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About the World Development Report

The World Development Report (WDR) has been produced on an annual basis since 1978 and is the World Bank's major analytical publication. The topic of each report is selected by the World Bank's President three years in advance of the book's publication. As soon as the topic is announced, four major steps occur:

  • Research is initiated within the World Bank's Development Economics Group (DEC), a “Network” (a group of departments that research and work on several related sectors of development), or other appropriate units to strengthen links between the World Bank's ongoing research program and the WDR.
  • A director is announced, and the WDR team is recruited. A new team is established for each WDR. The team, which falls under the guidance of the DEC's chief economist, is led by a senior staff member and comprises staff and consultants from the Networks, Regional departments, World Bank Institute (WBI), and DEC's Research Group. The Report is developed in close consultation with bilateral and multilateral development partners, the private sector, and civil society organizations.
  • An internal partner group is identified for each WDR. Although the institutional home is the DEC group, a partner group is identified early (such as a thematic Network, WBI, or a Regional department) so that the knowledge created is further developed and actively applied after publication of the Report.
  • A timetable is established for research, writing, review, consultations, presentation to the Board of Directors, editorial and production work, publication, and dissemination.

FORTHCOMING: World Development Report 2015: Mind and Culture

Economists have long held that the best way to predict human behavior is to assume that people are rational, selfish, and more or less identical. New research shows that this is not necessarily the case.

The World Development Report 2015 is based on three main ideas: bounds on rationality, which limit individual's ability to process information and lead them to rely on rules of thumb; social interdependence, which leads people to care about other people as well as the social norms of their communities; and culture, which provides mental models that influence what individuals pay attention to, perceive, and understand (or misunderstand).
The report has two main goals:

  • To change the way we think about development problems by integrating knowledge that is now scattered across many disciplines, including behavioral economics, psychology, sociology, anthropology, neuroscience, and political science.
  • To help development practitioners use the richer understanding of the human actor that emerges from the behavioral sciences in program design, implementation, and evaluation.

The central argument of the Report is that policy design that takes into account psychological and cultural factors will achieve development goals faster. The main tools—affecting prices through taxes, subsidies, and investments; regulating and legislating; and providing information—all remain relevant. But once considered from the perspectives of bounded rationality, social norms, and cultural categories, each tool becomes more complex and more nuanced. Moreover, the standard approach does not include direct efforts to change social norms or cultural meanings absent the tools of prices, regulation, and information. When people encounter prices, regulation, and information, their responses are not two-dimensional but often involve a certain psychic depth, a notion that the standard economic account of human action has long hidden from view.

The report is scheduled to be published in the fall of 2014.


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