hanging fruit” are not taken advantage of.  Banerjee and Duflo provide an explanation with similar themes to chapter 2, and discuss the implications of such themes in shaping policy. The term “low-hanging fruit” refers to various preventative technologies that are known to be effective, as well as cheap methods of deferring certain diseases and promoting good health.  Throughout the chapter, the authors refer to the effectiveness and low price of certain methods.  However, these methods are never fully taken advantage of and often face significance reluctance.  Methods such as vaccines, bed nets, ORS and bleach are cheap accessible methods of preventing serious diseases, yet they remain mostly unexercised.     

            The authors cite that about 1.5 million children die every year due to diarrhea, a preventable disease easily treatable.  There are three treatments already in place which are both cheap and effective.  Chlorine bleach  is very effective in purifying water for households.  According to WHO and UNICEF, about 13 % of the world population does not have access to safe drinking water.  At the cost of $.18 USD PPP, an entire family of six can purify its water with bleach, avoiding waterborne diarrhea altogether.  Yet in places such as Zambia, only 10% of families use bleach chlorine.  ORS is a rehydration solution, comprised mainly by salt and sugar.  ORS is very effective in preventing dehydration, the main cause of death from diarrhea.  ORS is nearly free yet not used very much.  Malaria is another deadly disease, which is readily preventable for a fairly low price.  A long-lasting insecticide-treated bed net costs at most $14 USD PPP in Kenya, with cheaper options elsewhere.  Children sleeping under a treated bed net have 30% less risk of being infected with Malaria between birth and age two alone.  Yet once again, the percentage of people using bed nets is very low, even nets given away for free are found to be in use only 60% of the time, one year later.  Immunization rates in studied camps average as low as about 6% regardless of how effective they are or their cheap cost.  In many places, vaccines are offered with incentives at no cost, yielding only slightly higher percentages.    With Malaria and Diarrhea readily preventable, causing high returns at low costs,  why are preventive methods rarely exorcised? 

            Banerjee and Duflo believe there are several reasons, some which overlap, poor people in developing nations choose not to use cheap preventive methods to stop deadly diseases.  The first and overlying reason to not pick the “low-hanging fruit,” is a lack of information or trust.  It is self-evident that members of society in fully developed nations take their knowledge and information for granted.  We are taught about the dangers of various diseases and then informed about various prevention methods and their effectiveness.  In addition, we are sometimes forced to prevent them, such as shots for public school, yet we still are so well informed that Malaria and Diarrhea are rarely feared.  But in developing countries these very diseases kill millions.  With the knowledge obtained, and the visible benfits, people in developing countries are advised if not forced to prevent diseases and trust the adversaries.  Poor people lack such information and knowledge, and furthermore are reluctant to than trust this information based on history, faith or lack of visible evidence.  Preventative methods often get worse before better.  Poor people simply want a visible fix, such as antibiotics or a shot, which quickly gives them some relief.  Other reasons are termed-price sensitivity and time-inconsistent behavior.  An increase in income results in a small increase in usage of these preventative methods, however a small increase in the price of such methods causes drastic decreases in usage.  This price sensitivity is a common theme among the very poor of the world.  Time inconsistent behavior is a term discussed in the previous chapter as well.  The present is valued higher than the future.  The present is governed by impulsivity and immediate desires.  Poor people do not wish to waste time in lines or face discomfort, even though such could cause high pain to be endured in the future.  They are short-sighted, and fail to see long term rewards.  Finally, unreliable health services and delivery, hold back the poor from participating in such practices.  On these reason alone, Governments are largely to blame.

