« Freakonomics Radio

197. Hacking the World Bank (Update)

2019-01-12 | 🔗

Jim Yong Kim has an unorthodox background for a World Bank president — and his reign has been just as unorthodox. He has just announced he’s stepping down, well before his term is over; we recorded this interview with him in 2015.

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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Thanks to Pennsylvania, lottery, scratch, ass, pennsylvanians or scratching their way to fine and with new every month, big top rises and second chance, drawings, excitements, always in order, so try, Pennsylvania, lottery, scratch, offer your ticket to fund and get yours. Did I keep on scratch? It must be eighteen or older. Please pay responsibly benefits older pennsylvanians every day frequent with radio sponsored by discover any credit card can offer cash back, but only discover matches all the cash back you ve earned at the end of your first year. It's like a birthday card but and you don't even have to send the thank you. No cash back match only by discover card learn more at discover. Dot com, flash match, discover something brighter. either Stephen donor on January seventh came surprising new, out of Washington as any news Ottawa, isn't surprising these days, but World Bank President Jim
on Kim announced his resignation, which was surprising, considering he had a few years left on his turn. The news ahead will be about his replacement and president trumps historical antipathy toward organisation. Like the World Bank. In the meantime, we thought you might like to hear this episode from two thousand and fifteen when we interviewed him poor for economics, radio. We call this episode, hacking, the World Bank, back in two thousand and twelve Jim young Kim. Was mining, his own business, carrying out his duties as president of Dartmouth College. He was in his third year there and the phone rang and he learned that the President of the United States,
the higher him away, quite literally on a Monday Dartmouth graduate from nineteen. Eighty three TIM gardener call me and said Jim, would you consider the present the world Bank- and this is the work that I devoted my entire life- to develop and turn in fighting poverty, and so I call the chair. My boy ran away, and I said you had a presence asking you to consider this island. I have to do it and so that was a Monday, flew down and met with President Obama on a Wednesday. Did you know him previously? I had met him once before, but my first sit down meeting with him, was in the oval office to talk about this particular job and then on that Friday, we were in the rose garden, and he was announcing me as the: U S candidate, one, a nation girls from poverty to prosperity. It makes the world stronger and more secure for everybody. That's why the world
is so important and that's why the leader of the World Bank should have a deep understanding of both the role that development plays in the world and the importance of creating conditions where assistance is no longer needed. I believe that nobody is more qualified to carry out that mission. Then Doktor, Jim Jim, I started to campaign headed compete for the job, but it all happened in the course of one week, so it was really quite a quite a whirlwind. Now most previous World Bank President's were either former bankers, lawyers or government officials. You, meanwhile era physician, Anthropology Phd College President spend most you're late and academia nonprofits. Not not even I say not even an academic economist is, though, that were a higher costs, so I do not mean to apply, but what does it say about the world
Ankara, President Obama or you or the shape of the world, and especially the shape of development and new ideas in development, that a guy, like you wound up in a place like this one, I remain extremely grateful to President Obama let me tell you how that conversation when he put it right on the table, has always does he said, look Jim? What am I going to tell the people around me who, Tell me that this is that I should appoint a macro economist. What what justification can I give them? four nominating you and so I started right off by saying: will present Obama? Have you read your mother's dissertation anythin Sidney He looked at me and he said well yeah. I have- and I said well Remember that your mother argued that the entire world thought that the the artisanal industry in Indonesia would be wiped out, especially metal workers will be wiped out.
