Michael Woolcock

Michael Woolcock
World Bank · Development Economics Research Group

PhD

About

158
Publications
145,928
Reads
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19,878
Citations
Additional affiliations
June 1998 - present
World Bank
Position
  • Researcher
Education
August 1991 - May 1998
Brown University
Field of study
  • Sociology

Publications

Publications (158)
Chapter
This book seeks to narrow two gaps: first, between the widespread use of case studies and their frequently 'loose' methodological moorings; and second, between the scholarly community advancing methodological frontiers in case study research and the users of case studies in development policy and practice. It draws on the contributors' collective e...
Chapter
This book seeks to narrow two gaps: first, between the widespread use of case studies and their frequently 'loose' methodological moorings; and second, between the scholarly community advancing methodological frontiers in case study research and the users of case studies in development policy and practice. It draws on the contributors' collective e...
Chapter
This book seeks to narrow two gaps: first, between the widespread use of case studies and their frequently 'loose' methodological moorings; and second, between the scholarly community advancing methodological frontiers in case study research and the users of case studies in development policy and practice. It draws on the contributors' collective e...
Article
Full-text available
Our lives are remembered as an assemblage of overlapping stories – some of them prosaic and unremarkable, others more fraught, contingent and consequential – but most remain unfinished, punctuated only by their telling: to particular people, in particular ways, for particular purposes. In this spirit, a first-person account is provided of the makin...
Chapter
While in principle fiscal policy in all countries is a central component of the “long route of accountability” binding citizens and the state, in fragile states the political dynamics shaping the extent to which this “route” does in fact deliver incrementally better key services (such as security and health) to citizens—and for which citizens, in t...
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The experience of development, as well as understandings of and responses to it, are uniquely rendered through popular culture generally, and popular music in particular. Music has been a medium of choice through which marginalised populations all over the world convey their (frequently critical) views, while in the Global North music has also long...
Article
Full-text available
The experience of development, as well as understandings of and responses to it, are uniquely rendered via popular culture generally, and popular music in particular. Music has been a medium of choice through which marginalized populations all over the world convey their (frequently critical) views, while in the Global North music has also long pla...
Technical Report
Previous Poverty and Shared Prosperity Reports have conveyed the difficult message that the world is not on track to meet the global goal of reducing extreme poverty to 3 percent by 2030. This edition brings the unwelcome news that COVID-19, along with conflict and climate change, has not merely slowed global poverty reduction but reversed it for f...
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Many development agencies and governments now seek to engage directly with local communities, whether as a means to the realization of more familiar goals (infrastructure, healthcare, education) or as an end in itself (promoting greater inclusion, participation, well-being). These same agencies and governments, however, are also under increasing pr...
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In rich and poor countries alike, a core challenge is building the state’s capability for policy implementation. Delivering high-quality public health and health care—affordably, reliably and at scale, for all—exemplifies this challenge, since doing so requires deftly integrating refined technical skills (surgery), broad logistics management (suppl...
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Malawi can be understood as a microcosm of institutional reform approaches in developing countries more broadly. A common feature of such approaches, whether implemented by government or donors, is reform initiatives that yield institutions that "look like" those found in higher-performing countries but rarely acquire the same underlying functional...
Article
We offer an alternative approach to the identification of state fragility – and in turn an alternative foundation for fragility assessment. Current practice relies almost exclusively on a single aggregate metric updated annually, uninformed by change or rate of change in the metrics. Our alternative proposes a more pragmatic three-stage process: th...
Chapter
Associations provide institutionalized opportunities for social exchange and the strengthening of pro-social attitudes and social skills. Social capital — such as trust, norms, and networks — is a by-product of associational involvement. In trustful relationships transaction costs are decreased for all participants because fewer resources are requi...
Chapter
Full-text available
We combine theory with data from different domains to provide an empirical analysis of the scale and variability of social capital as wealth. This is used to argue, given what we have learned in the literature on social capital, that the welfare returns to investing in trust could be substantial. Using social trust data from 132 nations covered by...
