Low-level balance: bibliometric review

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BIBLIOMETRIC REVIEW

LEAL, Cícero Pereira [1], CARVALHO, Rogério Galvão de [2], NASCIMENTO, José Antônio Rodrigues do [3], FEIO, Kleydson Jurandir Gonçalves [4]

LEAL, Cicero Pereira. et al. Low-level balance: bibliometric review. Revista Científica Multidisciplinar Núcleo do Conhecimento. Year 06, Ed. 08, Vol. 03, pp. 171-187. August 2021. ISSN: 2448-0959, Access link: https://www.nucleodoconhecimento.com.br/social-sciences/low-level

ABSTRACT

The objective of this work was to assess the evolution of studies on low-level balance (EBN) in the last 75 years (from 1945 to 2020) in specialized journals, by identifying the most cited authors, articles and journals during that period. The low-level equilibrium trap is a concept in economics developed by Richard R. Nelson, in which, at low levels of per capita income, people are too poor to save and invest, and this low level of investment results in a tax growth in the economy and national income. When per capita income rises above a certain minimum level, an increasing proportion of the income will be saved and invested, which can lead to a higher rate of income growth. Otherwise, there will be low economic growth and precarious production, due to economic and financial imbalance, as well as society’s lack of access to goods and services. The methodology used was the bibliographical research of exploratory character, using the meta-analytical approach. This method combines databases, in order to present a valid input of material. The meta-analytic approach allows the identification of authors, articles and journals, as well as enabling the analysis of statistical techniques of the samples, the most researched lines and the main approaches taken in the published works. By following the seven steps of the meta-analytic method, it was found that in the first two decades of the 21st century the topic was no longer researched, however 07 (seven) countries are interested in the topic, as it was addressed in various fields of research as health, agriculture, labor market, chemistry and others.

Keywords: Low Level Equilibrium, Meta-Analytical Approach, Bibliometrics, Impact Factor.

INTRODUCTION

The objective of this work is to measure the study of Low Level Balance (EBN) in the last 75 years, in specialized journals, that is, how much this topic was addressed in academic works during the period 1945 to 2020. per capita income levels substantially affect the formation of savings and investment in both developed and developing countries. And this can greatly affect the general economic growth of an economy and, consequently, the formation of national income. As this research is a bibliometrics, the bibliographic research used has an exploratory character through the meta-analytical focus, considering that this methodology uses the criterion of impact of journals and articles to optimize the selection of the material that will compose the search. The methodology will be carried out in 7 (seven) steps that will be presented during this work. The specific objectives are: a) to evaluate the evolution of publications on this topic during the period from 1945 to 2020; b) verify the most cited authors, articles and journals during the aforementioned period.

In a study carried out by Spiller and Savedoff (1999), for some Latin American countries, it was observed that governments tend to set prices below the financial equilibrium for the water supply sector. It was noticed that this causes an economic and financial imbalance for public and private companies regarding the offer of their respective services. With this policy of low prices, companies do not make investments and revenue is committed to pay salaries, making the expansion and quality of services unfeasible. When the system is operated by a public company, investments in the aforementioned sector are subject to budget transfers from the central government, that is, the public company needs help to meet its financial commitments.

According to Spiller and Savedoff (1999) the result is the inefficiency of companies, poor quality services and lack of expansion to new consumers. With this inefficient production model and without political support, an “opportunism” is created in which the government keeps prices low, causing a vicious model, generating a “Low Level Equilibrium” (EBN). The objective of the model by Spiller and Savedoff (1999, p. 2) and the studies by Farias, Nogueira and Mueller (2005) is to assess the financial balance of companies providing basic sanitation goods and services, as well as the impacts resulting from this imbalance . During this period, the country experienced water rationing and did not advance in the dissemination of sewage collection and treatment services at the planned speed. As a result, salaries paid to workers in the sector are very low and this can compromise economic growth. Therefore, the objective of this study is to measure and analyze the evolution of studies on low-level balance in the last 75 years (from 1945 to 2020) in specialized journals considering the most published authors and articles in that period. For this purpose, this work is organized as follows: (a) the first part, which is this introduction; (b) the second part, which is the bibliographic review; (c) the third part, which is the methods used to carry out this research; (d) the fourth part, which is the analysis and presentation of research data; (d) and finally the fifth and last part which is the conclusion of the present research.

