November 8, 2000:
Case *83's research isn't limited to stepfamilies
in South Africa is her other research field
studying the health and economics of stepfamilies, professor Anne
Case *83 (on the right in picture) also studies what goes on in
"Half my beat is
developing-country work, so I do a lot of work right now in South
Africa. It's mostly related to how poor people cope, how they make
ends meet. We look at what the government does about poor people
- we look at the education system, we look at transfer programs.
"South Africa welcomes
academics. They make a lot of data publicly available," Case
said. "It seems everyone is a stake holder in the new government.
The old government had been so closed and secretive, and now they
want just the opposite. They really wanted to bring people in and
try to encourage people to look at the data."
Case's most recent work
in South Africa has been with Angus Deaton (professor of economics
and international affairs), Christina Paxson (professor of economics
and public affairs, on left in the picture above), and Alicia Menendez
(lecturer in public and international affairs).
"We've been piloting
surveys to try to look at the relationship between economic health,
physical health, and mental health and social connectedness,"
Case said. "So we're looking at well-being from a holistic
beat. South Africa is a really terrific place to try to go do some
of this work, in part because the country is very much in transition
socially, politically, and epidemiologically. There are people straddling
both sides of the epidemiological divide.
"There are people
who suffer from infectious diseases of developing countries and
the chronic diseases of developed countries. And sometimes those
are the same people. I could have had TB and have a heart condition,
or I could have diabetes. And I get the double whammy. So it's a
really fascinating place to go and look at the country which is
changing so rapidly and has all these different populations. It
has a first-world population and a third-world population."
Case's work sometimes
affects policy. "In South Africa, there have been three different
projects I've been associated with," Case said. "One is
a project on school quality and looking at the effect of school
quality on, first, whether children stay in school and, second,
whether they finish school and if they take a job and what wages
they earn. We can document clearly the effect of school quality.
And that's having some effect on the debate there."
Case cites another example.
"The woman who was charged with setting up the new welfare
system for the new government asked me to sit in when they were
actually pounding out the new policy. I was an outsider, sitting
quietly, and contributed or gave advice when asked.
"But most recently
they're debating having low-income grants, because the very bottom
of the distribution is very, very poor. They asked me to come when
the parliamentary portfolio committee was having hearings last March
and talk to them about the transfer system they currently have in
place. To see if it is working and what the new one would cost,
who it would reach, or if there were problems with it," Case
said, but she added, "It's very informal. It's never as a consultant,
but as an academic who knows something about the numbers."
By Lolly O'Brien