- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: PublicAffairs; First Edition edition (April 26, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1586487981
- ISBN-13: 978-1586487980
- Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.6 x 1.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 215 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #217,924 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty Hardcover – April 26, 2011
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“[Banerjee and Duflo] offer a refreshingly original take on development, and they are very aware of how they are bringing an entirely new perspective into a subject dominated by big polemics from the likes of Jeffrey Sachs and William Easterly… they are clearly very clever economists and are doing a grand job to enrich their discipline's grasp of complex issues of poverty – so often misunderstood by people who have never been poor.”
The Economist’s Free Exchange Blog, April 21, 2011
“Let me recommend it… Poor Economics is more than just a compendium of the randomistas' greatest hits. For one thing, it contains some well-observed reporting.”
“Banerjee and Duflo write exceptionally well, and given that there are two of them, the voice is surprisingly singular. But the real surprise in this book is its humility. Both the authors and the material they pull from are truly formidable, yet Banerjee and Duflo are not really out to make a hard pitch, least of all to die-hard Big Idealists who disagree with them. As such, there is nothing directly confrontational about Poor Economics. They are peeling the onion, not hacking it to pieces.”
Financial Times, April 30, 2011
“Here's something Jesus might recommend: Reading the clear, calm and revelatory book "Poor Economics," from Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo. It is gloriously instructive, and bracing testimony in itself to the gold standard of the Enlightenment: the scientific method. The authors, both economists at MIT, spent 15 years in the field, running randomized controlled trials to test various approaches to combating poverty. They bring both rigor and humility to a predicament typically riven by ideology and blowhards.”
Financial World (UK),June 2011
“A remarkable work: incisive, scientific, compelling and very accessible, a must-read for advocates and opponents of international aid alike, for interested laymen and dedicated academics… Amartya Sen, fellow Nobel Prize winner Robert Solow and superstar economics author Steven Levitt wholeheartedly endorse this book. I urge you to read it. It will help shape the debate in development economics.”
“A marvellously insightful book by two outstanding researchers on the real nature of poverty.”
Publishers Weekly (online), May 2011
“Their empirical approach differs from policy discussions that base support or criticism of aid programs on a broad overview; instead they illuminate many practicable and cost-effective ways to keep children and parents living healthier and more productive lives. An important perspective on fighting poverty.”
Hindustan Times, September 24, 2011
The New York Times, May 19, 2011
“Randomized trials are the hottest thing in the fight against poverty, and two excellent new books have just come out by leaders in the field. One is “Poor Economics,” by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo… These terrific books move the debate to the crucial question: What kind of aid works best?”
“Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo's book, Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty, is making waves in development circles. Beyond the strong focus on randomised control trials, the book distinguishes itself by wading into issues on which the development community has often ignored or made uninformed guesses. These include the rationale behind the decisions made by the poor, whether they make the "best" decisions available, and how policymakers should respond.”
“Highly decorated economists Banerjee and Duflo (Economics/Massachusetts Institute of Technology) relay 15 years of research into a smart, engaging investigation of global poverty—and why we're failing to eliminate it…A refreshingly clear, well-structured argument against the standard approach to poverty, this book, while intended for academics and those working on the ground, should provide an essential wake-up call for any reader.”
About the Author
Esther Duflo is the Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics at MIT. She studied at the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris, and at MIT. She is a recipient of several important awards, including a MacArthur "genius" award (2009) and the John Bates Clark medal awarded annually to the best American economist under forty (2010). In 2003, Banerjee and Duflo co-founded the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), which they continue to direct.
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The authors advocate for a more measurable approach to development: conduct development projects like scientific experiments to see what work's and what doesn't. In the jargon, this is known as using Randomized Control Trials (RCTs). The authors are very reasonable and don't see RCT's as a cure to all ills, but a step on the path to making development projects a bit more effective. The book functions as an introduction to the use of RCTs in development projects
There are many objections to the effectiveness of RCTs. But the major one is this: In most scientific experiments, an experiment can be replicated by someone else doing the exact same thing and end up with the exact same result. This is called, in the jargon, external validity, and is necessary for science to be,well, science. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee of external validity in international development. There are simply too many unknown unknowns and uncontrollable variables that a successful development project in one place and time has no guarantee of working in another. So, if this makes any sense, RCTs are not very effective in improving aid effectiveness.
In my own experience, there are three practical problems with implementing RCTs: 1) You need to have very smart, well trained people involved from the beginning to ensure the construction of the experiment is valid. This is not always possible. 2) These things are very very expensive to do. 3) Development organizations that do the implementing of projects don't want their projects evaluated since they see it as a way to cut funding.
Insofar as RCTs can be used as an organizational learning tool, there are cheaper methods of M&E (monitoring and evaluation, the jargon again) that can accomplish just that.
All in all, a very good read. The book is obviously meant for a wide audience and is easy reading. As someone who knew alot about what was introduced, I still found it worthwhile to read.
Economics is a subject that is easily derailed by partisan jargon and pseudo-intellectualism, so I am always wary of each new econ book I pick up. Poor Economics is written by serious economists who have no time for such nonsense, and this is reflected in the high quality of the book. The authors seriously engage two different perspective throughout the book - one that argues that aid to the global poor often makes matters worse, and the other that argues that the poor cannot rise without heavy external (often government) help. The strengths and weaknesses of each are pointed out dispassionately for a variety of cases and circumstances. With each explanation of why one approach succeeded or failed, you gain a better understanding of how economics for the very poor works. The authors make pervasive use of empirical studies and provide meaningful analysis for each one.
Good (economics) books teach you not what to think, but how to think. With this definition, Poor Economics easily qualifies as quite a good book.