LITERATURE REVIEW

The low-level equilibrium trap is a concept in economics developed by Richard R. Nelson, in which, at low levels of per capita income, people are too poor to save and invest, and this low level of investment results in a rate of lower growth in the economy and national income. When per capita income rises above a certain minimum level, an increasing proportion of the income will be saved and invested, which will lead to a higher rate of income growth (NELSON, 1956).

According to Nelson (1956) the problems of underdeveloped economies can be understood as a constant equilibrium level of per capita income or close to subsistence requirements. At this low stable equilibrium level, the investment rate and savings are low. If per capita income is raised above the minimum subsistence level, this will encourage population growth. In Nelson’s opinion, there are four conditions that are conducive to a low-level equilibrium trap: 1) A high correlation between the level of per capita income and the rate of population growth; 2) Low propensity to direct additional per capita income to the increase in per capita investment; 3) Scarcity of uncultivated arable land and 4) Inefficient production methods. It is noteworthy that these hypotheses of Nelson were designed for 1956, when the “technological” variable was not observed (NELSON, 1956).

According to Nelson (1956), the main causes of population growth in most underdeveloped countries in recent decades have been the reduction in mortality rates due to improvements in public health and in the control of epidemics and endemics, which were not closely related to the previous increase per capita income level. Therefore, it is essential that governments offer goods and services (basic sanitation) that can contribute to minimizing these diseases caused by the lack of basic infrastructure.

According to Rohit Bura (1998) Nelson’s theory (1956) has at least 02 (two) problems: First, the theory assumes that an increase in per capita income to some extent leads to an increase in the population growth rate per through the decline of death. But the decline in the death rate in underdeveloped countries is due more to improvements in public health and medical facilities than to rising levels of per capita income. Second, the functional relationship between the level of per capita income and the growth rate of total income is not as simple as is supposed in theory (BURA, [s.d.], [1957?]).

Despite criticism, Richard R. Nelson published in 1960 a study called “Growth Models and the Escape from the Low-Level Equilibrium Trap: The Case of Japan” in which aggregate growth models are perceived as problematic tools for analyzing growth economic. Thus, if economic growth is defined as an increase in per capita income, these models do not explain growth. As long as the parameters remain fixed, they impede growth. An equilibrium national income growth rate and an equilibrium level of per capita income can be deduced. Although these models explain the growth of total national income, the growth in per capita income can only be explained as movements towards a new and greater equilibrium resulting from changes in the parameters of the model. They can explain an “escape from the low-level equilibrium trap,” and “self-sustained growth” (NELSON, 1960).

For Strand (2012), he understands that the heterogeneity of public utility services is common in developing countries. In a “high-level” balance, the quality of utility services (eg sanitation) is high, so the consumer’s willingness to pay for services is high, the utility is well financed and a well-paid team to induce a high quality performance. In a “low level” balance, the opposite happens. Thus, the quality of the concessionaire’s service provision and the public’s perception of the quality of the service may indicate the existence of a Low Level Balance.

According to Strand (2012) his model is related to several aspects of the literature, however, no analysis is satisfactory and directly comparable with multiple equilibria in the currently existing infrastructure delivery markets. The “lock-in” mechanisms, namely an inadequate level of funds to free the economy from the trap (in Nelson for investment; here to reward the utility for effort), are similar in the Strand model of 2012 and Nelson’s 1956. Another strand of literature deals with centralization versus decentralization of utilities. Studies carried out in Latin American countries, to verify the existence of a low level balance, showed, to a greater or lesser degree, the presence of a centralized management model, generating water supply systems with EBN characteristics. Walker et al. (1999) verified this circumstance in Honduras; Tamayo et al. (1999), in the Peruvian country; Ozuna and Gomez (1999), in the Mexico model; Morandé and Doña (1999), in the Chilean companies; and Artana; Navajas and Urbiztondo (1999), in the case of Argentina. Thus, in accordance with Spiller and Savedoff (1999), it was observed that governments tend to set prices below the financial balance for the water supply sector, causing an economic and financial imbalance for public and private companies that offer the services. With the application of this model, the reduction in the quality of services and a low coverage rate are the results of this policy.