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Humanity hosted an online symposium on the changing nature of knowledge production in fragile states. In light of the intensification of evidence-based policymaking and the “data revolution” in development, the symposium asks what the ethical and political implications are for qualitative research as a tool of governance. The symposium begins with...
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Rule of law orthodoxy--legal transplants from high- to low-income countries--has endured despite persistent critiques. A key reason for this, we argue, is the absence of positive theories of praxis that can instantiate essentially contested concepts such as rule of law. We discuss the emergence of one nascent alternative, the World Bank's Justice f...
Article
We often observe that more successful efforts to establish complex state capabilities are problem driven; focused relentlessly on solving a specific, attention-grabbing problem. This is the first principle of Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation, which we are introducing in pieces in a series of working papers over the coming months. The current wor...
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We embed a critique of the respective strengths and weaknesses of policy initiatives to ‘build the rule of law’ within the broader literature on political settlements and developmental states, thereby creating a foundation for an alternative framework that takes politics and the legitimacy of change processes seriously. Thus far the dominant terms...
Article
Cash transfer programmes are a popular social protection tool in developing countries that aim, among other things, to improve education outcomes in developing countries. The debate over whether these programmes should include conditions has been at the forefront of recent policy discussions. This systematic review aims to complement the existing e...
Article
The coherence and effectiveness of engagement with the world’s ‘fragile and conflict- affected states' - beyond ethical imperatives and geo-strategic considerations - turns on answers to two vexing questions. First, on what defensible basis is any given country, at any given historical moment, deemed to be (or not to be) ‘fragile’? Second, if a def...
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Rising standards for accurately inferring the impact of development projects has not been matched by equivalently rigorous procedures for guiding decisions about whether and how similar results might be expected elsewhere. These ‘external validity’ concerns are especially pressing for ‘complex’ development interventions, in which the explicit purpo...
Article
Popular representations of development need to be taken seriously (though not uncritically) as sources of authoritative knowledge, not least because this is how most people in the global North (and elsewhere) ‘encounter’ development issues. To this end, and building on the broader agenda presented in a previous paper on exploring the usefulness of...
Article
In many nations today the state has little capability to carry out even basic functions like security, policing, regulation or core service delivery. Enhancing this capability, especially in fragile states, is a long-term task: countries like Haiti or Liberia will take many decades to reach even a moderate capability country like India, and millenn...
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Many reform initiatives in developing countries fail to achieve sustained improvements in performance because they are merely isomorphic mimicry — that is, governments and organizations pretend to reform by changing what policies or organizations look like rather than what they actually do. In addition, the flow of development resources and legitim...
Article
Sociology’s fragility, in its latest manifestation, is not a result of controversies over method or theory. The challenge is far more serious than those, for it involves the question of whether the subjects of this new science—human beings themselves have any distinctive features that require a distinctive science to be understood.
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Background: A suite of robust instruments are required to investigate the range of contextual and social dimensions in the nursing workforce that contribute to desired outcomes such as resilient work environments, high retention rates, and provision of quality health care. However current instruments do not adequately measure the formal and informa...
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Over the last four decades, donor-driven justice reform efforts have largely followed two parallel paradigms: one primarily concerned with promoting development and economic growth, the other centered on state-building and the consolidation of peace in countries emerging from violent conflict. Operationally, however, these models face the same conu...
Technical Report
The rule of law (ROL), although an “essentially contested concept”, can be understood pragmatically as a system that informs people of what to expect from others through durable and enforceable rules applying equally to all constituent members of a given juridical space. This literature review engages with “the politics of what works” with regard t...
Article
This article examines the relation between civil society and social capital. It explains that over the last twenty-five years, the concepts of civil society and social capital have experienced a remarkable rise to prominence across many disciplines and sectors. It offers an overview of the concept of social capital and provides a brief survey of th...
