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More Than Good Intentions: How a New Economics Is Helping to Solve Global Poverty
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More Than Good Intentions: How a New Economics Is Helping to Solve Global Poverty

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  423 ratings  ·  48 reviews
A leading economist and researcher report from the front lines of a revolution in solving the world's most persistent problem.

When it comes to global poverty, people are passionate and polarized. At one extreme: We just need to invest more resources. At the other: We've thrown billions down a sinkhole over the last fifty years and accomplished almost nothing.

Dean Karlan an
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published April 14th 2011 by Dutton Adult
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Daniel Tello
Disclaimer: I received a free copy from the publisher via Goodreads First Reads program.

Team Sachs? Team Easterly? Try Team Evidence. It might not be catchy, but it is definitely catching on in the development/aid world. If you are interested in what Team Evidence has to offer there is no better way than Karlan's and Appel's book: More than Good Intentions. The already-proven successful, yet conversational, approach is used in this book to capture readers and explain the fascinating developmen
I would probably recommend certain chapters of this book to people to read as alongside other material on the same topic. For example, I liked the chapter on microfinance, and I thought provides the sort of background and commentary on the subject you might if someone was interested in learning a bit about the subject. The section on malaria bed nets did a good job of very simply summarizing the Sachs-Easterly debate and provided a bit of interesting additional evidence.

Probably I would not reco
I didn't know individual U.S. donors donate more than $200 billion every year. And that till recently they didn't even know whether the products (e.g., brilliant microcredit plans) they were investing in were reaching customers, let alone if they worked as intended.

If enough people think about what they're donating to we could actually save the world. I'm not being an idealist here. For e.g., 40 mn people suffer from Trachoma, an effective prognosis like an eye surgery takes $20. So curing the w
May 09, 2012 Mark rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: owned
Karlan and Appel make a good team. They should do more research of their own.

Most of the research in this book are the same studies that Poor Economics covers. It's slightly more entertainingly written than Esther Duflo and Abhijit Bannerjee's book, but as Karlan is an apprentice of Duflo and Bannerjee, it just seems like a lesser book that you could skip.

I'm a bit skeptical of the value of Karlan's site,, and more than a bit annoyed that he shilled it in the middle of a book on the p
Excellent book which discusses the nature of charity and poverty, and which programs work best. People do not always act in their most rational interests, and poverty restricts their options even further. The author has done a lot of research and investigation into which programs are the most beneficial, and offers several extremely promising programs in addition to thoroughly detailing the theory behind them. An excellent book.
4.5* yeah, this book grew on me. strong information and important studies run to determine true effectiveness of various aspects of development programs focused on a wide-variety of issues, all of which central to addressing major problems of poverty. A smooth, speedy, interesting read on development efforts.
Mar 31, 2011 Lavender marked it as to-read
I won this book from First Reads giveaway. Should be an interesting read. Thank you.
Karlan & Appel have created quite a solid and intriguing foray into how economic research can directly improve poverty-relief programs. They use a good balance of illustrative, highly personal anecdotes from their vast experiences and influential, rigorous research studies. Some of the more lyrical prose was actually quite lovely and moving, a style I appreciate in straightforward non-fiction.

Their writing revolves around the ideas that (1) randomized controlled trials (RCT) are key to disc
"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 prog ...more
A broad brush stroke of development initiatives supported by randomized control trials, primarily conducted by Innovations for Poverty (IPA). I empathized with the dilemma presented by Peter Singer of our localized and immediate compulsion to give away away money if it was to save a child we could see drowning, but not to save someone remotely in poverty. I particularly liked the willingness of the book to challenge accepted norms.

The book emphasized the need to market and sell development solu
An intriguing book, academic but with vivid case studies and anecdotes. Some quotes from kindle:

Three billion people, about half the world, live on $2.50 per day. (To be clear, that’s $2.50 adjusted for the cost of living—so think of it as living on the amount of actual goods that you could buy for $2.50 per day in the United States.) - location 156

When you click to fund the woman’s loan, you make a hundred-dollar no-interest loan to Kiva. Kiva then makes a hundred-dollar no-interest loan to the
Disclaimer: I received a free copy from the publisher via Goodreads First Reads program.

Karlan and Appel have contributed greatly to international development scholarship with this book. They advocate that development programs must 1) robustly evaluate their effectiveness through randomized control trials, and 2) take into account people's irrational (non-economic) behavioral choices. They provide overviews of various programs designed to help improve the lives of the most underserved in develop
This is an outstanding critique of programs aimed at helping the poor. They outline well-controlled research studies, often not done by development organizations, or ignored because the results call for certain groups to stop what they are doing or do it very differently. A good example is the microfinance craze, which has come under attack in the mainstream press a bit, but the research here is clear, and also points out how researched effectiveness in one locale doesn't mean the same thing wil ...more
Imad Ahmed
A continuation of his advisors at MIT's work Poor Economics. Good ad for Innovations for Poverty Action. Ghana-centric.
A little wordy, and it sticks a little too close to the pattern for pop econ / social science books, but still an interesting read.
This is about quantifying the results of efforts to combat world poverty so that funds and resources can be used more effectively. This sounds horribly dry and boring but is actually extremely interesting. I'm about half way through the book after about 3 hours.