Furthermore, with low prices, companies do not make investments and revenue is committed to pay salaries, making expansion and service quality unfeasible. When the system is operated by a public company, investments in the sector are subject to budget transfers from the central government (SPILLER; SAVEDOFF, 1999). Due to these policies and lack of credibility, private companies do not invest in the water supply sector. Private companies maximize profit and minimize risk. And if there are private companies in the sector, the policy of low prices leads to a reduction in losses, costs and investments necessary for the maintenance and provision of services. Thus, this model causes maintenance of the sector with a Low Level Balance with little possibility of change (FARIAS; NOGUEIRA and MUELLER, 2005).

The Low Level Equilibrium has high social costs and deserves priority on the government’s agenda so as not to remain in this model. They also note that the lack of political support makes governments keep prices low (FARIAS; NOGUEIRA and MUELLER, 2005). When analyzing this option of governments to use the EBN, Spiller and Savedoff (1999) question some of the solutions for identifying possible flaws. The main flaws identified are: first, the fact that a price increase, without defined rules, is not an efficient response; second, another solution that does not result in success is the implementation of a new management model in public operators based on performance contracts. With these contracts, the government encourages the operator by offering a share of the profit increased by good performance; a third solution is to promote contracts like BOTs – Build, Operate and Transfer, which is a form of project financing, in which a private entity receives a concession from the public or private sector to finance, design, build, own and operate a facility stated in the concession contract. Thus, it is observed that the proposed solutions are insufficient to change the Low Level Equilibrium Evidence (SPILLER; SAVEDOFF, 1999).

For Spiller and Savedoff (1999, p. 20), the ideal would be to have a model in which the government’s discretionary power was limited in determining prices, requiring the company to have financial and managerial autonomy based on three demonstrated mechanisms: i ) important restrictions must be clearly included in the contract; ii) limitations on the possibility of contract amendments; and iii) and that there are control institutions to monitor the execution of the contract.

Faria; Faria and Mota (2003) present a study to understand the issue of sanitation services in Brazil, with good service indicators, if they are sustainable in the long term. To understand this theme, the authors used the Low Level Equilibrium Theory (EBN) of Spiller and Savedoff (1999). Based on this theory and with some initial conditions that do not limit political intervention in sanitation companies, a “political opportunism” is generated with prices below the costs of services, causing several undesirable results and repeating the vicious cycle of low performance of the services. According to EBN’s hypotheses, companies with adequate service rates are not exempt from presenting low-level balance indicators. In this sense Faria; Nogueira and Mueller (2005) carried out a case study of the Basic Sanitation Company of the Federal District.

Considering the hypotheses of the Low Level Equilibrium Theory, the study can be reflected to other companies that work in an institutionally similar way with the absence of direct or indirect political support. In the first case, the government does not achieve or delay the economic-financial balance, reducing the company’s cash flow, causing the reallocation of public resources to maintain the services. In the second case, readjustments occur, but with the absence of direct political support, contrary manifestations occur and generate a deterioration of very representative political capital (FARIA; FARIA; MOTA, 2003).

Corroborating the Low Level Equilibrium Theory, Faria, Nogueira and Mueller (2005), present an article examining the EBN in the Brazilian urban sanitation segment, according to the model of Spiller and Savedoff (1999). Based on the EBN and its assumptions of the government’s opportunism bias, the use of prices below the production costs of services, the lack of investments and the precariousness of the services made available to society can be seen. The results presented demonstrate the existence of a Low Level Equilibrium, for Brazil as in Latin American countries, for the quality of urban water supply and sanitary sewage services.

METHODS

The adopted methodology was the bibliographical research of exploratory character through the meta-analytical approach. The meta-analytic approach uses the impact criteria of journals and articles to choose the material to be used. Its objective is to combine reputable databases, in order to present a contribution of valid material. The meta-analytic approach makes it possible to obtain the best authors, articles and journals, and perform an analysis of statistical techniques, samples, the most researched lines and the approaches used (MARIANO; GARCIA CRUZ; ARENAS GAITAN, 2011).

