Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Spain's stolen babies (from the NY Times)

The sale of babies is widely regarded as repugnant, but it has been used for political purposes in the dark days of Spain, and Argentina.  Here's a story from the Sunday NY Times recounting some of the history, focusing on one woman's search for her birth mother.

 Taken Under Fascism, Spain’s ‘Stolen Babies’ Are Learning the Truth. Thousands of Spanish children were taken from hospitals and sold to wealthy Catholic families. By Nicholas Casey, Sept. 27, 2022

"Up to the early 1930s, Spain had been among Europe’s most progressive countries, allowing for married couples to divorce and women to seek abortions. Under Franco, those rights were swiftly rescinded. Contraception was outlawed, adultery was criminalized and women lost the right to vote. Newspapers were censored, and many books were banned altogether, including those of Federico García Lorca, Spain’s most renowned poet and playwright. (Lorca had already been murdered by Nationalists during the civil war.) 


"But one of the most lasting abuses of the era was borne by children. ... Franco’s men soon began the abductions on a large scale. They targeted children orphaned by Franco’s firing squads and took newborns belonging to women who had given birth in jail as political prisoners. All were sent to be raised by regime loyalists. The era of the “stolen babies” had begun.


"Some nuns — aided by doctors, nurses and midwives — began to abduct babies to meet demand. In certain cases, the nuns still managed to persuade mothers to give up their children willingly, though many say they were coerced into surrendering their newborns. Others say they were sedated in the delivery room and then told, when they woke up, that their babies had died. In reality, the children had been sold to other families.

"Franco’s regime was not the only one to use the theft of children as a political weapon. In Argentina, as many as 30,000 people were “disappeared” by a military junta that ruled from 1976 to 1983 and gave their orphaned children to right-wing families, prompting decades of protests and demands that the government investigate. In Spain, people often refer to the Argentine cases as offering a precedent. But unlike Argentina, Spain never established a truth-and-reconciliation commission. In fact, the country did the opposite, passing a broad amnesty law in the years following Franco’s death that absolved members of the regime of most of their past crimes. While those responsible for the abductions were not explicitly granted amnesty, the policy did reflect a consensus that had emerged in post-Franco Spain — to avoid confronting the dark legacy of the dictatorship. The agreement even had a name: the Pact of Forgetting. Spain’s leaders, on both the right and left, espoused the need for peaceful democracy, even if it meant sacrificing popular calls for justice. “Let’s not disturb the graves and hurl bones at one another — let the historians do their job,” said José María Aznar, a former prime minister, in a speech years later.


"In 2004, the conservative government was defeated by José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, a Socialist who came into office with plans to address the taboos of the past.... at Zapatero’s urging, Spain passed its historical memory law in 2007, which condemned the crimes of the Franco era and recognized its victims for the first time.

"A new generation of victims began to emerge — this time led not by the mothers who had lost their babies but by their children, now grown, who were seeking their biological parents. They formed grass-roots organizations like the National Association for Irregular Adoption Victims, which estimated that as many as 15 percent of the adoptions in Spain from 1965 to 1990 were performed without consent of the birth parents."

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Where do professors come from?

 A news article in Nature summarizes two research articles into the makeup of the American professoriate.  Professors tend to have gotten their PhDs from prestigious American universities, and to have grown up in families with college educated parents, some with advanced degrees.

Most US professors are trained at same few elite universities  by Anna Nowogrodzki

"One in eight US-trained tenure-track faculty members got their PhDs from just five elite universities: the University of California, Berkeley; Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts; the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor; Stanford University in California; and the University of Wisconsin–Madison."


"This picture of elitism is bolstered by a study published last month in Nature Human Behaviour2, showing that almost 25% of faculty members in the United States have at least one parent with a PhD (in the general population, less than 1% of people have a parent with a PhD).


"Depending on the field, only 5–23% of faculty members worked at an institution more prestigious than the one at which they earned their PhD, according to the analysis. Fields with the least ‘upward mobility’ included classics and economics, whereas those with the most included animal science and pharmacology."