I just finished the book and I'm very impressed with the ideas in it. This is not a highly technical book with lots of economics jargon and complex mathematics. But if you are interested in helping eliminate world poverty it shows specif
Margaret Sankey
Case studies of the application of behavioral economics to poverty alleviation programs, most of which boil down to a menu of small scale banking and getting people to use mosquito nets, put chlorine in water at dispensing stations and give their kids anti-diarrhea salts correctly. The trick, however, is marketing it appropriately to local conditions (will "rebate" or "matching funds" go over better?), controlling the program agents on the ground for corruption and neglect and avoiding large sca ...more
Aug 09, 2012 Katie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Katie by: Dean Karlan
Shelves: own, nonfiction
In the interests of full disclosure, I worked for Dean Karlan at Innovations for Poverty Action for over three years. During that time I came to realize the value in the evaluations that IPA has been running all over the world. I found this book a good introduction for anyone who is new to the work of development economics and wishes to know more. I was particularly interested in the section about microsavings versus microlending which I think people from any economic background should take note ...more
University of Chicago Magazine
Dean Karlan, MPP’97, MBA’97

From our pages (Mar–Apr/11): "Putting development aid programs to the test, Karlan and Appel studied African, Indian, South American, and Filipino villages to determine the most effective ways to invest in the world’s poorest regions. Using behavioral-economics theories and field interviews, the authors argue that, rather than throwing money at a cause, small changes in banking, insurance, and health care can make the most of international aid."
Deborah Nicol
It's great to contribute money to an organization helping sick women in Guatemala...but how do you know your money is effective? Dean Karlan is president and founder of Innovations for Poverty Action, an organization I have great admiration for because not only do they seek projects for the greater good, but they test them to make sure they actually work. The book reviews various projects in an extremely readable manner and encourages everyone to be critical of methods used to save the world.
Jada Tullos
Freakonomics lovers will really enjoy this international development book. The book is filled with anecdotes and layperson's explanations of aid effectiveness studies. When it seems like so much aid is distributed without thought for effectiveness and without comprehensive evaluation, this book highlights the work of people filling this gap. I also like that he does a bit of name dropping of people and organizations so you can do some independent research into these studies.
Jun 08, 2011 Laura added it
Jake puts a human face on microeconomics through engrossing anecdotes from all corners of the world. His writing is insightful, engrossing, and entertaining at the same time. The economics IPA practices is the opposite of the "trickle down, let-them-eat-cake" approach. This book shows offers a gleam of hope that hard-working people can be empowered and not taken advantage of by their bankers -- very significant work these authors are doing.
Nice to see someone with a critical eye, willing to wade through the hype of micro-credit - among other things. However, as an evaluator, I had a hard time with his penchant for all this RCT (randomized control trial). To him this was the only form of study which yields any results, which is a fallacy.
This aside, I would still recommend the book to those interested in international development, market forces and poverty.
Nathaniel Rayestu
One of the best books I've read. Basically this book just explains the many field researches done in the field of poverty eradication, and aims to tell us all that there is no one size fits all solution to poverty, a bottom up approach needs to be taken in as local an area as possible. The way the ideas are explained is really exciting, this book is definitely a page-turner
Susan Zevitz
I'm not an economist and found this to be a very interesting book! I couldn't put it down. Impressive, since I prefer fiction to nonfiction. I loved the anecdotal stories. Great information! I can see how the concept of evaluating effectiveness through randomized control trials can be applied to much more. I highly recommend this book to everyone!
Fred Rose
"Great book, very readable. If you are in the development field you probably are aware of a lot of these studies but they are presented in an interesting and readable way here. Basically a lot of rigorous analysis on what works/what doesn't in things like microfinance, education, etc. Giving money away effectively and proving it is hard."
researchers used randomized trials to find out what really works to help the poor. The research is kept interesting by sharing stories of real people, helping and being helped.
"The most obvious and ubiquitous figures that charities and development programs advertise--dollars spent, people enrolled--are only signposts. If we don't understand how those things lead to the welfare of recipients, we are losing sight of what matters--helping people make real improvements in their lives." p. 207.
Satish Terala
Very similar to Poor Economics by Abhijit Banerji and Ester Duflo. Describes the use of RCTs as a the primary mechanism to see what aid programs work and what don't. Interesting read , if you like the new emerging field of field and behavioural experiments in economics.
Tim Ervolina
If you're naturally suspicious of throwing leftover scraps to the world's poor as a sign of your compassion or realpolitik savvy, then don't read this book. If you're tired of stupid wasteful programs and recurring crises in the world's most vulnerable place, do.
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Dean Karlan is a professor of economics at Yale University. He is also president of Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) and a research fellow of the M.I.T. Jameel Poverty Action Lab. He founded and is president of His research has been funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Ford Foundation, Alfred B. Sloan Foundation,, National Science Foundation, World Bank, and ...more
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Microeconomics Macroeconomics Macroeconomics (McGraw-Hill Series Economics) Economics with Connect Plus Macroeconomics with Connect Plus

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“Find individual programs that work, and support them. Find programs that don’t work, and stop doing them.” 1 likes
“Fundamentally, poverty is a denial of choices and opportunities, a violation of human dignity. It means lack of basic capacity to participate effectively in society.” 0 likes
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