Panama Papers: Economists have been mining the leaked Panama Papers to figure out how much wealth the super rich of the world have had tucked away, hidden from the tax authorities. The results are striking–the equivalent of 10% of global GDP. Read about it here (with links to the research papers).
Official poverty numbers for the US: The new US Census Bureau numbers on poverty also came out yesterday, showing that the poverty rate fell again last year, though modestly. There is a series of CB reports available and quite a bit of coverage in the media today. This paper from the Economic Policy Institute gives a good summary of the new estimates of the official poverty measures, and the Census Bureau’s new “supplementary poverty measure” (SPM) which tries to deal with the concerns about the historical measure. On how the US poverty line compares to other countries see Box 2.5 of EOP, and see Box 4.4 on the pubic dissatisfaction with the official numbers, and the new SPM.
Hookworm in America! It is widely thought that diseases such as hookworm (associated with the combination of poor sanitation and poverty) were long gone in the rich world, though they remain very common in poor countries. A new study (reported in the Guardian today) finds that the disease is still found in Lowndes County Alabama, and no doubt elsewhere. You can read about it here.
Unevenly weighted flooding? The devastation to people’s lives due to the flooding in Texas in August has (understandably) got a lot of media attention, and (thankfully) there has been a great public response to help those affected. Around the same time, flooding in South Asia killed vastly more people, but received much less attention. (See the amazing photos in this Buzfeed report.) The question arises as to the role of the nation state in how much empathy we all have for others. Should we be purely “global citizens” who care equally for people living in other countries as our own, or (at the other extreme) should we only care about those with whom we share citizenship or an even more narrowly defined group membership? Is there a natural human geography to empathy? The answer matters greatly to how one thinks about poverty and inequality, as I discuss further here.
Socioeconomic data: Some great global graphics over time in Max Roser’s “Our World in Data” site.
Child stunting: A good summary of the latest UNICEF-WHO-World Bank estimates of child malnutrition across the world can be found here. In 2016, nearly one quarter of all children under 5 were deemed to be stunted. That is over 150 million. Thankfully the count is falling but it is still far too high. As EOP Chapters 7 and 8 explains, in addition to the short term welfare losses to these kids and their families, stunting has longer-term costs in learning and adult productivity that help perpetuate poverty.
Health inequalities in the US: Average life expectancy (LE) at birth is 79 years, but the range across US counties is huge as shown in this study, which is also summarized here. There is a 20 years gap between the county with the highest LE (Summit County Colorado with 87 years LE) and that with the lowest (Oglala Lakota County, South Dakota, home to the Pine Ridge Native American reservation). This is about the same as the LE gap between Japan and Sudan!