Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Shape of the Future: No More Population Pyramid

As a student of child labor and child welfare programs, I have long thought that most of us underestimate the dramatic changes associated with ending child labor. Since most of us in the U.S. grew up in a country that effectively banned child labor, we think it is normal that children go to school, play, and do their homework. It is tough to realize that this now ordinary pattern really wasn't the rule in the U.S. until the Progressive Era. In poor regions of the world like Africa and South America, this pattern has still not completely taken hold.

One of the most interesting articles that help illustrate the breathtaking changes caused by child labor laws crossed my desk this week. John Parker, the environmental editor of one of my favorite magazines, The Economist, wrote  "The World Reshaped: The End of the Population Pyramid," back in November 2014. The most interesting part of this article, for me, is how the famous population pyramid is predicted to change over the next half century. See, below: 

In Parker's view, the declining fertility rate is largely responsible for the changes we see in the population pyramid between 1970 and 2015. The column shape of the pyramid that scholars anticipate for 2060 is largely the result of improved longevity in his view. 

I have been fascinated with this chart all week. I think that Parker is misinterpreting this information because, like most social scientists, he does not appreciate the impact of child labor laws on fertility, increased intellectual capital, and wealth accumulation. In the first place, child labor laws are unlikely to change and thus we will never see increases in fertility rates again. (Unless, of course, the Muslims take over completely and drag us into their dysfunctional world view.) In fact, I would predict that the fertility rate will eventually decrease everywhere as child labor laws are enacted and fully enforced. If parents cannot benefit from their children's labor, then we are taking away what has traditionally been one of the most important reasons to have children in the first place. 

I do, of course, anticipate that improvements in medicine will result in longer life spans. It makes sense to me that the column will continue to get higher for that reason. Nevertheless, I also expect that the base of the column -- the number of children in the world -- will continue to decrease until major (even dramatic) efforts are made to encourage increased fertility rates. 

I am still thinking through the implications of this new column shaped population pyramid. At the very least, it give us a more accurate image of what the world will look like for many generations to come. Those of us alive today will be among the first to think through the predictable trials and tribulations of this brave new world


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

New Study Shows Microlending Increases Child Labor and Fails to Reduce Poverty

I ran across this interesting article in the Journal of Philanthropy. It is worth reprinting here, in full. I have always through that microlending programs would have the unintended consequence of encouraging child labor. I'm glad to see that there is finally some evidence to support this fact. In my view, the only real solution to poverty is stopping child labor. Simple as that. The article is worth reading in greater detail, below:
Dr. Drew painting en plein air at
San Clemente beach in San Clemente, CA. 

New studies suggesting that microlending programs fail to raise borrowers' income levels have reignited the debate over the effectiveness of the model in alleviating poverty, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Under the microfinance model, very small loans are made to help the poor start businesses and boost their incomes. As borrowers repay the principle and interest on those loans, the growing pool of money is lent out to other poor people. But independent studies published in the January issue of American Economic Journal: Applied Economics that examined microloan proigrams in Ethiopia, India, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, and Bosnia and Herzegovina found that while the loans did give borrowers better access to credit, they tended not to increase borrowers' incomes or consumption. Nor did the studies find much evidence of significant social dividends, such as empowering women or improving educational opportunities for their children. Indeed, one study cited evidence suggesting that microloans encouraged families to pull their children out of school to work in the family business.
"This is kind of a defining moment," said Abhijit Banerjee, an economics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who co-wrote the study on microlending in India, during a debate at a World Bank conference in February. "The big question that we would like to answer is: [W]hat is the right product [for the poor] to have? What is missing?"
Defenders of microlending argue that the model was never expected to end poverty quickly but rather to give more choices to poor people who had been largely ignored by banks and other lenders. Alex Counts, president and CEO of the Grameen Foundation, an international arm of Grameen Bank, which pioneered microlending at scale in Bangladesh, said even the most negative reports show that up to 10 percent of microloan recipients see a big rise in income, while the rest typically do not experience a decline. And Counts suspects other microfinance programs, especially those in Bangladesh, which were not surveyed by the latest studies, would show a higher success rate. Still, he said, the reports should be "a call to action for researchers, practitioners, and policy makers to roll up their sleeves and work collaboratively to develop successive waves of better credit products for the poor."
"The theme of financial inclusion does not have the same shine as it once had, and this kind of study certainly contributes to that," said Vikram Akula, the founder of SKS Microfinance, one of India’s largest microlenders, who left SKS in 2011 and recently launched a for-profit financing firm that targets people without bank accounts. "It is part of a broader narrative that microfinance isn't a panacea, which we all knew."
Eric Bellman"Calls Grow for a New Microloans Model." Wall Street Journal 03/17/2015.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Theories Regarding the Growth of Government