            Most of the cheap gains are in prevention not cures, and the government has traditionally conducted most of the preventive services and their delivery.  Government health providers coincide with high absenteeism rates and low motivation among government workers.  In India, local health posts are supposedly open six days a week, six hours a day.  However, the authors cite that in Udaipur they conducted a case study, finding that these health posts were closed 56% of the time, with only 12% of this time due to the nurses being on duty somewhere else nearby.  The remaining 44% of the time these posts were closed due to workers just not showing up.  The authors continue to further cite more statistical evidence for high absenteeism.  In 02-03, a World Absenteeism Survey in Bangladesh, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Peru and Uganda, found that the average absentee rate of health workers was 35% and 43% in India.  In addition, not only were the workers often absent, but the absences were mostly unpredictable.  Private facilities give patients the assurance that the doctor and nurses will be there.  Private health providers get paid by being present, and working, the government employee on salary gets paid regardless.  Sounds like a lacking in incentive structure for government health providers.  This data would suggest that people avoid the public health system because of its inability to run well and provide care.  However, this is not the whole story.  Poor people have little trust in the preventive methods provided by the public health system, and little trust in their ability to administer it.  Therefore, poor people in developing countries make it much more difficult for public health systems to be effective and choose to follow their previously beliefs and faith, leading them to other less cost effective methods.  People don’t even go when workers show up. 

            In conclusion, there are many accessible preventive methods to prolong life and increase health left un used.  Such preventive practices are effective and relatively cheap.  However, the endurance of diseases such as Malaria or Diarrhea and lack of use of available preventative methods continues.  The government is largely to blame, with some blame to be left on poor people and their reluctance to trust and act on information provided.  While the government needs to drastically improve the quality and presence of health posts, they must also restructure their policy.  The resulting policy must build trust among participants in developing nations while giving incentives to act right in concern with their health, yet allowing them to opt out if they so choose too.  Incentives must be provided to overcome previous faiths or beliefs and time inconsistent behavior.  This new policy must implement the availability and quality of information.  Finally, governments and organizations must make the right practices as affordable as possible, while also restricting access to more expensive, less effective options.  The poor need our information, our help, and some nudging in the right direction.

Posted in Uncategorized

Poor Economics; A Billion Hungry People?

January 30, 2012
1 Comment

Assignment # 1

            The majority of chapter 2, “A Billion hungry People,” in Banerjee and Duflo’s book, “Poor Economics,” appears to address the numerous statistics and case studies in support of or against a possible hunger-based poverty trap.  The authors examine the relationship between poverty and hunger, and subsequently approach the effects of Income today on income tomorrow at lower levels of income today.  They contemplate these two relationships by examining statistics and case studies; theorizing about the relative consumption behavior of the poor and the resulting implications.  How connected are poverty and hunger in developing countries?  Are there really hunger-based poverty traps and when are they likely to occur?  Why do the poor consume the way they do and what underlies the continuance of poverty?

  In actuality, chapter 2 is an examination of food policy which is meant to lower hunger/poverty and increase health.  The authors observe current and past policy, citing instances of both effective and ineffective policy.  The resulting goal is to outline types of policy which will be ineffective and suggest characteristics of effective policy.  Poverty and hunger do exist, but what type of policy and aid will best reduce such issues.

            In June 2009, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization announced that over one billion people are suffering from hunger world-wide.    This very organization was created in order to “reduce poverty and hunger.” The originally worked off the idea that poverty was compounded by hunger and defined a “poor” person simply as, a person without enough to eat (19).  Thus, the majority of government policy towards poverty rests on the notion that poor people desperately need food and quantity is paramount.  The authors state that when it comes to delivering food aid, on a large scale, numerous problems arise.  Large amounts of food aid is lost along the way, yet governments that partake is such policy assume that poverty and hunger go perfectly together.  These governments believe poor people are unable to feed themselves, resulting in a hunger-based poverty trap (20). 

