Primary Sources

A less violent world; why black mothers may be better off unwed; one (very good) reason to resist early retirement

The Poor Get Richer

Political freedom isn't the only thing declining in the former Soviet Union: according to a recent World Bank study, poverty and inequality are also diminishing, as they are in many other countries of the former Soviet bloc. From 1998 to 2003 the proportion of poverty-stricken citizens (defined as those who earn $2.00 a day or less) in most countries in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union fell from about one in five to one in eight—a total decrease of 40 million people. (Notable exceptions include Poland and Georgia, where poverty has risen.) And in many countries, including Russia, the poor have seen bigger gains than the rich. But the most rapid decline in poverty has occurred almost entirely in large cities, leaving many people behind. In Uzbekistan, to cite just one example, 55 percent of the population in the countryside still lives in poverty, compared with only four percent in the capital, Tashkent. Altogether more than 60 million in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union remain poor, while 150 million others are deemed "economically vulnerable"—meaning they earn $4.00 a day or less.

"Growth, Poverty, and Inequality: Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union," World Bank


Physician, Heal Thy Country
primary sources chart

Brain drain has long impeded development in the poorer parts of the world, and the loss of doctors in particular has been a stumbling block in countries struggling with rampant disease and inadequate health care. New research published in The New England Journal of Medicine quantifies the problem and gives cause for continued concern. According to the study, four English-speaking First World countries increasingly depend on doctors who have immigrated. Roughly one fourth of all doctors in the United States, the UK, Australia, and Canada were born elsewhere; of those, anywhere from 40 percent (in Australia) to 75 percent (in the UK) come from low-income countries. (This dependence is largely confined to these four countries: in only three of the other twenty-six OECD nations do foreigners make up more than 10 percent of all physicians.) In absolute numbers, India supplies the most doctors to the four Anglophone countries cited, followed by the Philippines and Pakistan. However, the biggest proportional losses tend to be in Caribbean and sub-Saharan countries. And matters are likely to get worse before they get better, the study notes: mounting pressure in developed countries to increase the number of doctors will probably lead to further recruitment from overseas.

"The Metrics of the Physician Brain Drain," Fitzhugh Mullan, The New 
England Journal of Medicine



Most of us will admit to wasting some time at work. But three new studies suggest that more time is lost now than ever before. According to a survey by the magazine Advertising Age, a leading culprit is Weblogs. The survey indicates that one in four U.S. workers reads blogs regularly while at work, losing, on average, some nine percent of the workweek. This amounts to 551,000 years of labor lost in 2005 alone. If only the bloggers whose words seem so compelling were the ones sending us e-mail: 34 percent of workers surveyed by Information Mapping, Inc. reported wasting thirty to sixty minutes a day trying to interpret "ineffectively" written messages. A third study offers comfort—or at least a way to pass the buckfor all the lost time. Having examined productivity in nine countries, it concludes that 37 percent of the time spent at work is wasted—but that poor management and inadequate supervision are largely to blame.

"What Blogs Cost American Business," Bradley Johnson, Advertising Age (article is available online for a fee); "Information Mapping Survey Reveals Email Writing Skills Vital to Job Effectiveness," Information Mapping, Inc.; "2005 Proudfoot Productivity Report," Proudfoot Consulting


Laws and Effect

As the Supreme Court 
considers the constitutionality of a New Hampshire law requiring parental notification for abortions, a new study provides some information about the impact of parental-notification and parental-consent laws on U.S. teenagers' sexual behavior. It finds that laws in both categories correlate with a reduced rate of gonorrhea infection—a marker of high-risk sexual activity. After such laws were passed, gonorrhea rates fell by 20 percent among Hispanic teenage girls and by 12 percent among their white counterparts.

"Abortion Access and Risky Sex Among Teens: Parental Involvement Laws and Sexually Transmitted Diseases," Jonathan Klick, Florida State University, and Thomas Stratmann, George Mason University

Presented by

Abigail Cutler is a staff editor at The Atlantic.

Ross Douthat is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

 Marshall Poe is a writer and historian. He is the editor in chief of the New Books Network.

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