Globalization by what she showed. Was it in fact that industry, thrived globalization actually gave a boost. to then industry- and I said yeah- that's what I do. I've been doing development on the ground for twenty five years, and so well. I'm not a macro economist. I do take a look at things like it how incentive work in the reality of development. Efforts on the so. I will always bring that perspective and he looked at me and he said. Ok, I get that later in a more relaxed moment with present Obama. He said you know Jim. I have to say that one of the best always I've ever seen. You know. Reading the president's mothers thesis is a good strategy and we we had a good laugh about it. Yeah you know as yet, on the story- I was thinking. I know this is meant to illustrate the strength of economic thinking. Visa, be development, but really, I think most people out there when they hear this you're gonna. Take it more than Interview Tipp, certainly that when, whenever possible, if
Boss has a mother who wrote some dissertation. You now prepare that's the m, prepare and especially its relevant, which was very much like you kind of locked out on that. You have to admit that it how did it was very relevant I'm happy, from stature and debonnair productions? This is great economic, radio, the and explores the hidden side of everything. Here's your house Stephen definite looking so here is the best per annum, It wasn't. Just the Jimmy on Kim knew the prisoner Obama's mothered written a dissertation that was related to his development work and then and got it in order to prepare for a meeting with the president
That's not the way it happens where I was so fascinated by President Obama dating back to two thousand and four I actually bought her unpublished This is from the University of Michigan archives and faithfully read the whole thing long before. Actually, I went into the interview at present one, but let me say this: the more you hear from him. Surprise you are anything's accomplished. now, he is taking the World Bank in very different direction, which will hear about, but first, let's begin at the beginning. My name is Jim young Kim. I am at present, the World Bank group and our organization last year lent and providing grants of about sixty five billion dollars and our mission is to end extreme poverty in the world and to boost what we call shared prosperity, witches, a notion that focuses on ensuring that the bottom, forty percent of any developing
three shares in their whatever economic growth. There is the sole worldwide his fairly impressive. I understand your childhood dream is an immigrant kid Iowa were your father was a dentistry professor, that your dream was to be quarterback, the Minnesota, Vikings or Chicago bears. So I'm sorry that work. How are you ok with where you wound up I'm very happy with it worked out, but you know it was there in the middle of eye or boy. The greatest thing you could ever become is a professional athletes, schemes, and so I was fully part of our culture and I actually played quarterback from a high school football team, and although that some people are impressed that die then also have to admit that our high school football team longest losing streak in the nation when I was quarterback case that still a record some sort of your tat you surrender is Jim, was also the chair of the Department of Global Health and social Medicine at Harvard Medical School is earned a Macarthur genius,
fellowship and for the last three years he has served as the President of Dartmouth College. I should also mention that, after emigrating to this country from create age, five Jim went on to become the present in this high school class, the quarterback at a football team. The point Garda, basketball team. I just found out he has a five handicap and golf, I'm alone pull about that last night, but he does it all becoming an m d and then an anthropologist was not Kim's original plan. Well, let me tell you this Stephen, you know I'm my mother is a, ass if her she's still alive still king honour, her writing in very involved in in her work on east asian philosophy and my father the directive. You know, dentists are extremely practical people, and so I had these two influences in my life and One day I came home from school and the brown when my first Mr Brown and my father pick me up from the airport
It is about thirty miles from our hometown and I were any sense generally want to study, and I say what I think I'd like to study politics in philosophy and I think I'd like to become a politician, and so he slowly pulled the car over to the side of the road. Look back at me and he said, look Jim when you finish your intern you ve been residency. You can do anything you want, so I have had this very point. Tickle Father who said: look you know you're an asian in this country. No one's gonna, give you anything and if you think, you're gonna make it the politician, you better think again. You can do that, but, first and foremost to get a skill. Were you actually can help people Let's go back when you were in nonprofits or Ngos or whatever form therein. Were you trying to bring health care and bring? You know, deliver all different kinds of necessary and often very primary health care to especially poor place around the world. You were not a fan of the World Bank. You were active. I've read in the fifty years is enough movement the campaign to to shut
the bank as well as the I M F contending. They did more harm than good. That's the report at least that I've read tell me if that report is true how true it is and why led to you were evolution in thinking about an institution like the World Bank? Will it's it's true, and those actually good Everett still it was true. I was one of the editors on a book entitled dying for growth. Global inequality in the health of the poor, and it basically was a critique of the approach that too many the international financial institutions are taken to health and at the time we are arguing was that an overly narrow focus on growth of GDP. He was really not the approach that we thought would lead to the kind of result that everyone seem to want to have no words. There were arguments that you should restrict social spending, including on health and education. and so what we were arguing is that we should focus on more than just GDP.