Article
Previous efforts at legal development have focused almost exclusively on state legal systems, many of which have shown little improvement over time. Recently, organizations engaged in legal development activities have begun to pay greater attention to the implications of local, informal, indigenous, religious, and village courts or tribunals, which...
Chapter
Full-text available
Over the last four decades, donor-driven justice reform efforts have largely followed two parallel paradigms: one primarily concerned with promoting development and economic growth, the other centered on state-building and the consolidation of peace in countries emerging from violent conflict. These paradigms have increasingly converged in recent y...
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Full-text available
This chapter outlines some of the ways and means by which inte- grating qualitative and quantitative approaches in development research and program evaluation can help yield insights that neither approach would produce on its own. In assessing the impact of development programs and policies, it is important to recognize that the quantitative method...
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The capacity to act collectively is not just a matter of groups sharing interests, incentives and values (or being sufficiently small), as standard economic theory predicts, but a prior and shared understanding of the constituent elements of problem(s) and possible solutions. From this standpoint, the failure to act collectively can stem at least i...
Book
Contesting Development addresses major issues at the nexus of development research and policy: the level of local conflict accompanying institutional transitions; the role of development projects in shaping institutional transitions and conflict dynamics; and strategies for designing, implementing, and assessing projects in rapidly changing context...
Article
Many countries remain stuck in conditions of low productivity that many call "poverty traps." Economic growth is only one aspect of development; another key dimension of development is the expansion of the administrative capability of the state, the capability of governments to affect the course of events by implementing policies and programs. We u...
Article
Though household surveys have long been an established part of development practice and regularly used to gather data on poverty incidence and the range of associated indicators, they have not yet become a common tool of justice reform practitioners. This guide aims to be a practical starting point for integrating justice work and household data co...
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Social capital has not merely risen as a social scientific term in the scholarly literature; it has become routinized into everyday conversation and policy discourse across an extraordinarily diverse set of disciplines and substantive domains in countries around the world. It currently enjoys citation counts some 100 times larger than it did just 2...
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This paper provides an overview of the various ways in which mixing qualitative and quantitative methods could add value to monitoring and evaluating development projects. In particular it examines how qualitative methods could address some of the limitations of randomized trials and other quantitative impact evaluation methods; it also explores th...
Article
This paper reviews the main challenges and opportunities for incorporating mixed method approaches into research and evaluation on the effectiveness and impacts of international development. It draws on the authors’ experience over several decades working in both academia and with a wide range of multilateral and bilateral development agencies, non...
Article
A significant proportion of the world’s work is done in contexts where the rule of law is absent or severely lacking. This paper describes one such context - that of contemporary Cambodia. Based on a literature review and interviews with key informants the authors find that there are opportunities to embed labor markets in regulatory frameworks, ev...
Article
This paper explains the ideas and approaches that underpin the World Bank’s Justice for the Poor (J4P) program. J4P is an approach to legal empowerment that focuses on mainstreaming sociolegal concerns into development processes, in sectors ranging from community-driven development and mining technical assistance to labor-rights advocacy and classi...
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Understanding the efficacy of development projects requires not only a plausible counterfactual but also an appropriate match between the shape of impact trajectory over time and the deployment of a corresponding array of research tools capable of empirically discerning such a trajectory. At present, however, the development community knows very li...
Article
This chapter focuses on both expanding and refining the analytical scope of the 'social' (or non-economic) aspects of chronic poverty. The chapter is structured in six sections. Section 15.2 briefly looks at how poverty generally, and chronic poverty in particular, is explained in the current policy literature, with a focus on 'poverty traps' and (...
Article
This overview essay on policy responses to global poverty and inequality over the last ten years is structured around four themes. First, drawing on the most recent empirical data, it provides some stylised facts on recent trends in poverty and inequality in developing countries. Second, it considers the distinctive ways in which the UK government...
Article
While there is broad agreement among scholars and practitioners on the importance of ‘good governance’, ‘the rule of law’ and ‘effective institutions’ for ensuring positive development outcomes, we have a much poorer understanding of how such goals should be realised. Whether informed by modernisation theory, Marxist perspectives or neoclassical as...