According to Ramirez Correa and Garcia Cruz (2005), the meta-analytic approach can be carried out in 4 steps: 1) Determination of base articles for study; 2) Reading of articles, exclusion and inclusion of studies; 3) Construction of the database and 4) Analysis and display of results. On the other hand, Mariano; Garcia Cruz and Arenas Gaitan (2011), understand that the study can be expanded in up to 7 stages. In this work, the 7 steps described as follows were adopted: 1) Analysis and presentation of the discipline’s journals, and recognizing the most used journals in the studied context; 2) Select significant journals on the topic, using the ISI impact factor as a criterion, which is calculated by adding the citations of articles received in the year of impact factor calculation and dividing this number by the number of articles published in the two years prior to that calculus, Institute for Scientific Information (1998) apud Calazans; Masson and Mariano (2015), and number of citations according to SCIamo Journal & Country; 3) Data collection to feed the database – it consists of the filter, the theme keywords and the publications previously chosen; 4) Analysis of authors and articles – Comprises the calculation of the annual average of articles on the researched topic, and their citations. Identifying the authors who have published the most on the topic; 5) Determination of Theoretical Research Approaches – it is about identifying the main theoretical approaches about the theme; 6) Analysis of Keywords – provides important subsidies regarding the development of the topic in question and lines of research and 7) Study of the relationships of previously selected articles.

ANALYSIS AND PRESENTATION

As presented before, we will go on to demonstrate the steps of the work with a meta-analytical focus.

Step 1 – Analysis and presentation of the subject’s journals

This study was developed using the databases of the ISI Web of Science (WoS) platform from 1945 to 2020, with access on 11/30/2020, using the descriptor “low level equilibrium“, based on 452 magazines from the main WoS platform collection. According to Garcia; Ramirez, (2004) apud Calazans; Paldês and Mariano, (2015) the ISI Web of Science is designated worldwide as one of the most excellent and complete databases in the world (INSTITUTE FOR SCIENTIFIC INFORMATION, 1998) apud (MARIANO; GARCIA CRUZ; ARENAS GAITAN, op. cit.) . The study searched the journals related to the main congresses and meetings related to the theme of the research keyword. The base of the ISI Journal Citation Report Edition presented 452 journals, considering the domain related to the topic.

Step 2 – Selection of relevant journals in the discipline

The journals were selected according to the ISI impact factor (Institute for Sci-entific Information). From this base, the journals with the highest impact factor presented in table 1 were selected.

Table 1. Magazines with the highest impact factor (above 5.0)

Magazines Impact factor
ENERGY & ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE 30.289
NATURE CLIMATE CHANGE 20.893
NATURE SUSTAINABILITY 12.080
GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE-HUMAN AND POLICY DIMENSIONS 10.466
FRONTIERS IN ECOLOGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT 9.295
WATER RESEARCH 9.130
REMOTE SENSING OF ENVIRONMENT 9.085
JOURNAL OF HAZARDOUS MATERIALS 9.038
ENERGY POLICY 5.042
APPLIED CATALYSIS A-GENERAL 5.006

Source: Web of Science (2020) – Own elaboration

Step 3 – Data collection to feed the database

After identifying the journals with the highest impact factor and/or citations, the search for “low level equilibrium” was performed in the seventy-five-year period (1945-2020). The result in the consulted journals was 34 articles in the Web of Science on the subject. Table 2. Shows the journals that were most cited on this topic. It is noteworthy that of the 34 articles, only 24 received 01 (one) or more citations.

Table 2. Most cited magazines (above 10)

Magazines Quotes
AMERICAN ECONOMIC REVIEW 184
BRITISH JOURNAL OF POLITICAL SCIENCE 141
JOURNAL OF ECONOMIC GROWTH 104
INTEGRATIVE AND COMPARATIVE BIOLOGY 94
ARCHIVES OF ENVIRONMENTAL CONTAMINATION AND TOXICOLOGY 76
WATER RESOURCES RESEARCH 40
SOIL & TILLAGE RESEARCH 28
JOURNAL OF MACROECONOMICS 11
EUROPEAN ECONOMIC REVIEW 10

Source: Web of Science (2020) – Own elaboration

Regarding the quantity of publications and citations, per year, related to the topic, we observed that the first record was in the year 1956 and 1960, with a gap without publications and citations until the year 2003. However, it was possible to find literature on the theme “low level equilibrium” in 1999, 2003, 2004 and 2005.