and we should really try to take a much more new, In view of what are the factors that are important in lifting people out of poverty, and that's really the direction that the World Bank has gone in a major way in the last twenty years? And so I am very glad we lost the fifty years is in argument, because the institution is very different now than it was before, and I think that's what made it possible for me to to lead the institution. The idea some change and partly- and this is what you guys have done so beautifully in both for economics and super, Economics? Is you ve actually made hypotheses, but then you ve looked at the data so the Dayton our overwhelming in that invest? hence in health and education, for example, are critical aspects of a growth strategy you know very summers published a paper just a year ago, showing that in low and middle income countries fully twenty five percent of the economic growth experience, between two thousand and two thousand Levin was due to better health outcomes. So we don't
at this institution, and we have not for a long time thought about health in it. Patient is simply expenditures. We now think of is fundamental investments in human capital that will lead to growth and so the institute, itself, and this is what s great about the World Bank group. The institution itself has really looked at. data really looked at the evidence carefully and we ve shifted a great deal. Okay, so the World Bank released a world Development report, titled mind society and behaviour which, after it does not sound right off the bat like a World bank report from the past for sure and it argues for really a new view, inter new mindset for attacking poverty. So if you could begin Doktor Kemp, just some of the background, were you behind this? Who was behind it and what was the impetus Well, it was, it came out of a of pretty straightforward. discussion that did caution pursue our chief economist himself rich
from India Butter, a celebrated professor of economics, development economics, it Coronel from in years Don't you know we're just sitting down one day and we started talking about a behavioral economics. We started talking about some of the work that I had become fascinated with when I was a Dartmouth about her things like willpower and grit in how they had an impact success in life and development, and so we know he he suggested one day that we that we just take this on, and so that's That's how it came to pass. It was a recognition that we really needed a rethink of women. We're going with their development strategy, and we also wanted to bring into the discourse of other World Bank group these thinkers and so influenced. In academia but had been much less
the financial inside the World bank. Interesting you, as I read the report it struck me is basically a kind of a best practice is white paper that distills really much of the field, if not the entire field of behavioral economics, and highlights the sort of cognitive, biases and illusions and the antidote to those problems that a lot of people have been thinking and talking in writing about for for many years, as you said, and primarily within academia, but not exclusively, and one per. The report makes is that a lot of these insights are, in retrospect, pretty obvious things like framing and anchoring and social norms, which two other people call peer pressure, and it struck me that you know Adam Smith, we commonly think of is the father of classical economics was probably a lot more in tune that human side of the human being than most economist to the mid and late 20th century? So I'm curious how you think that economics again granted not your field, but you certainly know plenty about it. How do you think you can amish
so far away from considering a human being. What to be what being really is and what? Why has it taken so long and so much effort to get back to this new old view Well, it's a great question. You know I am as an anthropologist. Actually in grad school we did reach out and Smith and Some of us were very surprised hear him writing about moral sentiments and the profound or a voice that really is everywhere in his in his work and his writing. You know there is a field economic anthropology has been around for a long time in Ireland, in one of my first stir early seminars in Antipater graduate school? We took on the phenomenon of the potlatch, not an in north. West Coast North West Coast Indians would tried out duly Joe. And seeing how much of it most valuable possessions. They could burn. That was the potlatch and, of course, From a rational perspective, why on earth would you burn your most valuable things and you know
and so ass, one of the early patriarch of the field of Anthropology went deeper and deeper into ITALY that, in fact, their social status was so important to the North West Coast Indians. They were willing to do this and that the benefits from it doing. This were greater often, then, what would burn. So we have trying to make sense of seemingly irrational behaviour in anthropology for a very long time, and I think that The assumptions that economists make about rationality have actually led to the rapid development and growth of the field mean economists have only speaking compared to other social scientists but much more focused on qualification and sophisticated modelling, and I think you have to have a set of assumptions in order to make us feel that's trying to do that grow, and so they started with that. You know, we have to remember Daniel Common One, his Nobel Prize on looking at different ways of thinking in questioning the assumptions that economists were making into them
then too, and so his work predates that by quite a bit, and so we really took his Ocean that there's this two kinds of thinking fast thinking, slow thinking and try to apply it to development workin. the fundamental messages are that one people think automatically that they think quickly, and they don't on the basis of of rationing reason- and you know it looks- to the evidence that people think the socially, in other words, the other people who have the same thoughts, influence and quite a bit, and they work on the basis of mental models that are often unconscious. And so, if we looked at those three kinds of thinking, and try to understand if firm there had been examples of people are utilizing that insight to actually get better outcomes and we found quite a few