            A hunger-based poverty trap, simply put, means: the poor cannot afford to consume enough food, making them less productive and keeping them in poverty.  The authors discuss the story of Pak Solhin, an Indonesian man, and its implications for a hunger-based poverty trap.  The human body must intake a certain number of calories just to stay alive.  It is hypothesized that, very poor people can barely afford the food necessary to maintain the energy and health needed to work and obtain the income needed to buy such food.  Pak Solhin believed that from the food he received, he barely had enough energy to catch fish and provide for the bodies basic needs.  Once someone fulfills their bodies basic metabolic needs, any additional nutrition works towards building strength, giving rise to a level of productivity higher than what is minimally needed to survive.  In other words, if one never consumes more than the minimal level, they will not ever be able to increase productivity and relative income.  Thus creating the poverty trap; the poor become even poorer while those who consume amounts above the minimal level get stronger and stronger, and eventually richer and richer.  If this is true and nothing is done, the gap between the rich and poor will only grow larger.  This approach to poverty creates an S-shaped relationship between income today and income tomorrow, contrary to the relationship without a poverty trap, which creates an inverted L-shaped curve (Both curves may be found in Chapter1, pg12-13).  However, the theory of a hunger-based poverty trap makes two huge assumptions: the poor eat as much as they can, and attempt  to optimize their health/nutrition relative to income (22).

            In the pages following Banerjee and Duflo proceed to provide sufficient evidence showing that the poor do not eat as much as they can, and do not optimize their health/nutrition relative to their income.  Most poor people do not act like they are in need of food, if they did any extra income would go towards nutritious food.  The authors cite that in Udaipur, households would have about 30 percent more to spend on food if they were to eliminate their spending on alcohol, tobacco and entertainment (23).  They even provide additional statistics which show that in developing countries, such as India, food expenditures among the very poor still increase by less than 1 with an increase in income of 1 (23).  Therefore, the first assumption can be ruled out; poor people do not eat as much as they can.  Furthermore,  the authors provide evidence that when very poor people see extra income, they don’t put everything into increasing their calorie intake, but instead consume more expensive calories and better-tasting foods.  This instance is termed the “flight to quality,” and shows that in cases where the government subsidized basic staples (wheat noodles and rice in China), households did not consume more of the subsidized goods but consumed less, and spent the difference on meat and shrimp.  With these poor households, a subsidy did not lead to a higher calorie intake, but may have actually decreased their overall intake (24).  Therefore, assumption number two is also incorrect, even the very poor prioritize taste before calories.   In addition, John Strauss, in a study of self-employed farmers in Sierra Leone, found that worker productivity increased by about 4 percent when their calorie intake increased by 10 percent.  Even if the poor doubled their food consumption, their income would only rise by about 40 percent.  Thus, the relationship between calorie intake and productivity resembled something similar to the previously stated, inverted L-shaped curve instead of a theorized S-shape curve.  There is no steep increase in income once poor people start eating “enough,” and no hunger-based poverty trap  visible in current workers (27).Although, the poverty trap is not true for workers today, the underlying logic of the theory does hold true.  Better nutrition could exponentially push people towards a path of prosperity and is very important for certain circumstances.

 Poor people in places such as India have reports of the poorest individuals actually cutting back on food because they don’t need the calories.  Can this really be true?  The authors believe so, comparing the size of Indian’s and South Asians to the larger relative size in other nations.  You might think that having a smaller relative size might not be a bad thing, but a human method of adaptions or evolution, undertaken through time to need less food to live off of , increasing the chances for survival.   However, the authors argue that the opposite is true.  Since the very poor don’t eat enough or properly at young ages, they are malnourished and never fully develop.  Malnourished children, tend to grow up to birth malnourished children, thus giving rise to the difference in size.  The authors cite that in India, about half of children under five are stunted and one-fourth of them are “severly stunted.”  But is being short a bad thing?  While people who stop growing due to reaching their maximum height, are not less capable, those who never fully develop due to malnourishment, suffer from worse health and lower IQs.  In a recent paper by Anne Case and Chris Paxson on IQ and height relating to childhood nourishment, findings were interpreted to conclude that overall, tall people do better in life, because they are more likely to have fully developed both physically and mentally (31).  Childhood malnourishment directly affects the ability to function successfully as adults, bringing some truth to the first hypothesis.  Children in Kenya, were given deworming pills in school for two years, went on to later earn 20% more than comparable children given the pills for only one year.  Worms compete with children for the nutrients, and contribute to anemia and malnutrition.