Step 4 – Analysis of authors and articles

The authors, who have the most cited articles, are shown in Table 3. It is possible to infer from this information that, over the period from 1945 to 2020, there was an oscillation in the number of authors vs. citations, and it is not possible to project a trend, when to the theme.

Table 3. Authors with most cited articles/year

Articles  Authors Quotes Year
A THEORY OF THE LOW-LEVEL EQUILIBRIUM TRAP IN UNDERDEVELOPED ECONOMIES NELSON, RR 184 1956
DEMOCRATIZATION BACKWARDS: THE PROBLEM OF THIRD-WAVE DEMOCRACIES ROSE, R; SHIN, DC 141 2001
CONTINUOUS SURVEILLANCE OF ORGANOCHLORINE COMPOUNDS IN HUMAN BREAST MILK FROM 1972 TO 1998 IN OSAKA, JAPAN KONISHI, Y; KUWABARA, K; HORI, S 76 2001

Source: Web of Science (2020) – Own elaboration

In Graph 1, we can see that from 1956 to 2009, there were several fluctuations in terms of citations related to the theme. In 2010, we noticed a declining trend in the number of citations that deal with “low level equilibrium” keywords, in the entire period studied, 741 citations were accounted for.

Graph 1. Quotes vs. Years related to the theme

Source: Web of Science (2020) – Own elaboration

In all, articles from the period received 697 citations, out of a total of 741 citations from the entire Web of Science database. This corresponds to 94.46% of citations. Of the 10 authors, only 1 author produced two articles in the selected period. These data allow us to conclude that all these authors have a significant impact factor in the literature on “low level equilibrium”.

Step 5 – Determine Theoretical Research Lines and Approaches.

In Table 4, we present the main lines of research and approaches that dealt with the topic of “low level equilibrium”. The lines of research that most addressed the proposed study were: business economics (13 citations) and environmental sciences ecology, responsible for 7 citations, representing 58.82% of the total lines of research.

Table 4. Lines of research

Research lines Registers % of 34
BUSINESS ECONOMICS 13 38.235
ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES ECOLOGY 7 20.588
DEVELOPMENT STUDIES 4 11.765
TOXICOLOGY 3 8.824
WATER RESOURCES 2 5.882

Source: Web of Science (2020) – Own elaboration

Step 6 -Keyword Analysis.

In order to know the direction of new research, objective criteria were used through a search of keywords. These words reveal specific characteristics of each work, allowing the grouping of studies and classifying them. Graph 2 shows the 15 keywords that obtained the most citations.

Graph 2. Keywords vs Quotes

Source: Web of Science (2020) – Own elaboration

Step 7: Study of Relationships.

It is important to investigate which approaches were most discussed, in which places the researches have been applied (academic or industry), which is the sample, among other information. The analysis was performed considering all 17 authors who addressed the topic with their articles. Table 5 presents part of the analysis considering the most cited authors in the period from 1956 to 2020.

Table 5. Lines of research

Authors Articles/year Focus
NELSON, RR A theory of the low-level equilibrium  trap in underdeveloped economies/1956 The study assesses the problems of underdeveloped economies that can be understood as a constant equilibrium level of per capita income or close to subsistence requirements. At this low stable equilibrium level, the investment rate and savings are low.
Rose, R; Shin, DC Democratization backwards: The problem of third-wave democracies/2001 Third-wave democratization countries introduced competitive elections before establishing the basic institutions of a modern state, such as the rule of law, the institutions of civil society, and the accountability of governors. In contrast, countries in the first wave of democratization became modern states before the introduction of universal suffrage. Because they have democratized unlike these, most third-wave countries are incomplete democracies. Incomplete democracies can develop in three different ways: they can complete democratization; repudiate free elections and turn to an undemocratic alternative; or fall into a low-level equilibrium trap where elite inadequacies are accompanied by low popular demands and expectations.
Bloom, DE; Canning, D; Sevilla, J Geography and poverty traps/2003 It tests the view that the large differences in income levels we see across the world are due to differences in the intrinsic geography of each country compared to the alternative view that poverty traps exist. Rejecting simple geographic determinism in favor of a poverty trap model with high and low level balances. The high-level equilibrium state is considered to be the same for all countries, while income in the low-level equilibrium and the probability of being in the high-level equilibrium are greater in cold and coastal countries.

