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What’s Social Policy Got To Do With Economic Growth?

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Abstract

So what’s social policy got to do with economic growth? Quite a lot, it would appear, if one takes the results of cross-country growth regressions at face value, as they are by many social policy analysts, even as they criticize the findings of the economic policy part of the very same regressions. I argue that these regressions are deeply problematic, and are antithetical to social policy analysts’ normal instincts on the importance of country and community specificity. At the same time, attempts to distinguish social policy from economic policy in terms of policy objectives is not very successful, while classifying policy instruments into economic or social also leaves a significant grey area. But the economic and social policy analysis literatures can indeed be distinguished in their approaches to understanding the mechanisms of policy transmission. Despite the difficulties of defining social policy analysis, except in contradistinction to economic policy analysis, both types of analysis are needed to advance understanding of policy impact and design of policy. The Bank should (i) play a lead role in developing and assessing such multidisciplinary approaches, (ii) move to a much more outcomes based system of aid allocation in recognition of the country-specific complexities of linkage between (economic or social) policy and outcomes, and (iii) understand itself better as an institution, and its institutional footprint in countries where it is a big player.

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WP 2006-05 January 2006

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2006-01-01

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Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University

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