Quantifying hierarchy and dynamics in US faculty hiring and retention by K. Hunter Wapman, Sam Zhang, Aaron Clauset & Daniel B. Larremore  Nature (2022)

Socioeconomic roots of academic faculty by Allison C. Morgan, Nicholas LaBerge, Daniel B. Larremore, Mirta Galesic, Jennie E. Brand & Aaron Clauset ,Nature Human Behaviour (2022)

Monday, September 26, 2022

Job swaps in the Air Force

 Here's the story, from Air and Space Forces Magazine:

Bass Announces Changes to Assignment Policies—Including Job Swaps Sept. 21, 2022 | By Greg Hadley

"The Air Force is poised to revamp how it does assignments, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass announced Sept. 21—including a policy allowing Airmen to swap assignments with each other.


"The changes to enlisted assignments are the result of recommendations from the Enlisted Assignment Working Group, Bass said. The working group, which she first announced in April 2021, was tasked with making the assignment process more flexible and transparent, with an eye toward how assignments should look in 2030 and beyond.


Perhaps the biggest round of applause, however, came after Bass teased a new “assignment swap policy.”

The Air Force previously had an assignment exchange program for Airmen in the continental U.S. Enlisted and officers could find other Airmen with the same grade and speciality and apply to swap assignments.

The program was shut down, however, when it was determined to be “unfair,” according to an Air Force Personnel Center post on Facebook. Because Airmen had to cover their own moving expenses, some in the lower ranks couldn’t afford to participate. All told, less than 5 percent of Airmen took advantage of the program.

Bass declined to share any details on the new assignment swap policy, and an Air Force Personnel Center spokeswoman told Air & Space Forces Magazine that the service is still “in the early stages of establishing” program, with no set start date established.

“We are working with our partners to build out the process and identify business rules to make the program more inclusive with minimum restrictions,” the spokeswoman added."



Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Dismantling kleptocracy

 USAID has published a guide to combating kleptocracy--i.e. government by thieves.

DEKLEPTIFICATION GUIDE. Seizing Windows of Opportunity to Dismantle Kleptocracy

“And we’re going all in on dekleptification. Today, I’m announcing the creation of a new dekleptification guide—a handbook to help countries make the difficult transition from kleptocracy to democracy. This guide, drawn from previous democratic openings in Romania, Dominican Republic, and South Africa, provides advice to reformers on how to root out deeply entrenched corruption and technical advice on how to implement radical transparency and accountability measures, how to stand up new anti-corruption structures. Moving rapidly and aggressively in historic windows of opportunity will make these reforms harder to reverse.”  -USAID Administrator Samantha Power, remarks delivered on June 7, 2022.


Here's the full report.


"The Kremlin’s most common method of closing other countries’ reform windows is covertly bankrolling opposition political parties. The Russian Federation has gotten caught deploying financial interference in elections more than 100 times over the past decade.124 Until 2014, the targets were mostly limited to the former Soviet bloc. For example, Ukraine’s Orange Revolution and Georgia’s Rose Revolution ended when Russia-backed oligarchs funded pro-Russian candidates who became presidents and rekleptified the two countries.  Over the decade ending in 2014, Putin felt increasingly rebuffed by Western politicians who would not stand for his violations of the sovereignty of neighboring countries.126 His relations with the West came to a head when Ukrainians opened their dekleptification window in 2014. Since then, the Kremlin has dramatically expanded the target surface of its financial interference in elections, deploying covert foreign money all over the world, often to close windows or prevent them from opening (see Figure 7).


"CONCLUSION The ultimate objective of dekleptification is to help nations that endeavor to adapt their social contract away from kleptocracy and toward new social norms about the government’s duties and the public’s intolerance for corruption. Such adaptations take many years or decades, sustained by virtuous circles of institutions that prove effective and popular enough to withstand efforts to undermine them and restore kleptocratic rule. Exceptional institutional and societal resilience is needed in strategically contested countries, where the influence of foreign kleptocracies and the pathways of transnational corruption provide enormous resources to corrupt elements seeking to undermine reform.

"The most important and essential precondition for a virtuous circle is very broad and highly mobilized demand throughout the society, driving powerful domestic political action that ushers in a window of opportunity to roll back kleptocracy. Amid those pivotal openings, reformers urgently call for rapid responses from the international donor community. They need everything from fastmoving funding to targeted communications to in-kind technical expertise. When deciding how to build cutting-edge institutions to deliver transparency, accountability, and inclusion, reformers benefit greatly from lessons learned during similar windows in other countries.