Source: Web of Science (2020) – Own elaboration

It was found in the work of NELSON, RR (1956) that the problems of underdevelopment of certain economies at a constant equilibrium level of per capita income or close to subsistence requirements, given that at the stable equilibrium level, the investment rate and savings are low. With this, we infer, based on table 5, that several authors address the topic, low-level balance, but in other areas of knowledge.

FINAL CONSIDERATIONS

The purpose of the study was to assess the evolution of publications on the topic “Low Level Balance” in the period from 1945 to 2020, using the meta-analytic approach. The research methodology was the bibliographic of exploratory specificity, carrying out a review with a meta-analytical focus. The seven steps of this method were used and, initially, we identified and selected the journals with the highest impact factor in the studied domain. The data allowed us to identify that the growth in the quantity of articles on this subject presents several fluctuations over the period observed, with a sign of decline in the first two decades of the 21st century, demonstrating the importance of the resumption of the topic in research and/or revisiting the studies already presented for a better understanding, questioning and substantive contributions to the state of the arts.

With regard to authors and articles, the interest of 7 (seven) countries regarding the proposed theme was verified. The determination of approaches and the analysis of keywords and relationships allowed inferring that some articles present the Low Level Balance theme in other fields of research (health, agriculture, labor market, chemistry and others). It was possible to identify that most of the cited articles carry out an empirical evaluation or an experimental study regarding the topic.

Applying the seven phases of the meta-analytical approach, it was possible to identify the articles by the most cited authors in the journals with the highest impact factor, which follow the trends of studies on a topic in decline. Thus, this theme is very suggestive for future work, and its resumption in the research agendas may strengthen the debate, and improve in new studies and/or revisiting and applying theory in the area of ​​public policy.

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TAMAYO, G. et al. Reform Efforts and low-level equilibrium in the peruvian water sector. Spilled water: institutional commitment in the provision of water services. Washington, D. C: Inter-American Development Bank, 1999. p. 89-134. Disponível em: <https://publications.iadb.org/publications/english/document/Spilled-Water-Institutional-Commitment-in-the-Provision-of-Water-Services.pdf> Acesso em: 19 fev. 2021.

WALKER, I. et al. Reform efforts and low- level equilibrium in the honduran water sector. Spilled Water: institutional commitment in the provision of water services. Washington, D. C: Inter American Development Bank, 1999. p. 35-88. Disponível em: <https://publications.iadb.org/publications/english/document/Spilled-Water-Institutional-Commitment-in-the-Provision-of-Water-Services.pdf> Acesso em: 19 fev. 2021.

[1] Doctoral Student in Social Sciences – Unisinos; Master in Economic Management of the Environment – University of Brasília – UnB; Graduated in Economics – UnB.

[2] Ongoing Doctorate in Business and Social Sciences – Universidad de Ciencias Empresariales y Sociales, UCES, Argentina; Master’s Degree in Economics – Catholic University of Brasília (CAPES concept 6), UCB/DF, Brazil; Specialization in Public Law Specialization – Estácio Brasília University Center, Estácio Brasília, Brazil; Graduated in Economics – University Center of Brasília, UniCEUB, Brazil.

[3] Doctoral Student in Social Sciences – Unisinos; Master in Economics – UnB; Specialist in Financial Administration – ICAT Institute for Cooperation and Technical Assistance; Graduated in Business Administration – AEUDF Association of Unified Education of DF.

[4] Master in Economics – UnB; Specialist in Public Finance – Universidade Gama Filho – UGF; Specialist in Reverse Logistics – College Grande Fortaleza – FGF; Graduated in Economics – Federal University of Pará – UFPa. Bachelor’s Degree in Administration – College Unibrasília.

Posted: July, 2021.

Approved: August, 2021.

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