John's Reviews > Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty

Poor Economics by Abhijit V. Banerjee
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's review
Jul 28, 2012

Read in July, 2012

I like this book, and I like its tone. The authors are cautious in their research so as to get an accurate picture, but bold in their statements about what works and doesn't work in attempts to help poor people (including poor people's own attempts to help themselves). Their assertions largely stand on the results of randomized controlled trials. This makes the book feel a lot different from arguments that proceed from a starting point of examples to prove a point or "what just makes sense."

I was impressed with and surprised by the financial sophistication and ingenuity used by many people who get by on the equivalent of less than US$2 per day. There is much more to this than I assumed, and this book made that clear in technicolor.

One of the non-tangibles of this book is the humility that I feel coming out of it. I sense that the authors are more interested in success than winning. They come across as solid scientists who don't paint the world in the black and white of either/or but instead discover that it's a picture with a lot of both/and in it. And consistent with the tone of humility throughout, I like how Banerjee and Duflo say that "this book is, in a sense, just an invitation to look more closely. If we resist the kind of lazy, formulaic thinking that reduces every problem to the same set of general principles; if we listen to poor people themselves and force ourselves to understand the logic of their choices; if we accept the possibility of error and subject every idea, including the most apparently commensensical ones, to rigorous empirical testing, then we will be able not only to construct a toolbox of effective policies but also to better understand why the poor live the way they do. Armed with this patient understanding, we can identify the poverty traps where they really are and know which tools we need to give the poor to help them get out of them." pg 272

Duflo gives a TED talk here that will give you a good idea of what reading this book is like, except of course that the book is much broader and deeper:

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