"This guide captures those insights. It draws from USAID experts who were on the ground during the windows of Georgia 2004-2012, Romania 2004-2018, Egypt 2011-2013, Brazil 2013-2019, Ukraine 2014-present, Guatemala 2015-2017, Armenia 2018-present, South Africa 2018-2019, Malaysia 2018-2020, Sudan 2019-2021, Moldova 2021-present, Bulgaria 2021-present, the Dominican Republic 2020-present, and Zambia 2021-present. USAID partnered with reformers who forged inclusive institutions that were radically transparent and aggressively accountable, generating models for other countries confronting kleptocracy and strategic corruption. These reformers tried to establish anti-corruption institutions rapidly enough to seize and sustain fleeting windows of political will. And they scoped the policy details to be far more transparent, independent, and inclusive than is common elsewhere. This a not apolitical and technocratic work; it requires overwhelming public demand, timely political analysis, vibrant civil society, well-coordinated donors and interagency partners, and Missions highly attuned to the fluid and intense political dynamics of dekleptification.

"This comprehensive approach to rolling back kleptocratic structures is central to the modern pursuit of development, democracy, and peace."

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Improving refugee resettlement: insights from market design by Justin Hadad and Alexander Teytelboym

 The Autumn 2022 issue of the Oxford Review of Economic Policy is about forced migration.  Here's a paper directly related to market design.

Improving refugee resettlement: insights from market design by Justin Hadad and Alexander Teytelboym, Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Volume 38, Issue 3, Autumn 2022, Pages 434–448,, 15 September 2022

Abstract: The current refugee resettlement system is inefficient because there are too few resettlement places and because refugees are resettled to locations where they might not thrive. We outline how ideas from market design can lead to better resettlement practices. In particular, we discuss how market design can incentivize participation of countries in resettlement and improve the matching of refugees at international and local levels; some of these insights have already put into practice. Finally, we highlight several further applications of market design in refugee resettlement, including cardinal preference submission and matching with transfers.

"There is an acute shortage of resettlement. Resettlement is a public good from the point of view of countries (i.e. if one country contributes by resettling a refugee, all other countries benefit), so it is not surprising that it is underprovided (Moraga and Rapoport, 2014). The UNHCR predicts that 1.47 million refugees will need resettlement in 2022––the highest ever number (UNHCR, 2021e). Numbers of resettled refugees fluctuate—in part driven by need, and in part driven by the willingness of the largest hosting countries, such as the United States, to resettle (see Figure 1). The refugees in need of resettlement are the most vulnerable kinds of refugees (see Figure 2); they have often suffered persecution and violence above and beyond the terrible experiences of most refugees.


"The UNHCR is responsible for sending the applications of refugees to resettling countries. The process works as follows: the UNHCR identifies a refugee family in need of resettlement, and submits an application on their behalf to a country that may resettle them. If the application is accepted, the country becomes responsible for resettling the refugee according to its own rules; if the application is rejected, the UNHCR can submit an application to another country. The process can take months, if not years. Given the shortage of resettlement places, the UNHCR has a strong incentive to maximize the expected number of successful applications rather than to try to find the best matches between refugees and countries. In 2020, the UNHCR submitted the applications of over 39,500 refugees to resettling countries, which led to just 22,800 individuals departing to these countries (UNHCR, 2021d). This suggests that there is potential to improve the allocation of international resettlement submissions."


Here's the rest of the issue:

Forced Migration


Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Volume 38, Issue 3, Autumn 2022, Pages 403–413,


Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Volume 38, Issue 3, Autumn 2022, Pages 414–433,
Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Volume 38, Issue 3, Autumn 2022, Pages 434–448,


Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Volume 38, Issue 3, Autumn 2022, Pages 449–486,
Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Volume 38, Issue 3, Autumn 2022, Pages 487–513,


Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Volume 38, Issue 3, Autumn 2022, Pages 514–530,
Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Volume 38, Issue 3, Autumn 2022, Pages 531–556,
Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Volume 38, Issue 3, Autumn 2022, Pages 557–577,
Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Volume 38, Issue 3, Autumn 2022, Pages 578–594,


Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Volume 38, Issue 3, Autumn 2022, Pages 595–624,
Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Volume 38, Issue 3, Autumn 2022, Pages 625–653,
Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Volume 38, Issue 3, Autumn 2022, Pages 654–677,
Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Volume 38, Issue 3, Autumn 2022, Pages 678–698,


Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Volume 38, Issue 3, Autumn 2022, Pages 699–716,


Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Volume 38, Issue 3, Autumn 2022, Page 717,