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More Than Good Intentions: How a New Economics Is Helping to Solve Global Poverty Hardcover – April 14, 2011

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Adult; First Edition edition (April 14, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 052595189X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525951896
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #398,848 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Karlan, a behavioral economist, and Appel, an aid worker, use psychological insights and empirical studies to assess and trouble-shoot development initiatives (especially the ballyhooed microcredit movement, to which they devote several sympathetic but critical chapters). They focus on small fixes with outsized payoffs: "commitment" savings accounts that make depositors accumulate a fixed amount before they can withdraw; well-side chlorine dispensers to purify water; paying parents to take kids for checkups; increasing the application rate to a microloan program by, yes, putting photos of hot chicks on the brochure. The authors write in an engaging prose tinged with Freakonomics-style cutesiness—"It hadn't dawned on me that hookers' prices could be a topic for serious economic research"—and illustrated with Appel's vivid reportage on underdevelopment in Ghana. Their program of tweaking spending and saving behavior (sending text messages reminding individuals to save money each month, for example) can seem faddish and insufficient, given the vast needs of poor countries; still, theirs is an enlightening and optimistic take on smartening up development aid. (Apr.)
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"The first half of the twenty-first century will be remembered by historians as the time when the world eliminated much of its poverty. A few geniuses like Dean Karlan will be seen as responsible. Here is a triumph of careful analysis and creative invention over deep problems that have been seen as endemic and hopeless."
-Robert Shiller, Arthur M. Okun Professor of Economics, Yale University, and author of Animal Spirits, The Suprime Solution and Irrational Exuberance

"A page-turner that guides donors to strategies that improve the lives of the world's poorest people. Karlan and Appel lucidly describe the research supporting their findings while demonstrating how psychological "nudges" combine with economic incentives to make the strategies succeed."
-Paul Brest, President, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

"Karlan is one of the most creative and prolific young economists in the world. His research lies at the intersection of two of the hottest areas in the field: behavioral economics and development-microfinance . . . . A good follow-up to Freakonomics, Predictably Irrational, and Nudge with a development and poverty spin."
-Richard H. Thaler, coauthor of Nudge

"Dean Karlan is one of the most energetic and enterprising members of a new breed of economists who are trying to fight poverty and change the world, one randomized trial at a time. This book with Jacob Appel conveys not only new and exciting findings from these studies, but also, with its brisk and engaging tone, the sheer joy of search and discovery. An uplifting and stimulating read!"
-Esther Duflo, Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics, Department of Economics, MIT, 2010 John Bates Clark Award winner

"A terrific book for anyone interested in what can really be done about global poverty. Karlan and Appel strike a balance between irrational exuberance for donating money to anything that sounds noble and stern pessimism about any attempt to do good in the world. Here is a clear, workable way forward- described with a compelling, human touch."
-Michael Kremer, Gates Professor of Developing Societies, Harvard University

"Stimulating, breezy, Intellectual; this book has it all. Once I picked up this masterpiece, I found myself opening up a birthday present every time I turned the page. A must read for anyone serious about the most important problems facing humanity today."
-John A. List, Homer J Livingstone Professor of Economics, University of Chicago

"This book wraps a world-changing idea in an immensely readable narrative. If we are going to overcome global poverty, we need more than good intentions, and Dean Karlan and Jacob Appel show us exactly what we need and how to get there."
-Peter Singer, Ira W. Decamp Professor of Bioethics in the University Center for Human Values, Princeton University

"An accessible account of 'the new development economics' based on field experiments and randomized control trials... Valuable, insightful... Anyone interested in a readable discussion of this truly new approach to poverty should pick up this book."
-Tyler Cowen, professor of economics, George Mason University, author of The Age of the Infovore and co-author of the blog

"The most urgent challenge in the world is economic development, and Karlan is right at its cutting edge...An important book-and a captivating one."
-Tim Harford, author of The Undercover Economist and the Dear Economist column at Financial Times

"The types of research that Dean Karlan and his colleagues at Innovations for Poverty Action conduct are critical for helping foundations like the Ford Foundation."
-Frank deGiovanni, Director of Economic Development, Ford Foundation, former Chair of the Executive Committee, Consultative Group to Assist the Poor

"Karlan is one of the world's leading experts on microfinance in developing countries, and he's done pioneering research around the globe. His work smashes old boundaries within economics to answer some of the most pressing issues facing poor countries today. Most of what we know today about how to make microfinance work for the poor flows from Dean's research."
-Edward Miguel, Professor of Economics, U.C. Berkeley

"More Than Good Intentions offers a new way forward in the battle against poverty. It's a data-driven path, but one populated with real-life stories and full of the human spirit. Karlan and Appel call us to be rigorous in our decisions-and we need to listen to them, for the stakes couldn't be higher."
-Jacob Harold, Program Officer, Philanthropy, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation A

"This wonderful book, by one of the leading combatants, brings us directly to front--lines of the battle for a more reasoned approach to fighting poverty."
-Abhijit Banerjee, the Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics at MIT

"This book invites you to a conversation. The topic could not be more compelling: global poverty. Your partner could not be more fascinating: one of the leading scholars in the world working on it. The result is everything you would hope for."
-Sendhil Mullainathan, Professor of Economics, Harvard University

"Be prepared to have your preconceptions about international development sharply challenged, as Karlan and Appel break down what really works to alleviate poverty."
-Justin Oliver, Executive Director, Center for Microfinance, Chennai, India

"Karlan offers that all-too-rare combination of academic research excellence and its application to international development practice. Karlan is creating a breakthrough."
-Chris Dunford, President of Freedom from Hunger

"Karlan and Appel write that their goal is 'to speak directly to readers, to lead them into some corners of the world they might not otherwise encounter, and bring them face-to-face with the people who populate those places.' They have succeeded admirably, as both advocates and analysts."

