Alexandra Bracken spent the summer working at the World Bank’s Central Asia Regional Office in Almaty, Kazakhstan and was tasked with authoring background information notes on gender equity in the region.
According to the World Bank, the share of the global population living in extreme poverty has decreased from approximately 40% in the 1980s to just shy of 10% in 2015. But where do these numbers come from? Who decides who is poor and how is poverty measured?
Unsurprisingly, these answers are complex. I was introduced to poverty measurement through my coursework at Georgetown. GHDP 505 (Economics of Development: Poverty) and GHDP 506 (Evaluation for Development) presented different approaches to measuring poverty, but it was not until I participated in discussions about these approaches in a professional setting during my GHD (Global Human Development) program summer Field Project that I fully appreciated its complexity. Poverty measurement goes beyond metrics and provides a framework for informing, determining, and evaluating policy.
I was on a World Bank mission to Tashkent, Uzbekistan shadowing a World Bank economist as he provided technical assistance to the State Committee on Statistics while they revised Uzbekistan’s Household Budget Survey. The week of meetings surrounding the revision of the survey reinforced my understanding of concepts I learned in the classroom, including survey cluster sampling design; adult equivalence scales; and the tradeoffs between using a minimum consumption basket, a minimum subsistence level, and a minimum wage to set the poverty line.
The Uzbekistan Household Budget Survey meetings in Tashkent were part of my 10-week summer work experience with the World Bank’s Central Asia Regional Office. I was based in Almaty, Kazakhstan and was tasked with authoring background information notes on gender equity in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The reports summarized gender inequalities in economic opportunities, education, health, and participation in public life and will be used to inform the World Bank’s work in the region. This includes providing a foundation for country-level gender assessments and feeding into country-level strategy documents.
Throughout my summer experience I drew extensively on the knowledge and skills I developed during my first year at GHD. I utilized statistical software to analyze microdata and visualize trends in gender equity, thought critically about the utility of international gender indexes and surveys, and was sensitive to the limitations of data interpretation. My experience at the World Bank not only provided an opportunity to apply and deepen these skills, but it also affirmed my ability to transfer what I learned in my first year at GHD to the workplace.
Beyond my professional experience with the World Bank, I found my personal life rewarding as well. I spent my weekends hiking in the Tian Shan mountains and exploring alpine lakes, reading at outdoor cafes, and sampling ample amounts of Central Asian cuisine. Almaty has a lot to offer visitors and I very much look forward to returning one day.