coming up economic radio. We go through some of the most interesting inspiring case studies in the World Bank's report. But if you specifically said it's very important for you to Dracula children in this way. The mothers did it and it had this incredible impact. Twenty Two years later, we talk about why it has taken public sector entities so long to get on the behavioral bandwagon public sector entity, can stay in business for a very long time and a better help here. Performances and we put doktor- came through lightning round of our frequently asked questions, and I just desperately not having done more avellanos younger
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Flash go flash for economics that square dot com, slash, go slash, freak o lummix we are talking today with Jim young Kim president of the World Bank. He and costs pursue the bank's chief economist, commissioner, a poor man meant to translate the best behavioral research and academia into real world solutions to address poverty. The most persuasive to me, part of this World Bank report, is a table listing examples of highly cost effective, behavioral interventions. So I'd like you to talk about a few of these with me, your favorites, I guess whether its addressing adherence to medical, regimen, immunization rates, traffic accidents, aspiration
an investment they really run the whole scope of humankind so underpinning the success of all of these two some three through your view is a World bank president is poverty and alleviating poverty would help all these things, which most people might not connect necessarily with poverty, so again discuss back to the brilliance of economists and how they have been focused on measuring and how they been focused and trying to get real evidence are real data so that one of my favorites is that in Jamaica they had an intervention with stunted children. In other words, these are children who I had low weight and height for age and, at a certain point, stunting means that your brain literally has not been developing as it should, and it's really hard to get that back its heart to make a picture so yeah that's hard to catch up, and so there was a very
simple intervention where they had young students go and meet with mothers of stunted children, and they tried all kinds of different interventions. Income support, but one of the interventions was too just have young people come and stress the importance of having mothers in very poor settings who had other stunted children how important it was for them to intervene for their children? And this was done once a week for two years and then twenty two two years later they looked at these kids and so and they looked at all the different inputs and the one in put that had biggest difference was that intervention where they went and told mothers to interact with their kids more and that particular group of stunted children had income so are equal to the non debt to children and those that did not have it. Intervention had incomes that are twenty five to thirty percent lower than that and in their own stunted children, It was just it's incredible how these kinds of interventions can have that kind of an impact. Let me just make sure I understand that the mechanism here, it's basically
stimulating vocabulary and language in thinking that the idea of what's what's going on that move things forward right. In other words, these mothers who were deliberately neglecting their children the over years. They develop different practices. You wrap up the kids and put them on your back it would have been. You don't have that much interaction, but if you specifically said it's very important for you to interact with your children, this way the mothers did it, and it had this incredible impact. Twenty two years later, This is a great lesson for us. We have two in every now. Culture be sure that were actually giving. Kind of advice if their stunting that first of all, you have, of course, try to improve and nutritional status. But this issue of interacting with children is also really critical and by changing these mothers mental model it had this impact, those measurable economically twenty two years later, and there are others as well another one that I love is one that has an impact on that affected people
understanding socially of the importance of using less. This was in Colombia late nineties, and they simply published in the news? for how much water all the different people and companies in India groups reusing, and there was a over a decrease in water consumption that persist it so what's, knowing that your neighbors are trying to save or knowing that you're not saving and they're gonna seat in the newspaper had a huge impact on people's use of water Similarly, there were in train to reduce the number of accidents on the roads in Kenya they put messages on buses. That said, if you see someone driving recklessly look out the window
scream and yell at them and tell him to stop doing it and everywhere you are screaming yell at people who were driving recklessly. It reduced insurance claims by fifty percent in a just to have the social pressure build in that particular way. So we're gonna uses in the World Bank group we're going to capture all of these great examples and with totally reorganized the bank to do just that. We now have what we call global practices and their charge is look. over the world and find out how specific countries have had success. Utilizing these insights that come from psychology, and so in doing that, we hope that they will then take these examples and then adapt them for the local context. What unites anthropologists. Of course you can imagine. I am going to insist that we respect local context, but we feel that we can make tremendous progress if we capture these ideas and bring them to poor countries, but also
