Sunday, October 22, 2006

Global hunger index

Outlook carries an article about a Global Hunger Index developed by the International Food Policy Research institute. Some of the key findings from the index are here.

  • India ranks 23rd (1 being most afflicted by hunger).
  • Malnutrition in India is worse than that in Sub-Saharan Africa but child mortality rates are less.
  • The custom in many households for women to eat what's left after men have had a go is an important cause for child undernourishment.
  • Good news is that India's Global Hunger Index has fallen dramatically from 41.23 in 1981 to 25.73 in 2003.
  • Bad news is that the index was 25.73 in 1997. So in this one aspect nothing has improved during 6 years of torrid economic growth.

There is also a short and interesting comparison between the poverty alleviation efforts of India and China over the past 30 years.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Charity is selfish

There is a thought provoking article on Slate which claims that charity is selfish. Well, I guess intuitively that makes sense. After all we volunteer because it makes us feel good (or less bad).

"If people really were altruistic, there would be much less volunteering. ... It would almost always be more effective to volunteer less, work overtime, and give more. A Dutch banker can pay for a lot of soup-kitchen chefs and servers with a couple of hours' worth of his salary, but that wouldn't provide the same feel-good buzz as ladling out stew himself, would it?"

But then given the fact that all humans are selfish isnt it better to channel your selfishness towards volunteering than say designer shoes? Some U of Chicago economists (who else) have conducted an experiment which shows how little altruism has to do with many charitable donations. Some findings as presented by the Slate article

"Using controlled trials to compare different methods of door-to-door fund-raising, professor List's team discovered that it was much more effective to raise funds by selling lottery tickets than it was to raise funds by asking for money."
"More effective still was simply to make sure that the fund-raisers were attractive white girls rather than a dowdier assortment of males and females representing all shapes, races, and sizes."

Now I know why I am not so good at raising money :)

For me the most interesting part of the article is where it talks about how we allocate our charitable dollars.

"Someone with $100 to give away and a world full of worthy causes should choose the worthiest and write the check. We don't. Instead, we give $5 for a LiveStrong bracelet, pledge $25 to Save the Children, another $25 to AIDS research, and so on. But $25 is not going to find a cure for AIDS. Either it's the best cause and deserves the entire $100, or it's not and some other cause does. The scattershot approach simply proves that we're more interested in feeling good than doing good."