Week of July 29, 2013

Recent political debates in the US include raising student loan interest rates, reforming immigration policies, and raising the minimum wage. This week’s New and Noteworthy highlights nuanced economic aspects of these issues and also looks abroad to a profile of programming reaching India’s ultra-poor as well an analysis of financing for women-owned SMEs.

  • In light of the recent debate on raising the federal minimum wage, The Pew Research Center released demographic data on who makes minimum wage in the US. The findings show minimum wage earners are disproportionately young, mostly white, and predominately part-time workers.  
  • A new report from Sallie Mae shows that parents are contributing less to college costs than in the past, but as NPR’s Marketplace points out, low-income families are actually having to pay more than their high-income peers.
  • USAID created a slick new infographic (based on this recent report ) showing gendered breakdowns of loan information for SMEs in the developing world.
  • Why was anesthesia an overnight success in the medical community but antiseptics took years to become commonplace? What can the trajectories of both innovations tell us about the spread of ideas, particularly in addressing development challenges? Atul Gawande answers both questions in his piece on innovation and information sharing for The New Yorker.
  • In what is being billed as “the most detailed portrait yet of income mobility in the United States,” a new study from researchers at The Equality of Opportunity Project shows that location matters when it comes to the likelihood of upward economic mobility.
  • Ignacio Mas and Kim Wilson question the labels of financial inclusion/exclusion and their implications in a post for the CFI Blog. They turn the debate on opening formal financial services around and ask the question of whether this is meeting the needs and desires of the poor.
  • Social enterprise and microfinance often aims to target the “poorest of the poor,” or those at the bottom of the pyramid earning less than $1.25 a day.  However, in an article for the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Bo Hopkins and Abi Olvera argue the pyramid is segmented, with the highest investment potential located in the $3 to $16 per day income level.
  • Banerjee et al. published results of a study on how information regarding microfinance travels through villages in India in the new edition of Science.
  • For those who are interested in the bottom of the pyramid, programs that target the “ultra-poor” have shown promising results. In the newest edition of the Financial Time’s Urban Ingenuity publication has a profile of one such program in India, administered by a partnership between Parinaam and Ujjivan.

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