I'm putting my work on Pathway to Prosperity on the back burner while I focus on growing my for profit business and doing what I can to be useful during the upcoming presidential campaign. Nevertheless, I think I do want to address the larger question of what causes the growth of government. I'm concerned that there is too little attention to the role that the elimination of child labor has on our culture and our government institutions. Remove child labor and you need to provide somewhere for children to be taken care of outside of the farm or factory. They need to be in school and we need to have financial support for them if their parents are killed or injured and unable to work. For an interesting book that looks into the causes of larger government while neglecting the role, apparently, of child labor reform, see Robert Higgs’s 1987 book Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government. Here is the link.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

News Alert: Philippines Seeks to Make Progress on Family Size

When I was in the Philippines in 2006, I was profoundly disappointed by the large amount of child labor I saw along the roadsides. The Philippines, however, is trying to make some progress by encouraging smaller families. See, http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/259364/re-population-growth-philippines-christopher-white In the long-run, however, I don't think they will make much progress unless they rapidly step up enforcement of child labor and compulsory schooling laws that make it harder for parents to treat their children as sources of labor and income.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Pathway to Prosperity Seeks to Address Issues of Child Labor and Human Trafficking in Fiji

As you may know, P2P has been monitoring human trafficking in Fiji for over a year and is pleased to report that Fiji has successfully prosecuted its first case regarding human trafficking on November 10, 2010. At the Suva High Court, assessors delivered a unanimous guilty verdict against Kadali Murti – who was charged with one count of trafficking in person(s) and seven counts of obtaining property by deception.

Two members of P2P’s board of directors, Gar Myers and Grant McNiff, met face-to-face with the Prime Minister of Fiji - Commodore Frank Bainimarama - to discuss initiatives to improve law enforcement, governance and anti-trafficking in Fiji in 2010.

Under the direction of Mr. Myers, Dean Williams, a Professor in the Harvard School of Government has also met with Mr. Bainimarama - and met with the U.S. and U.N. Ambassadors from Fiji - to discuss the application of Dr. Williams’ assessment and intervention strategies in Fiji earlier this year.

One of P2P’s advisory board members, Sheila McNiff, is a Catholic nun with over 10 years of experience in international humanitarian work including leadership and direct service to girls and women harmed by sexual exploitation and human trafficking.

Although Dr. Drew, the President of Pathway to Prosperity, has not met with Mr. Bainimarama, Dr. Drew is encouraged by the improvements taking place in Fiji. Dr. Drew is an award-winning author, trainer and consultant who has provided training to improve the productivity and effectiveness of government officials and NGO leaders in Afghanistan (2010), China (2002), Egypt (2008) and the Philippines (2005). Dr. Drew has also served on the Board of Directors of Health Development International (HID) which has provided management training – including exposure to human trafficking issues - to hospital CEOs in Brazil, China, Guatemala, India, Philippines and South Africa in conjunction with the International Hospital Federation (IHF).

The P2P team has experience in the management and successful implementation of federal grants. Mr. McNiff, for example, has successfully implemented one of California’s most effective Drug-Free Communities grants involving collaboration, data-collection and training with representatives from law enforcement, government, schools, universities, non-profit organizations and treatment providers in Orange County, CA. Recently, Dr. Drew has served as the outside evaluator for a $2.6 million Title V grant conducted as a collaborative project between Rio Hondo College and Whittier College. In addition, Mr. Myers has recently visited Fiji to investigate the conditions on the ground in Fiji.

