Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Globalization and poverty: what is the evidence?

Aisbett, Emma and Harrison, Ann and Zwane, Alix (2006): Globalization and poverty: what is the evidence? Published in: Trade, Globalization, and Poverty (December 2007): pp. 33-61.


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This chapter reviews the evidence on the linkages between globalization and poverty, drawing on the collected works of Jagdish Bhagwati and the results of an National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) project directed by Ann Harrison, Globalization and Poverty. We focus on two measures of global¬ization: trade integration (measured using tariffs or trade flows), and international capital flows.

Many economists have used the Heckscher-Ohlin framework in international trade to argue that the unskilled or the poor in countries with a comparative advantage in unskilled labor are most likely to gain from trade reform. Our first conclusion is that such a simple interpretation of general equilibrium trade models is likely to be misleading. Second, the evidence discussed suggests that the poor are more likely to share in the gains from glob¬alization when there are complementary policies in place. Such complementary policies include programs to promote human capital development, infrastructure development, credit and technical assistance to farmers, and macroeconomic sta¬bility. Third, we find that trade and foreign investment reforms have produced benefits for the poor, particularly those in exporting sectors or sectors which receive foreign investment. Fourth, financial crises are very costly to the poor. Finally, the collected evidence suggests that globalization produces both winners and losers among the poor. The fact that some poor individuals are made worse off by trade or financial integration suggests the need for carefully targeted safety nets. We emphasize the heterogeneity of results across different countries and set¬tings, but also present cross-country evidence which suggests that the path from globalization to poverty reduction via the growth effects of trade reforms is likely to be important.

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