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Fighting Poverty in the US and Europe: A World of Difference (Rodolfo DeBenedetti Lectures) Paperback – February 3, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-0199286102 ISBN-10: 0199286108

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Product Details

  • Series: Rodolfo DeBenedetti Lectures
  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (February 3, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199286108
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199286102
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 0.5 x 5.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #474,001 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Mr. Alesina and Mr. Glaeser, both Harvard economists, are doing what the best in their profession do well these days: seeking to explain society not merely with conventional economic tools but with analysis of institutions, geography and social behaviour."--The Economist

"An important contribution to this enduring debate"--Region Focus

"This probing of the forces behind 'American exceptionalism', as measured by a much smaller welfare state than in Europe, is immensely important. The authors take a multi-discipline approach and consider many factors, including narrowly economic variables, political institutions, racial and ethnic diversity, the effects of wars, attitudes toward the poor, and still others. Their findings are sometimes surprising and frequently provocative. This monograph will quickly become the foundation of further literature on a subject of enormous significance."--Gary S. Becker, Nobel Prize Laureate

"In what ways, and why, are the United States and Europe so far apart in social policy? Alesina and Glaeser give us as definitive an answer to this fundamental question as we shall ever see."-George A. Akerlof, Nobel Prize Laureate

About the Author

Edward L. Glaeser is a Professor of Economics at Harvard University, where he has taught since 1992. He teaches urban and social economics and microeconomic theory, and has published dozens of papers on cities, economic growth, and law and economics. He is a Faculty Research Fellow for the National Bureau of Economic Research, and has also been a consultant for numerous international international institutions.

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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Augustas B. on June 12, 2008
Format: Paperback
I used this book for two courses as a freshman at Princeton University. One of them was a seminar on politics of economic inequality, the other one - an introductory comparative politics course. This book provides a good introduction to explaining political outcomes in terms of socio-economic interests (as opposed to just culture or institutional arrangements). The argument of the book is fairly interesting and well-developed: the size of the welfare state depends highly on racial fractionalization of the population and political institutions (federalism, checks and balances, winner-take-all electoral system) which are the result of a historical interplay of socio-economic interests. The discussion of the historical context (e.g. the "entrepreneurial" use of racial hatred to fight against redistributive policies) and possible counterarguments are both well done. Furthermore, this book debunks some myths such as the notion that upward social mobility is higher in the US than in Europe.

However, it is not without its problems. It gets fairly dry and repetitive sometimes. The arguments themselves are not flawless either. Alesina and Glaeser imply that the reason for the large welfare state in Western Europe is the strength of the left and the labor movement, while in reality the welfare state in Western Europe was largely built by right-wing parties (the Consevatives in the UK, Gaullists in France and Christian Democrats in Germany). The attempt to argue in terms of "the right" and "the left" often backfires, too, since it is not always possible to clearly draw the line. Nevertheless, this is a solid and thought-provoking book.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By B. Rogers on August 22, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Absolutely fascinating, very thorough discussion of the reasons why the US and Europe have such different approaches to social welfare policy. The presentation is systematic and extremely detailed, with data to support every point and reject competing hypotheses. It is compact and easy to read, though the writing style is a bit dry. I found the book very very useful, and I haven't encountered anything else that fills this intellectual niche so well.
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