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Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty
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Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  16,261 ratings  ·  1,477 reviews
Winner of the 2011 Financial Times/Goldman Sachs Best Business Book of the Year Award

Billions of government dollars, and thousands of charitable organizations and NGOs, are dedicated to helping the world's poor. But much of their work is based on assumptions that are untested generalizations at best, harmful misperceptions at worst.

Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo have pi
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published April 26th 2011 by PublicAffairs
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Ronald Barba
Sep 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Poor Economics doesn't simply offer a unilateral view of how to fight global poverty; rather, this book offers views from both sides of the foreign aid debate (i.e. Sachs v. Easterly) and provides examples of different organizations that have dealt with attacking poverty on both small and large scales.

There are five key takeaways from Poor Economics, with regard to any localized campaigns attempting to improve the lives of the poor:

1) Individuals/communities inherently believe that outside orga
May 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, non-fiction
"Poor Economics" was one of the most enlightening books I had the pleasure of devouring this year. I'm neither an economics student nor do I profess to have any knowledge regarding the subject. What I have is a keen interest in everything unknown to me. And, this was book sure opened me up to a new cognizance.

On average, the poor people live on 99 cents per day. The fact which is shocking by itself also puts them at a great disadvantage because of a lack of resources and knowledge. To elevate gl
Sumirti Singaravel
Mar 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: To all those who wants to understand poverty beyond the cliches

(Note to Self to include this when writing a full blown review for this book).

I recently read an article* published in NY Times on how women economists are NOT recognized for their work when they co-author it with another a male economist. The article goes on to explain how the bias is deep entrenched in the field of economics. Recently, I was having a conversation with a friend, working in the field of finance, on the Indian economy and more particularly about the drought which has hit most sta
Oct 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fic
So. This is an economics book.

(A rumbling sound is heard as ninety percent of the people reading this review frantically jiggle their mice in an effort to click another link on this page. Any link. Even an ad for laundry detergent.)

Ok, hello to the two remaining readers out there. Thank you for sticking around. I know ‘economics’ is one of the least sexy words in reading, right up there with ‘tax law’ and that economics books are as enticing to most readers as a fat stack of local council permit
Sep 10, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Disappointing. I was very eager to read about rigorous studies that determine what works for fighting poverty. But the authors somehow kept getting off track from this desperately important concept. I still think the work of the Poverty Action Lab is very interesting, but this is just not an exciting book about a "radical rethinking of the way to fight global poverty."

The big five lessons from the authors are:
1. The poor lack information (so tell them the truth artfully)
2. The poor lack control
May 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is one of the best "pop-economics" books I have read in a very long time. Such books typically follow the same recipe: top academic seeks recognition outside the profession and writes the book propounding the theory, enlisting in support loads of evidence consistent with the theory, and curiously brushing off/forgetting to mention most of any evidence even vaguely incompatible with the main argument of the book. The book tends to go on forever repeating the same score in all possible tonali ...more
Jan 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
This kind of book can be annoying, as popular social science tends to fall into one of two camps. The first are those that just repeat a single idea over an over again (e.g. The Tipping Point). The second are those that simply rehash 101 textbooks, adding a few kooky examples or anecdotes (e.g. The Undercover Economist).

To some extent, this book is vulnerable to both those criticisms. The authors make a big push on the importance of empirical evidence in designing interventions – using randomize
Jan 05, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: empire

[Through my ratings, reviews and edits I'm providing intellectual property and labor to Inc., listed on Nasdaq, which fully owns and in 2013 posted revenues for $74 billion and $274 million profits. Intellectual property and labor require compensation. Inc. is also requested to provide assurance that its employees and contractors' work conditions meet the highest health and safety standards at all the company's sites.]

In the paperback edition the t
Feb 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is not what I thought it was or what it promised it would be in the intro. It is not an economic analysis of poverty. I was thinking it would be more in line with books like scarcity that explain the decisionmaking of poor people as a rational response to circumstances. It had elements of that certainly, but it was a book about development. I didn't love the first half of the book, but I thought the second half or third was very useful. Especially their analysis of micro-credit and oth ...more
Sleepless Dreamer
Amartya Sen, the patron saint of Politics, Philosophy and Economics studies approves of this book so that's really all you need to know. Review to come! ...more
Jan 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
I mentioned this book on my blog here,, and now I finally read it!

