Archive for November 11th, 2014

Book Review – The travels of a T-Shirt in the global economy..

November 11, 2014

I mean one can just put all trade books/papers away and just read this book.

Prof. Pietra Rivoli of Georgetown Univ has written a terrific book which needs to be widely read.  Stumbling on the book was sheer luck as I have hardy seen the book being mentioned anywhere. As one of the reviewer says Rivoli has achieved the nearly impossible. Another one calls it part travelogue, part history and part economics.

Prof. Rivoli builds this really fascinating story of how T-shirts are made. For this she goes into history of cotton. On this she realises how US has been the leading cotton producer for around 200 years now. This is surprising by itself considering how other countries are nowhere close to US. In other industries we have seen either massive or atleast some changes. But in case of raw cotton, nothing. US remains the undisputed leader. Questioning this why takes her to history of cotton, history of industrial revolution, history & geography of US and all kinds of other histories. The reason is how US had the basic ecosystem for allowing agri business to flourush – prop rights and so on. And in recent times, the dominance is there due to active govt support in form of subsidies and trade barriers. So first half (or more) is actually abt efficeny of US industry and latter half due to policy. So a mixed story here..

Then she moves on to how this cotton makes its way to China where cotton is processed and all kinds of garments are made inclusing T-shirts. Before China there were other countries which dominated this space like Uk, Japan, Korea etc. Each one gave way to other as labor costs were much lower in other countries. This bit of trade history is fascinating by itself.

Then how this T-shirt comes to US. This leads to other kind of history which is to deal with trade restrictions. How countries all through history have been uncomfortable with some or the other low cost producer is nicely told as well. This leads to lobbying and all kinds of ways to restrict and push trade. Infact, the competition could be within countries too. In a nice tale, how British woollen industry seeing competition from cotton industry lobbied and forced all Brits to leave cotton and continue to wear itching cotton is quite a story.

In all these stories, China has obviously come to the centrestage., The rise of China into all manufacturing industries including T-shirts needs to be understood as well.

The book finally has this amazing and ignored story of recycling of clothes.In detail, author explains how rich Americans dump their worn out T-shirts which are then sorted and sold to poor countries for a fraction of a price. This makes the industry  highly recyclable as well. The author adds the above trade is highly political and has become restrictive. It is in this recycling category, we actually see markets working really well. The government hardly intervenes to regulate this market. But this has led to questions of morality. Should Africans wear thrown away clothes of Americans? How Africans chose those clothes which have certain deo etc kind of fragrance. This shows the shirt was indeed worn by Americans and not really recycled again in Africa. This offends some people who think Africans deserve better. The other side argues better to have some clothes than nothing at all.

The sheer coverage of issues and yet be so simple is really the hallmark of this book. A story which will appeal to all kinds of people.  Cannot get better than this.

Must read..

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Political economy of Bihar’s development..

November 11, 2014

In UP we continue to get news whuch we have been hearing for decades now. And then there is its neighbor Bihar which also had simialr stories for a while but is now trying its best to change.

IdeasforIndia has a nice interview of Anjani Kumar Singh, Bihar’s Secretary.

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The govt could take a look at Inter-State Council to replace Plan Com…

November 11, 2014
Jessica Seddon  and T. N. Srinivasan make their case for Inter-state council replacing Plan Com.
Points well taken. But seeing how things go about in India better to just close Plan Com and not replace it with any other entity. In all likelihood any new entity will become like Plan Com, such is the legacy of that agency.
Instead of a centralised unit, the govt should push for more decentralisation and well managed research agencies at state/district level. These agencies will be really useful as we will get regular updates on affairs at a more decentralised level. We have enough agencies giving us information on what is happening at the centre but hardly anything at state level..

‘Children of the Wall’: Outcomes for kids born in a crisis

November 11, 2014

Timely piece by Arnaud Chevalier and Olivier Marie. Anything on Berlin Wall is likely to be read at this hour.

In this article, authirs show how children born during the fall are facing several issues:

Children born in crises face different initial conditions. Data on children born in East Germany just after the Berlin Wall came down confirms that this corresponds to worse adult outcomes. ‘Children of the Wall’ have 40% higher arrest rates, are 33% more likely to have repeated a grade by age 12, and are 9% more likely to have been put into a lower educational track. This column argues that these negative outcomes can be explained by the lower average parenting skills of those who decided to have children during a period of high economic uncertainty.

The authors get hold of a survey to tease these relationships:

To explore if these negative outcomes are driven by negative parental characteristics, we make use of very detailed survey data from the German Socio Economic Panel (SOEP) and the Deutsches JungedInstitut survey (DJI). Women who gave birth in East Germany just after the end of the communist regime were on average younger, less educated, less likely to be in a relationship, and less economically active.

Importantly, they also provided less educational input to their children even if they were not poorer. The Children of the Wall also rated their relationships with their mothers and the quality of parental support they received by age 17 much less favourably than their peers. Both these children and their mothers were also far more risky individuals compared with individuals who did not give birth (or were not born) in East Germany between August 1990 and December 1993.

While these results are in line with negative parental selection, they could also be driven by timing-of-birth effects. Due to the economic turmoil prevalent at the time, these children may have experienced higher levels of maternal stress in utero and during early childhood, which may have shaped their future behaviour.

To assess this hypothesis, we examine the same set of outcomes for the older siblings of the Children of the Wall who were born in the non-uncertain times of East German communism. They also similarly report having a poor relationship with their mothers, lower educational attainment, and are more risk-taking individuals. We thus reject the possibility that the Children of the Wall have worse outcomes due to being born in ‘bad times’ and instead conclude that the negative outcomes observed for this cohort can be explained by the lower average parenting skills of those who decided to have children during a period of high economic uncertainty.

A possible reason for this negative parental selection is that the fertility decision of these women did not react as strongly to changes in the economic environment. Indeed, further analysis of the SOEP reveals that less educated mothers were far less likely than more educated ones to reduce their fertility when they perceived a bad economic environment.

🙂 Importance of parenting..


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