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The Persistence of Poverty: Why the Economics of the Well-Off Can't Help the Poor
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The Persistence of Poverty: Why the Economics of the Well-Off Can't Help the Poor

3.58  ·  Rating Details  ·  43 Ratings  ·  11 Reviews
In this important book, one of our boldest and most original thinkers charges that conventional explanations of poverty are mistaken, and that the anti-poverty policies built upon them are doomed to fail. Using science, history, fables, philosophical analysis, and common observation, Charles Karelis engages us and takes us to a deeper grasp of the link between consumption ...more
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published July 24th 2007 by Yale University Press (first published June 26th 2007)
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Mark Desrosiers
Jan 18, 2011 Mark Desrosiers rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics, crime, economics
This unassuming little book (albeit with a strident subtitle) does something strange and convincing: convinces the world that the venerable law of diminishing marginal returns is ill-conceived and dead wrong. In particular, he demonstrates that during conditions of insufficiency or scarcity, some types of goods (what he calls "relievers" rather than "pleasers") exhibit behavior where each addition to consumption adds greater and greater benefits. His point in damn-near demolishing a central "law ...more
Jan 05, 2009 Alex rated it it was amazing
A fascinating book that made me think hard and often. What made the book so thought-provoking is that, if true, the main argument turns much of the conventional thinking on poverty policy on its head. It significantly changed my thinking on poverty. I don't know if the author is correct, but I will be looking for evidence one way or the other for a long time.

The basic point is that consumption to relieve misery is qualitatively different than consumption meant give pleasure (exhibiting increasin
Adam Calhoun
May 01, 2010 Adam Calhoun rated it it was amazing
Although it has its flaws, The Persistence of Poverty is a highly interesting book. Its premise is that there are conditions where the Law of Diminishing Returns is violated, and these are exactly the conditions that the poor face. In essence, they are trapped in a potential well which is difficult to escape. He further divides goods into different subtypes, depending on the velocity of their marginal utility (as a function of wealth). It's very interesting, and certainly very plausible.

The prob
Nov 07, 2009 David rated it really liked it
I agree that this is an important book, helping to explain why poor people tend to do five things that help keep them poor: not working at paying jobs, not saving, not pursuing education, drinking to excess, and taking risks with the law. Through thoughtful introspection and careful logic, Karelis reframes conventional economic thinking to establish a framework in which those choices are rational for people with incomes less than sufficient for meeting basic needs. The final chapter, "Economic J ...more
Jul 20, 2008 AC rated it liked it
Compact and to the point. It takes on the many notions that people have about poverty and why so many poor people seem unable to get out of that status and posists some new approaches to considering the problem. Most of the ideas seem like things I would have imagined most people already thought--that the old conceptions are still so prevalent that a book like this seems like a set of new ideas is an unfortunate statement about how terribly misguided and inconsiderate this nation that believes i ...more
Oct 14, 2009 Joseph rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, economics
A revolutionary premise tediously presented, The Persistence of Poverty felt like a slog and a half even at a slim 163 pages of text. I guess the endless jargon, impenetrable graphs, and interruptive appendices were necessary to fully rebut the sacrosanct economic presumptions he was tackling - but that's cold comfort to the lay reader. You can get the gist in this summary by Steven Pearlstein in the Washington Post.
Thad Gilliam
Oct 17, 2012 Thad Gilliam rated it liked it
Fascinating read for anyone who has ever wondered why the poor behave in a manner that is not self-serving (Ex: Why don't the poor work more if more income would improve their situation). Karelis makes a strong argument of how to treat the poor and explains the behavior of the impoverished in our country.
Nov 11, 2008 Brian rated it really liked it
Great book with an astounding fundamental premise - that the economic law of diminishing marginal returns is incorrect. Lays out a strong argument for redefining it, and while it doesn't offer much in terms of practical advice, it's a very interesting concept to explore.
Mar 01, 2012 Denali rated it really liked it
A clear compact discussion between economic theory, real world evidence, and policy. This is how people should argue.
Mar 13, 2011 Anita rated it did not like it
I couldn't get through it. Hope to try another book...similar theme... more engaging.
May 06, 2013 Murray rated it it was ok
Interesting, but heavy on economic theory
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