I'll admit I was a little disappointed that the book wasn't as detailed as her lecture on the actual experiments the Poverty Action Lab has been involved in. There was much more on larger picture topics and brief summaries of experiments and how they contributed to the dialogue on how to address that particular topic within development circles.

That said, it was still a fascinating read and
Sidharth Vardhan
Probably one of the biggest nemises of all intelligent thought is over-simplification. An easy example is one guy giving a detailed long explanation of something, and another underpnning it by saying "so you are saying ... *Insert a small sentence*". This is most visible in interviews where interviewer seems to sometimes doing it intentionally to save his ignorant, lazy audience the effort of understanding a complex thought.

The trouble is it encourages a dislike for intellectualism - the ignoran
Mar 14, 2013 rated it it was ok
Full of individual stories about the way the poor cope with their life. I normally classify such books as "sad". Not this one. The book is offering something that I haven't seen in many other books that are dealing with poverty. It is exploring first the left extreme of the spectrum that focuses on collectivism, then the right that is focused on the individualism, and finally tries to put itself somewhere in between. Each side is backed by examples of its supporters. The main heroes of the book ...more
Ben Thurley
Nov 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Banerjee and Duflo have written a great book that aims to see poverty as a “set of concrete problems that, once properly identifed and understood, can be solved one at a time.” Using the best economic and observational evidence (often taken from randomised trials) they build a case for what actually works in helping overcome poverty, taking up the fight against what they argue are the biggest barriers – ignorance, ideology and inertia.

It is thoughtful and rigorous, though possibly slightly too t
James Van
Apr 25, 2011 rated it it was ok
I thought I was going to love this book, but I didn't really get much out of it.

It was a summary of "some aid is good aid" which I already believe, so I guess the persuasion wasn't attractive to me. The details, though, were mostly things I'd already heard or read. I think watching Esther Duflo's TED talk might give away most of the information and excitement of this book.

If you're wondering why not everyone agrees with "The End of Poverty" then maybe this book would impress you. Or if you're st
Apr 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I am a new reader of economic books. For someone like me, this book will make you more interested in learning and understanding economics. When I was reading, I came to know a lot of theorists, like Jeffrey Sachs. What I like about this book is it is very easy to understand and well written. If you are a non-economics background, this book will help you to understand what is going on around the so-called third world. Looking forward to the new book of Abhijit Banerjee which would be published at ...more
Jun 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
No this is not about how useless economics had become under the hegemony of the Chicago School of Free Market Fundamentalism. This is about the economics of being poor. And refreshingly instead of focusing on the theories of poverty and the decision making of the poor, it is based on large scale, many country research asking those on less than a $1 a day how they make decisions on how they spend their money, what food to eat, what health care to seek, what education to try to get their children. ...more
Mar 01, 2019 added it
Shelves: economics
On one hand, Banerjee and Duflo are quite good at diagnosing the micro-level problems that face the global poor. And this is good -- these are things people need to know about.

On the other hand, they wonder why so many programs espoused by the elites of the world aren't working (you know the kind, the let's-teach-slum-kids-Python-programming kind), and why the do-nothing William Easterly approach isn't working, and why expectations aren't being met. I just want to whisper to them... "the problem
Daniella Araujo
Oct 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: public-policy
I was fortunate to have started reading this book authored by the most recent recipients' of the Nobel Prize in Economics before the prize was awarded. Ms Duflo and her husband's work on putting together evidence-based research for mitigating poverty is impressive. I cannot judge the book solely based on their work results, though. The book has appeal, has a nice narrative, but it felt like it jumps a little too quickly to somewhat formulaic rules at the end, as a way of hastily wrapping it all ...more
Poor Economics is revolutionary. That is a fact, and we should all agree. I want to get into the nuance of RCTs in development a little bit here, and mostly, that's why it's not a five star book. Also, this isn't a fun review. I may not have used diagrams here, but let's face it, we are talking economics here, and some would call it dry. This is going to be a long, rambly, clunky review of a rather elegant book. Also, I have so much more to say about this, I'm going to be editing and re-writing ...more
Anmol Gupta
Jan 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Treating a topic as complex as poverty can be tough even for a 300+ page book, but Banerjee and Duflo have done a marvelous job at it. They are able to bring forth all the nuances of the issue and policies in a manner that is principled as well as humane - covering broader setting of politics and political institutions along with seemingly minor issues like an extra deworming pill to children, or the way communities are invited to participate in their development.