we're looking internally, because our strong assumption is an automatic thinking, you socially influence thinking and mental models. The way we assess projects? Are we actually just of our own staff and we skin we dream in the yes, this gig and a minimum wage and ask them use, the same set of data. Of course we adapted to talk about the skin cream and we had assess whether skin cream air B is better for skin rashes and then using xx actually the same data, but in a different context. We ask them to thus with a minimum wage increase or decrease poverty rates, and they did much better and getting the right answer because it was based on the data. There was clearly right answer for these questions. They did much better with a skin cream than they did with the minimum wage because, of course, are our staff came in with preconceived notions,
the mental models about the importance of minimum wages. So what we're gonna do specifically inside the bank is trying to figure out ways we can get them to do what Daniel Carmen called slow thinking you're. Can we get them to be more deliberative to be more focused on the mechanics of a particular project or particular invention to really consider data first before they jump to a conclusion, can we keep leaders like me to keep their mouths shut, for example, do not influence socially, where a group ends up landing on a particular decision. The report notes that the private sector has already adopted a lot of these behavioral approaches because- and I quote, when failure affects the profit, making bottom line product designers begin to pay close attention to how humans actually think and decides who Doktor Kemp. Why has it taken nonprofits, including the development sector, certainly oh long to buy, and you think that it's simply the absence of the markets and the needs that exist within the market, is it the downplaying?
of our why, within the nonprofit sector, is it a philosophical point where I think market forces are critical here and sometimes people say well, you know the private sector. Does everything and I dont know that. That's really the case. So much is that the private sector entities that did it poorly no longer exist right because there they go out of business and the public sector entities can stay in business for a visa, a long time, no matter how Porter Performances- and so this is part of what I've been obsessed with firm about the past twenty years. I think I've been trying to understand in the absence of market forces. How can you improve execution? How can you raised temperature so that people really because on improving execution, because in the public sector, not only do we tolerate pour exit
but often, unfortunately, we celebrate pour execution. Uniform execution sometimes for people is a symbol of the fact that your public and private sector- now you know I do not at all. I think that the private sector desert all correctly but the folks who do it right and if you were to go to Ogilvy, or any of the big publications companies in and give them there's something. I think they would laugh at us in the sense that they have been utilizing. These insights very aggressively for a very long time, in the public sector. There are some really great examples of having, is this before warnings what comes from an institution that has to be part of our school, a public health you're they very conscious. You try to get the notion of a designated driver into sitcoms in Hollywood and why they got it into sitcoms. It became part of the overall. mental model that everyone use and is now ubiquitous, And it was the year. The truly the genius of a group of just brilliant public health professionals who ray I said they had to shift the mental model handwriting while drunk. Yes,
Smoking is another one, and so we have done it in bits and pieces. We're trying to do now is to do it in a much larger scale. I'm curious as a trained M D. Whether you see this kind of research is slower to be taken up in the areas where really needed in development. In this case or faster than in medicine. and when you look at innovations in medicine, it's not as if you have a new discovery, immediately, everyone in the United States is implementing it. In fact, the last time, having a really new discovery of something that's on the market that stupid right now to point when the vast majority if doctors are using them, is set eighteen years, so I've with him to colleagues in here now throw bank. We talk a lot about the science of delivery, in other words, let's not just focus on the basic research that tells us about the molecular mechanisms, or you know, for example, that economic. Tat might be in a fundamental theoretical, modeling based on mathematical models and let's not focus just
on the things that we can prove in scientific studies actually work. Let's not focus on how you are you deliver those insights us focus, and be as rigorous as we can be about how you take things to scale. You know one of my a good. hence in global health used to say to me I am so sick of pilot project technology when can begin the field of scale, apology, right, that's gotta our main focus, because if we're going to and extreme poverty by twenty thirty. Every model we have of growth suggests do I say that, with the pessimistic with certain midway or the optimistic model of growth of economic growth, we're not gonna get to less than three percent of extreme poverty. By twenty three So if our job is to fundamentally change the poverty less to city of growth, we have cause to be effective and we ve got to take effective silly.
genes and scale than the scale them more quickly than we ever have. The World Bank has its bans. Its detractors, I have to say, hard to imagine that Jim young Kim could have too many detractors. He seems to bring so many times Do the job he's smart plainly experienced compassionate good executive. Don't he's an mds. Well, so I know what you're thinking that's disturbing anything is bad at well. I am happy to report that he is not very good singer. it's the truth.