Article
The consensus among scholars and policymakers that ‘institutions matter’ for development has led inexorably to a conclusion that ‘history matters’, since institutions clearly form and evolve over time. Unfortunately, however, the next logical step has not yet been taken, which is to recognise that historians (and not only economic historians) might...
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Institutional reforms in contemporary Cambodia are being undertaken in an environment characterized by pervasive legal pluralism - the not uncommon situation in which numerous, contradictory and competing sets of rules and norms regulate social, economic and political relationships. This paper examines how a series of reforms around land tenure and...
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This article introduces and explores issues regarding the question of what constitute valid forms of development knowledge, focusing in particular on the relationship between fictional writing on development and more formal academic and policy-oriented representations of development issues. We challenge certain conventional notions about the nature...
Article
This paper focuses on both expanding and refining the analytical scope of the “social†(or non-economic) aspects of chronic poverty, and thereby, to enhance efforts to respond more effectively to it. The argument in this paper proceeds as follows. In recognizing that poverty is “multi-dimensionalâ€, today’s dominant policy discourses have ac...
Article
The salience of the concept of "empowerment" has been more often deductively claimed than carefully defined or inductively assessed, by development scholars and practitioners alike. Using evidence from an in-depth, mixed methods examination of the Kecamatan Development Project (KDP) in rural Indonesia, we define it here as deliberative development...
Article
A recurring theme in the literature on common violence is that it stems from the combined impact of divided societies (poverty, ethnic diversity, economic inequality) and weak institutions (non-democratic, authoritarian government). This statistical regularity may hold in the aggregate, but as such it generates some instructive “outliers”. Jamaica,...
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Full-text available
The salience of the concept of “empowerment” has been deductively claimed more often than carefully defined or inductively assessed by development scholars and practitioners alike. We use evidence from a mixed methods examination of the Kecamatan (subdistrict) Development Project (KDP) in rural Indonesia, which we define here as development interve...
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This paper provides a survey on studies that analyze the macroeconomic effects of intellectual property rights (IPR). The first part of this paper introduces different patent policy instruments and reviews their effects on R&D and economic growth. This part also discusses the distortionary effects and distributional consequences of IPR protection a...
Article
We use detailed ethnographic evidence to design and interpret a broad representative survey of 800 households in Delhi’s slums, examining the processes by which residents gain access to formal government services and develop their own (informal) modes of leadership. While ethnically homogeneous slums transplant rural institutions to the city, newer...
Article
What are the distinctive skills and attributes that should be expected of Masters (as opposed to undergraduate and doctoral) graduates of international development programmes? Given the diversity of their academic and cultural backgrounds, the inherent uncertainty of their career trajectories, the variety of country contexts and organizational envi...
Article
Arguments and evidence from the social sciences, natural sciences and development practice are used to frame a broader discussion of the role of social relations in the process of economic development. We trace the intellectual history of social relations within theories of economic development and situate the rise of ‘social capital’ as idea and p...
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There has long been broad agreement on the importance of building—and enhancing access to—“rule of law” systems in developing countries, but efforts to do either of these things have a long and unhappy history. These disappointments, we contend, stem largely from a prevailing theory that overlooks (a) the interdependence of ‘policies’, ‘laws’, and...
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We provide an overview of some practical guidelines for using both qualitative and quantitative methods to assess social capital in low income countries. Drawing on two longer and more detailed source documents, we use a six-dimension conceptual framework to show how a more complete picture of the nature and extent of social relations in poor commu...
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We present evidence that measures of "social cohesion," such as income inequality and ethnic fractionalization, endogenously determine institutional quality, which in turn causally determines growth. Copyright 2006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
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Full-text available
Community-driven development (CDD)—the largest operational manifestation of ideas encapsulated in the term 'social capital'—has attracted considerable acclaim and criticism as its profile has risen within the World Bank and the development community more broadly. While supporters and critics alike have compelling 'stories' they can invoke to make t...