- PEP in the World
PEP research projects supported under the PMMA program usually aim to provide a fuller characterization of the nature, distribution, causes and consequences of poverty in beneficiary countries.
Local researchers are enabled to use complex measurement techniques to build comprehensive "profiles" of the state of welfare or development amongst certain populations, which are then used to inform policy decisions in their home countries.
To this day, a great majority of poverty analyses in developing countries is still based on a unidimensional monetary approach. PMMA research promotes a new, multidimensional perspective on welfare issues, providing comprehensive profiles and evidence to assist in designing and targeting policy interventions for effective improvement of socioeconomic well-being.
Poverty is indeed a multidimensional phenomenon, and the poor are generally deprived in more than one dimensions of wellfare: health, income, education, sanitation, housing, security, etc. all of which must be taken into account in poverty and development policy decisions.
Using a combination of cutting-edge methofologies and analytical techniques, the outcomes of PMMA research provide reliable evidence to assist policymakers in facing challenges such as:
PMMA provides support, training, mentoring and a variety of resources (e.g. documentation, software tools, concept development, etc.) for developing country researchers to rely on to strenghten their capacities in microeconomic measurement and analysis.
In addition, through the global infrastructure of PEP, the PMMA program also encourages comparative analyses between researchers from around the world, and especially in developing countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America, to compare methods, tools, findings and experience.
The PEP PMMA research program has yielded major contributions to the field, with the development of two world-renowned software tools for distributive analysis, used and valued worldwide throughout the international development research community :
PMMA resaerch puts most emphasis on the use of existing nation-wide micro-based data; collection of new data is usually not carried out. Teams generally adopt or develop common methodologies, often involving micro-econometrics, to ensure that training and technical support/partnership are provided efficiently at the network level. The PMMA program strives for good comparative international research, but retains a focus on national results and impact.
In many cases, international donor institutions and development partners have taken advantage of PEP's expertise in developing capacities and methods for the analysis of the patterns, determinants, incidence and drivers of inequities in developing countries, to commission special initiatives, such as:
Generally speaking, however, the themes of interest of PEP projects supported under the PMMA program are broad and evolving with developments in the scientific literature. They are also flexibly adapted to the heterogeneous needs of policymaking in the diverse socioeconomic environments that PEP covers.
Some examples of PMMA research focuses are:
Multidimensional poverty analysis
PMMA program research on multidimensional poverty has made use of recently developed or neglected methodologies in economics, which can be highly effective in answering the concerns of policymakers that poverty and well-being cannot be considered solely on the basis of money-metric assessments. Such a concern has inter alia been strongly expressed in the development and monitoring of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). PEP’s original achievements in this area have been noted by many institutions and organizations around the world.
Public spending and its impact on poverty and equity
This has scored particularly well in the context of several national Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) exercises in Africa. In 2007, in order to contribute to improve the understanding of the impact of public spending on poverty and equity, the PEP PMMA research program has broadened its methodological approach to incorporate intra-household allocation of well-being and poverty dynamics.
Growth and Poverty Dynamics
This theme includes:
This is an area in which current research activities are very strong both in the policy and the academic communities. Understanding the impact on poverty and inequality of national and sectoral growth, inequality, migration and/or demographic changes for instance is at the top of several international and national policy institutions' agenda. Individual poverty dynamics – including issues related to mobility, vulnerability and transiency of poverty – is also currently the focus of much academic research work, both from an ethical and a statistical point of view. Researchers everywhere have been meaning to evolve around the understanding of the experience of poverty across different categories of households, characterized not merely by household incomes, but also by different kinds of gender and age compositions. Comparative work across countries and time (made easier by a research structure such as that of PEP) is particularly valuable in this area, since the results are usually country specific.
Policy impact analysis
Many countries are designing and implementing social policies targeted to specific populations, e.g. social protection to poor people, job training programs to the youth and unemployed, agricultural development programs to farmers. It is important for policymakers and donors to know whether the programs have the expected benefits – and such knowledge is also important for generating political support for the continuation or expansion of the programs. This theme thus encourages the conduct of rigorous research to help improve the design and the implementation of such programs. This is often done in the context of welfare and job training programs in industrialized countries; which is also increasingly applied in developing countries.
Policymakers, for instance, are likely to be interested in answers to questions such as: What is the impact of a program on participants? What would be the impact from expanding eligibility to the program? Do the poor gain the most from the program? Do some benefit who should not? Would it be possible to have the same impact at lower cost? This is an area for which interest has grown strongly over the last decade and which has materialized, through PEP, in research projects on, e.g. the poverty and employability effects of workfare programs in Argentina, the effect of business development services for female microfinance clients in Peru, the poverty impact of the national micro-credit program in Vietnam, etc... The specific characterization and increasing importance given to such assessments has led to the creation of the PEP Policy Impact Evaluation Research Initiative (PIERI), funded by AusAID in 2007.
Intra-household allocation of well-being
This analysis is undertaken with a view to going from household-based poverty analysis to individual-based poverty analysis. Such analysis can matter significantly for looking at equity, gender issues, child welfare, social services access, among many other aspects. It can help assessing the true extent of inequality in the distribution of resources, as well as the extent of inequity in access to goods and services. This is fundamental to understanding the effect of policy and growth on welfare, poverty and exclusion.
This is also an area for which PEP researchers have long expressed an interest. In the course of the first phase of PEP, this interest materialized in part through the creation of a Gender Challenge Fund in collaboration with MIMAP’s Gender Network. Through this Fund, PEP was enabled to award additional grants for projects dealing with gender issues within both MPIA or PMMA programs. More generally, the aim of such thematic focus was to encourage researchers to go beyond the usual household-based measurement of well-being to consider individual well-being, and how it varies across gender and age. Such analysis can matter significantly for looking at equity, gender issues, child welfare, social services access, etc. which is the focus of much of current international initiatives, from both an ethical and a statistical point of view.
The above-mentioned list of themes of PMMA research is not exhaustive. PMMA has supported a number of projects on gender analysis and child well-being, as well as using micro-simulation techniques and experimental data analysis.
The PMMA team has also led a number of special programs, such as the PEP-OPHI Human Development and Capabilities Initiative, and collaborated in initiatives supported under the MPIA program, to assist in the use of micro-simulation techniques.
In all cases, PMMA research work emphasizes the importance of reliability and robustness in drawing out ethical and statistical conclusions.