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Customer Reviews

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See all 21 customer reviews
As a layman with little knowledge of economics, I found this book well- written, informative, and entertaining.
Carolyn Kirby
The author is well known for his research and work on randomized controlled trials for testing development economics.
J. Davis
Being in the helping profession my whole life this is a book I read in the midst of a bad 'volunteering' experience.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Grenny on April 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Karlan and Appel challenge those of us who like to think we're making a difference in the world to think more about our work. Whether you're writing a check, leading a nonprofit, or advocating for change, this book should be required reading before you leave the house Monday morning. The authors are at once both terrific storytellers and careful social scientists. This is a fascinating read, filled with surprises, and practical tools you can use to inform all of your efforts to make a difference in the world. I highly recommend it!
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Debbie TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover
"More Than Good Intentions" focused on what programs (or parts of programs) actually achieved their objective of helping the poor. The authors talked about the studies they've done on this and explain their findings about what works, what doesn't, and how various programs might be improved. The authors acknowledge that people don't always act in their long-term best interest, so we need to understand why the poor act in certain ways, modify programs to take that into account, and test those programs to see if they're working.

The book was easy to read and very engaging. It contained interesting stories of real people that were impacted by these programs. I'd highly recommend this book to those who donate money to organizations that help the poor and to the people who run these programs.

The topics the authors covered were their studies on how to "sell" a program to poor people (as in, get them to use it), various types of microfinance programs (individual, group, along with basic business training, along with specific business advice, etc.), microsavings programs, agricultural programs, educational programs, and health programs (including reproductive health). The last chapter listed the 7 programs that they discussed that they're the most excited about.

This book was a review copy provided by the publisher as an eBook through NetGalley.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Carolyn Kirby on May 16, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book had some wonderful descriptions of various people who participated in studies to ascertain the effect of microloans on small businesses. It showed the human side of what people need, rather than just cut and dried results of what the studies showed. As a layman with little knowledge of economics, I found this book well- written, informative, and entertaining. My horizons about how a great portion of people in the rest of the world live have certainly been broadened.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is the best book about global development and aid that I have ever read. It's very easy to read, relatively short, and contains so many good examples to get your head around taking an approach to aid where you care about EFFECTIVENESS, not just dollars spent, number of people reached, or low administrative costs.

If you ever donate money for overseas aid, or care in any way about making the world a better place for the less fortunate, then this is a must read to get the right perspective on how to deal with the problem.

I worked for a microfinance institute in a developing country for 1 year and learnt more from this book than I did from my time in that position.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jeff Bennett on June 23, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The first third or so of this book are spot on and mathematically based. The fact that this is a book about helping the poor and evaluates what some people thing are silver bullets is going to draw some negative responses.

Frankly, the authors seem to lay out a very fair and reasonable approach to improving most anything. Facts matter and no matter what you try to improve, guessing what will work usually results in sub-par results. That is a huge shame most times but even more so given the stakes and the predicament the world is in around the poorest of us.

The general approach recommended is a terrific methodology for working towards improvement in just about any area. You can wing it and guess or you can systematically figure out how to experiment and test, and heed, the results. Lord Kelvin laid this out long ago as I am sure others did before him. To paraphrase, if you can't measure something in a meaningful way, your odds of improving it are slight. If you can and respond with variation, good sense and discipline, you can often work wonders and almost surely improve.

Towards the end the book seems to drift a bit and does not do as good a job of sticking to that discipline. In the part about education, the authors seem to lose their own point which is not that surprising as one the other authors is a professor. It tends to be harder to think outside the box when you have spent your career inside of it.

For me though, the resonant theme was rich and well detailed. Success comes most typically by a wide variety of safe experimentation, strong analysis on the front and back end and an almost ruthless dedication to heeding the results.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Lee Crawfurd on March 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
(Note: I used to work for Dean Karlan's organisation - Innovations for Poverty Action [...])

I heard this book described several times by former colleagues as the book to buy your parents, or even grandparents, to explain to them what it is we do. And it really does do a fantastic job of taking the layreader along on a journey around the world - to the stories behind the careful statistics. But I also learnt a huge amount from it, although familiar with some of the research, the book draws out implications I hadn't considered, made connections where I hadn't, and presented plenty of results that I was not familiar with.

If you care at all the biggest moral issue of our time, this is the book to read to learn more about the challenges, but also, specifically about what YOU can do to make difference.
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