Oh, that is from a student talent. Show it Dartmouth, when king was president there but honest. Even the singing wasn't that bad, we also danced and wrapped up wasn't that bad any of those either. So what does the talent. Show really. Teachers teaches us that gene young Kim as something that very few others An official Washington have the ability to not take yourself too seriously, So, even though he is president of the World Bank, we asked him to go through a blitz version of our frequently asked questions he agreed. Of course, Doktor came if you would tell us in sixty seconds or less what you actually do in a given day. I spend a lot of time going through my Leaving books which look like real books and I get one every day, I'm in meetings all the time with all kinds of people, and I try to one. My mouth shut when
Me saying something could influence the decision we make and then make a decision when no one else can make a decision. What's the best investment you ve ever, it financial, emotional, education without any kind of investment in getting to where you are today. I think one of them it's it's rather simplistic But too late in my life, when I was twenty four, I started learning languages I only really spoke English. Twenty four, when I was twenty four, I learn to speak Korean, because I went back to create Am I a dissertation risk? So now I speak Korean, which has been good especially in in all my work with the Secretary General Ban, Ki Moon of the United Nations, it's been great to be able to organizations in the middle of chaos. Then later I learned speak Spanish, so it really was worthwhile. for me to do that nights. Just desperately regret not having done more of that when I was younger who's, been the biggest influence on your life then work and why? Well you don't funding
ITALY has been my mother, who is a new confucian philosopher, but does she's been so influential because at a very h m and I was reading the speeches, and the writings of Martin Luther King, when I was nine years old, so much The king has certainly been a huge influence, and so people like Martin Luther King people, who have taken an idea fundamentally rooted in moral convictions and then change the world are the people who inspire me tell us one thing you ve habitually spent too much on, but do not regret. Oh gosh, its food, let him eating at restaurants all over the world Bank. In fact, I have a rule when I travel to developing for every meal? I want native food as opposed to thinking that I, he'd french food, that in or in a western food, so I've and a lot of money at a lot of different restaurant. Sir, also with my children, we love to eat you cook as well, not very
I used to a lot more, but not much. These days tell me one thing you own that you should probably throw out, but never will I have a collection of potter's Gulf Potter's that I just can't seem to throw away. It's part of a gulf they're gone last for a lot of magical thinking, and so I remember the magical puts I made with some of these Patterson Psych. I've kept him and kept him and kept them, despite F, so everyone around me to throw them out. The next question was but do you collect and why does asked and answered our answered without being asked? What's the one story that your family? Maybe it's your kids, maybe your parents always tells about you well a brother legs to tell the story my brother is a m, is a gastro. Knowledge is due in LOS Angeles, and he also says that if he and I were into a wall with three doors. He would quickly India in automatically go through the door. There was open, but that I would put my head through the
all just in case. There is a better way to approach getting to the other side Of course the story is that I've always chosen the most difficult path, but does it serve me very well interesting war that either leads perfectly into or totally obviates? My final question which is? I want you to tell me about something that you once quit and why and how it worked out, but if you're willing to put your head through while you may never have quit anything at all, did you I did. I actually quit my infectious disease fellowship now. This was in about the thirtieth consecutive year being involved in education, you know from the age of five so wasn't as if I gave up prematurely, but I just cited that be credentials. I would get us to be able to treat people with infectious diseases in hospitals in the United States. Not just realized. I'd never do that and have continued to work on Tibet
this is an HIV now Ebola, but that I did quit TAT Doktor Kemp thanks so much it was a pure as Europe to speak with you and I have learned a lot and I'm sure everyone listening will as well, and thank you so much making time for. Thank you, having the- and I thank you for doing this- you ve done a good job.
For you know: what's radio is produced by sticker in Dublin productions, this episode was produced by Gregg resolves keep. Our staff also includes Allison, Craig Logris Ribbon Harry Huggins Zack would constitute an album Melis. You can subscribe to freakin, I'm trading on any pot cast an apple podcast is the most popular and you can get every episode with ever made on the stitched up poor at economic start. Come thanks for listening teacher.
Transcript generated on 2021-03-10.