Fiji is a source country for children trafficked for purposes of labor and commercial sexual exploitation, and a destination country for women from the People's Republic of China, Thailand, and India trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation. Pathway to Prosperity’s Fiji Forward Project will implement the Fiji-specific recommendations listed in the country narratives of the 2010 G/TIP Report as a diagnostic tool and to guide anti-trafficking programming.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Social Justice Activists Have No Idea What Causes Poverty - There, I Said It

Earlier this month, I noticed Glenn Beck of Fox and Jim Wallis of Sojourner's were crossing swords over the incendiary topic of social justice and the Bible. Beck got things started on his radio show when he said, "I beg you, look for the words 'social justice' or 'economic justice' on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words…If you have a priest that is pushing social justice, go find another parish."

Wallis, however, really frightened me with his effort to twist the Christian faith to promote cold, anti-capitalist propaganda. “Beck says Christians should leave their social justice churches,” remarked Wallis, “so I say Christians should leave Glenn Beck…what he has said attacks the very heart of our Christian faith, and Christians should no longer watch his show.”

"When your political philosophy," said Wallis, "is to consistently favor the rich over the poor you don't want to hear about economic justice."

I’m thankful Glenn Beck is calling attention to something I have found annoying about the Christian churches I have attended over the years – a tendency to swap socially accepted ideas that the rich allow poverty to exist for selfish reasons for contemporary social science perspectives, perspectives that trace poverty to individual or family-level variables including child labor, lack of schooling, drug and alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy, failure to save and invest, inappropriate single-parenting and so on.

I was flabbergasted back in 2005 when my Southern Baptist church signed on to the famous ONE Campaign, a massive media blitz which had the goal of changing government policies to save lives in Africa.

The group included a coalition of dopey celebrities and august religious leaders such as Live 8's Bob Geldof, U2's Bono, Kanye West, Rick Warren and Pat Robertson. This eclectic group endorsed policies which – from the perspective of a political economist – would lead to worse poverty including: 1) Doubling financial aid sent to the world's poorest countries, 2) Debt cancellation for the poorest nations and 3) Reform of trade laws so poor nations are not shut out of global markets.

As a political scientist, I found this whole “social justice” theme – generally soak the rich, in disguise - appalling and grossly insensitive to unintended consequences. As we saw in the case of welfare reform in the U.S., public subsidization of foolish decisions takes away the honor and prestige of those who practice personal responsibility. Even worse, social justice advocates distract our attention from the real changes needed to end global poverty.

In my view, for example, I think efforts to abolish child labor and enforce compulsory schooling in America and Europe have been infinitely more successful in ending poverty and promoting economic development than any totalitarian scheme of redistribution. This is because poor parents traditionally use child labor as a primitive form of social security, disability insurance and free maid service. Although poor parents temporarily benefit from the exploitation of their children's labor, they do so at a profound cost to their children's education, intellectual development and future earning power.

The incentives for poor parents to exploit child labor is the reason why democracy, child labor, illiteracy and unremitting poverty go hand-in-hand in places like India and the Philippines. In contrast, Vietnam and China cracked down on child labor and have experienced striking and immediate improvements in economic prosperity.

Our contemporary view that parents should support their children is turned upside down so much in other developing countries that poor parents routinely seek to profit from their offspring by selling them into sexual slavery or work camps. In some backward nations, child labor is so freely available that parents inefficiently misuse a child's mind by applying their unlimited human potential to the mundane task of carrying water.

Instead of attacking the morals of wealthy countries, opponents of global poverty should be focused on eradicating primitive indigenous practices that shock our conscience. Ideally, we should use the power of religious faith to modernize cultures that still use little children as human water pipes, personal servants, agricultural robots and sexual slaves. Glenn Beck reminds me “social justice” advocates often demand international, socialist redistribution to fix problems that could be more easily and efficiently solved with inexpensive condoms and strictly enforced child labor and compulsory schooling laws.

John C. Drew, Ph.D. is an award-winning political scientist.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

New Movie The End of Poverty? Perpetuates Myths About Causes of Poverty

Once again, I'm saddened that a lack of understanding of the true causes of poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa - and elsewhere - causes the makers of this movie to miss the big picture: Countries create their own poverty by not enforcing child labor and compulsory schooling laws. In line with existing modernization theory and paradigms, the filmmakers blame normal win-win international financing arrangements for continuing poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa. Here is the trailer for the film:

Even in rich countries, we could turn them into poor countries in a generation or two if we allowed parents to benefit from sending their children to work rather than school. Here's my Pathway to Prosperity rating of this movie: _ _ _ _ _