I really liked how the book neve
Poor and their economics -- is the theme of this book, that the Nobel Prize winning couple duo wrote. The extensive research and field work that has gone through this book surely commendable. Understanding psyche of the poor, especially for policy makers who are responsible for poverty alleviation, is more important than a generic reform process is the argument by the economist authors. How the poor think, how they earn, spend and save, how they decide on small and big things in life - understan ...more
Nikhil Saha
Jun 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Are poverty traps real? Do the poor remain poor because they are lethargic and reluctant to change? Why are some decisions about health, education, savings, borrowings, insurance that come naturally to people with wealth don't for the poor? Is poverty eradication a gargantuan task with no hope whatsoever?
This book has answers to such questions and many more. Full of anecdotes from the years of research the authors have done and their interventions in various developing nations through J-PAL. Man
Fouad Jaber
Sep 15, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: economics
Too broad, too general, it loses its meaning while trying to provide a general theory of poverty.

The best parts were the chapter about poverty traps and the elite nature of educational systems in underdeveloped countries, but the rest was dull.
Jan 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I should have read this book long time ago. Nevertheless, it is still an excellent book to reflect on the big picture of the field of development economics for a student like myself and for anyone who wants to work on making policies that try to help the poor. The complex issue of poverty with all its difficulties that the involved agents face requires a thorough investigation in carefully designed experiments rather than using conventional understanding of how economics works in the more privil ...more
Divya Sornaraja
Apr 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful book: renders clear understanding on the ground reality of well-intended policies for the welfare of the economically challenged. Reading this book helps one realise the complexity and the gravity of the poverty problem.

Most topics explains how one can’t throw money or random large scale policies as a silver bullet solution. It all boils down to grooming the poverty-stricken and help them understand their rights, power, potential and option of tools to pick and fight.

A must read to
Vlad Ardelean
Nov 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ex-prio, economy, societal
Good book!

Some takeaways

About food:
* The poor eat enough to survive (probably because those who don't are better called "dead" than "poor")
* When the poor get more money, instead of buying more food, they buy better tasting food. Many times, that is also lower qualitative food. They'd probably be better off if they purchased more food.

About children:
* They don't send their children to schools properly.
* They have many children because that's the only way to ensure they will be taken care of when
Otto Lehto
Oct 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book make few promises and gives few solutions. Its version of "Radical" is boring. But it is also smartly written and sporadically edgy. It gives a good overview of the literature by trying to be fair to the best arguments on all sides of the debate. Do cash transfer programs work? What about micro finance? What about agricultural relief programs? It does not offer conclusive answers to any of these questions, which is somewhat disappointing. But when it comes to it, it doesn't shy away ei ...more
Great insight, well-structured research that makes for a not-so-difficult read. I would venture to say that this book is the answer to how foreign aid could be appropriated best in developing countries. It also speaks to a bigger issue: the role of social entrepreneurship in the developing world. I hoped though, that it would be more radical in its approach.

What I liked:

1. The close look at India's economy.
2. The thorough research that produced such gratifying information and statistics.
3. Th
Evan Dewangga
Oct 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ekonomi
Wow, stupendous book. For me, Poor Economics is a perfect book when you want to nurture your little kind heart with empathy, or spark your interest in economic development as a whole.

As an Indonesian, this book is very relatable, and surprisingly accessible. With simple language, they dig poverty problems one layer at a time, and going deeper. I don't even notice, that a mere superstition and activity here, were inspected closely through economic lense by Banerjee and Duflo. Say, from the evil e
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Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee is an Indian economist. He is currently the Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Banerjee is a co-founder of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (along with economists Esther Duflo and Sendhil Mullainathan) and a Research Affiliate of Innovations for Poverty Action, a New Haven, Connecticut based research ...more

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“poverty is not just a lack of money; it is not having the capability to realize one’s full potential as a human being.” 28 likes
“But then it is easy, too easy, to sermonize about the dangers of paternalism and the need to take responsibility for our own lives, from the comfort of our couch in our safe and sanitary home. Aren't we, those who live in the rich world, the constant beneficiaries of a paternalism now so thoroughly embedded into the system that we hardly notice it?” 24 likes
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