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September 9, 2013

New & Noteworthy

By Alicia Brindisi

In this week’s New and Noteworthy, mobile money is inspiring innovations in Kenya and new research points to the link between poverty and how the brain works.

  • Last week Anandi Mani et al. released a study showing a link between poverty and decision-making ability based on changes in cognitive functions of Indian sugarcne farmers over a growing cycle. Two of the lead authors (Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir) also released a book, Scarcity, which further explores the impact of poverty on mind-set and psychology.
  • In The World Bank’s Development Impact Blog, David McKenzie recently explored the role of clinical equipoise in RCT development trials, that is – whether researchers have the obligation to prove the uncertainty of the expected impact of an intervention and to what degree.
  • Recently a company called Kipochi launched an e-wallet service in Kenya, allowing international transfers via Bitcoins. The move has the potential to integrate M-Pesa with international services but some have concerns regarding security and regulatory issues.
  • In a different part of Kenya, innovations in mobile money are expanding energy access in slums. The start-up access:energy uses wind turbines and solar panels to create “microgrids” in informal settlements, starting with one on Remba, an island in Lake Victoria. Users can pay for energy use using their mobile phones.
  • Should we be looking to the pump when thinking about loan pricing? Recent blog posts from CFI and Microfinance Transparency use a gasoline analogy in discussing different (but related) issues. CFI explores a new Chilean system of reducing terms and conditions of loans into a two-digit number while Azish Filabi of the FRBNY looks at the issue of pricing transparency and consumer protection in Africa’s mircrofinance industry.
  • In the wake of recent national debates around food stamps in the US, Al Jazeera published an in-depth profile of the complexities around the system, including for those who are fraudulent.
  • A new study from the Center for American Progress shows that children growing up in regions in the US with higher rates of an economic middle class are more likely to move out of poverty than in regions where income inequality is high.

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