So many things I wanted to say.

March 21st, 2007 by MrLuxuryFashionGuru

Ok, so Summers is long gone as President of Harvard University, but his memory lingers on… Many people know about a certain infamous internal memo he signed about the economics of dumping toxic waste in developing countries while he was Chief Economist at the World Bank (the memo incident itself provides a fascinating look at the effects of often-inaccurate news media).  So it really shouldn’t be a surprise to come across this choice excerpt from a paper (Angeles, Guilkey, and Mroz 2005) I just found on family planning and female education:

“The empirical evidence in developing countries indicates that female education is associated with lower levels of fertility. This evidence has important policy implications. A 1992 World Bank development brief discussing the important gains from educating girls, for example, compared the efficiency of family planning and education programs for lowering fertility: ‘Educated women also choose to have fewer children. An extra year of female schooling reduced female fertility by about 5% to 10%. So, a $30,000 investment in educating 1,000 women would avert 500 births. How much does the typical family planning program spend to avert one birth? About $65. Averting 500 births would cost about $33,000, the same as educating an additional 1,000 girls, enough to justify education on family planning grounds alone’ (World Bank 1992, 2). Such conclusions do not necessarily represent the views of the World Bank and its member countries, but the background paper for this brief was written by the World Bank’s chief economist and vice president for development economics at that time (Summers 1992), so it surely carried considerable weight.” (Angeles, Guilkey, and Mroz 2005, 166-167)

So in case you didn’t catch the unfortunate phrasing, Summers seems to have said that education for girls and young women in developing countries can be justified simply as a means of “averting births”.  Which of course might sound a little indelicate to the non-economist.  What I particularly liked in the above excerpt was the citing authors’ careful note that Summers’ background paper did not necessarily represent the views of the World Bank or its member countries.

24 hours to go, and 18 hours of work left.

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