Even though earlier, we provided evidence that increasing calories does not have much impact on current productivity, but that healthy nutrition in childhood as well as certain methods in adulthood will more than pay for themselves in the long-run.  The Work and Iron Status Evaluation (WISE) conducted a study in Indonesia, by randomly selecting men and women to take iron supplements.  WISE found that while a year’s supply of the iron cost $7 USD PPP, the employed males gained an average of $46 USD PPP per year in income.  In Tanzania, certain children were born to mothers given sufficient amounts of Iodine by Government programs.  These experiments found that if every mother were to take Iodine during pregnancy,  there would be a resulting 7.5% increase in the “total educational attainment of children in Central and Southern Africa.” (32)  Although it appears true that healthy nutrition in childhood as well as certain methods in adulthood will more than pay for themselves in the long-run, people are still unwilling to undertake in such activity, in most cases.  The authors cite that in Kenya, the program running the deworming ask parents to pay for the deworming of their children, yet nearly all refused regardless of the ratio between the low price of deworming to the hundreds of extra dollars these children could go onto earn in a lifetime. 

With the evidence provided for the gains from childhood nutrition and certain adult supplements,  why are people not acting accordingly?  Banerjee and Duflo provide several reasons the poor are so reluctant.  They believe that people don’t know enough about the healthy practices nor do they know the true gains possible from such practices.   Native people are not well informed on necessary changes compounding their preexisting reluctantly to foreign peoples and practices.  People don’t trust what they don’t know.  In addition, the gains one can view in personal experience are small if not negligible.  The effects may take many years to show up, if not generations, and will still be difficult to separate from other variables.   Finally, the authors believe that, even poor people choose their foods, not purely for cheap prices and nutrition, but for how good they taste.  When poor people receive extra income, it is spent on “tastier” foods and additional cheap luxuries (34).  Poor people generally live very boring and difficult lives therefore attempt to distract themselves and family from their poverty.  With tastier foods, festivities and cheap luxuries, it may be possible for the poor to temporarily forget about their evident disposition.  The basic need for a pleasant life could explain the behavior of the poor.  The poor receive some extra income, since they have limited information and difficulty in understanding the long-term gains from possible nutrition practices, they spend the money on tastier foods or a TV set, or anything to increase the enjoyment in their life.  Missing out on possible nutrients and spending extra income on cheap luxuries might increase the standard of living for the poor in the now, but they undervalue the future.  As is the case in all societies everywhere, people tend to value things in the present more than goods in the future; $100 dollars today will be worth more to someone than $100 in the future.  The poor undervalue their possible future gains, and remain skeptical about possible opportunities and the idea of a radical change in their life increasing their standard of living.  The poor believe life is as it is for a reason, and they might as well indulge in cheap luxuries to avoid depression and temporarily forget their negative economic state (38).

In conclusion, chapter 2 states that most adults do not follow the stated assumptions and are outside the hunger-based poverty trap zone.  The majority of adults can easily eat enough to be physically productive.  However, nutrition is still a problem for the poor and needs to be dealt with.  Quantity of food is not the issue, but shortage of micronutrients and information on such, is a big part of the issue.  All the information provided leaves us to conclude that governments and organizations need to drastically alter food policy to increase the efficiency of such policy.  Supplying more food does not work, nor does simply giving the poor money.  Instead of leading to consumption of more calories and overall better diets these policies simply help the poor fill other wants and needs.  Instead policy should be one that directly invests in children and pregnant mothers nutrients.  Institutions must directly administer certain nutrients to mothers and children or provide incentives for them to consume such nutrients.  Furthermore, the poor need to be better educated on available supplements and their impending gains.  By knowing and understanding the poor will eventually accept and embrace the change.  Finally, policy should increase funding to develop healthier cheap crops and how to package nutrients with foods people already like. 

Clearly the current and passed policy has failed to thwart poverty.  While standard of living has increased, food policy must be progressive and completely change to efficiently lower numbers of people in poverty.

Works Cited

            Banerjee, Abhijit V., and Esther Duflo. Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty. New York: PublicAffairs, 2011. Print.

Posted in Uncategorized