Types of Research
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Much literature discusses the importance of investing in human capital—or “the sum of a population’s health, skills, knowledge, experience, and habits” (World Bank, 2018, p. 42)—to a country’s economic growth. For example, the World Bank reports a “chronic underinvestment” in health and education in Nigeria, noting that investing in human capital has the potential to significantly contribute to economic growth, poverty reduction, and societal well-being (World Bank, 2018). This research brief reports on the evidence linking investment in human capital—specifically, health and education—with changes in economic growth. It reviews the literature for five topic areas: Education, Infectious Diseases, Nutrition, Primary Health Care, and Child and Maternal Health. This review gives priority focus to the countries of Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Madagascar, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Tanzania. For each topic area, we report the evidence in support of a pathway from investing in human capital to economic growth.
Studies of improved seed adoption in developing countries almost always draw from household surveys and are premised on the assumption that farmers are able to self-report their use of improved seed varieties. However, recent studies suggest that farmers’ reports of the seed varieties planted, or even whether seed is local or improved, are sometimes inconsistent with the results of DNA fingerprinting of farmers' crops. We use household survey data from Tanzania to test the alignment between farmer-reported and DNA-identified maize seed types planted in fields. In the sample, 70% of maize seed observations are correctly reported as local or improved, while 16% are type I errors (falsely reported as improved) and 14% are type II errors (falsely reported as local). Type I errors are more likely to have been sourced from other farmers, rather than formal channels. An analysis of input use, including seed, fertilizer, and labor allocations, reveals that farmers tend to treat improved maize differently, depending on whether they correctly perceive it as improved. This suggests that errors in farmers' seed type awareness may translate into suboptimal management practices. In econometric analysis, the measured yield benefit of improved seed use is smaller in magnitude with a DNA-derived categorization, as compared with farmer reports. The greatest yield benefit is with correctly identified improved seed. This indicates that investments in farmers' access to information, seed labeling, and seed system oversight are needed to complement investments in seed variety development.
Precise agricultural statistics are necessary to track productivity and design sound agricultural policies. Yet, in settings where intercropping is prevalent, even crop yield can be challenging to measure. In a systematic survey of the literature on crop yield in low-income settings, we find that scholars specify how they estimate the yield denominator in under 10% of cases. Using household survey data from Tanzania, we consider four alternative methods of allocating land area on plots that contain multiple crops, and explore the implications of this measurement decision for analyses of maize and rice yield. We find that 64% of cultivated plots contain more than one crop, and average yield estimates vary with different methods of calculating area planted. This pattern is more pronounced for maize, which is more likely than rice to share a plot with other crops. The choice among area methods influences which of these two staple crops is found to be more calorie-productive per ha, as well as the extent to which fertilizer is expected to be profitable for maize production. Given that construction decisions can influence the results of analysis, we conclude that the literature would benefit from greater clarity regarding how yield is measured across studies.
The private sector is the primary investor in health research and development (R&D) worldwide, with investment annual investment exceeding $150 billion, although only an estimated $5.9 billion is focused on diseases that primarily affect low and middle-income countries (LMICs) (West et al., 2017b). Pharmaceutical companies are the largest source of private spending on global health R&D focused on LMICs, providing $5.6 billion of the $5.9 billion in total private global health R&D per year. This report draws on 10-K forms filed by Pharmaceutical companies with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the year 2016 to examine the evidence for five specific disincentives to private sector investment in drugs, vaccines and therapeutics for global health R&D: scientific uncertainty, weak policy environments, limited revenues and market uncertainty, high fixed costs for research and manufacturing, and imperfect markets. 10-K reports follow a standard format, including a business section and a risk section which include information on financial performance, investment options, lines of research, promising acquisitions and risk factors (scientific, market, and regulatory). As a result, these filings provide a valuable source of information for analyzing how private companies discuss risks and challenges as well as opportunities associated with global health R&D targeting LMICs.
As our understanding of the impacts of hidden hunger on human nutrition grows, understanding the link between fertilizer use and human nutrition becomes increasingly important. This report presents an analysis of both grey and peer-reviewed literature on the effects of fertilizer use on nutritional quality of food, particularly the staples of maize, rice, wheat, cassava and legumes. We find that some nutrient deficiencies, such as zinc, can be effectively addressed through fertilizer use while others, such as iron deficiency, are more difficult to address. Promising breakthroughs with fortified and complete fertilizers present the opportunity to correct multiple deficiencies. Current fertilizer products exist that, when applied with the proper agronomic methods, can have a significant effect on nutrition in the developing world. However, it is important to recognize that there are many factors in the developing world that have the potential to inhibit the benefits of fertilizer for human nutrition. Two significant factors are poor farmers’ difficulty in procuring the correct product and the relative sophistication required to apply fertilizers at the correct amounts and time to achieve desired results. In addition, researchers have not focused on fertilizer and nutrition studies until recently, particularly micronutrient fertilizer studies, and few studies specifically study the impacts of fertilizer on human nutrition. More research needs to be done to understand the most effective combinations and techniques, and to understand whether these methods truly increase the amount of nutrients bioavailable to humans.
This brief reviews the literature on the links between agriculture and human nutrition in rural South Asia, exploring why South Asia has experienced enormous growth in agricultural productivity without subsequent reductions in hunger. An annotated review of relevant articles is included in addition to the analysis. The articles are presented by sub-topic, including sustained economic growth versus lack of progress in nutrition rates and hunger in South Asia, primary determinants of improved nutrition at the household level, agricultural productivity/reform and interventions in nutritional status.
We conducted a literature review of strategic grain reserves (SGRs) are used to mitigate food crises. Our brief includes a short overview of the literature and a bibliography of top-cited articles relevant to specific sub-topics related to SGRs.