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Allen, R. C. (2017). Absolute Poverty: When Necessity Displaces Desire. American Economic Review, 107, 3690–3721.
A new basis for an international poverty measurement is proposed based on linear programming for specifying the least cost diet and explicit budgeting for nonfood spending. This approach is superior to the World Bank's $1-a-day line because it is (i) clearly related to survival and well being; (ii) comparable across time and space since the same nutritional requirements are used everywhere while nonfood spending is tailored to climate; (iii) adjusts consumption patterns to local prices; (iv) presents no index number problems since solutions are always in local prices; and (v) requires only readily available information. The new approach implies much more poverty than the World Bank's, especially in Asia.
Allen, R. C., Bertazzini, M. C., & Heldring, L. (2023). The Economic Origins of Government. American Economic Review, 113, 2507–2545.
We test between cooperative and extractive theories of the origins of government. We use river shifts in southern Iraq as a natural experiment, in a new archeological panel dataset. A shift away creates a local demand for a government to coordinate because private river irrigation needs to be replaced with public canals. It disincentivizes local extraction as land is no longer productive without irrigation. Consistent with a cooperative theory of government, a river shift away led to state formation, canal construction, and the payment of tribute. We argue that the first governments coordinated between extended households which implemented public good provision.