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Poor Economics: Rethinking Poverty and the Ways to End it
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Poor Economics: Rethinking Poverty and the Ways to End it

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  18,807 ratings  ·  1,743 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
Paperback, 464 pages
Published March 19th 2013 by Random House (first published April 26th 2011)
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Ronald Barba
Sep 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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: non-fiction, science
"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 alleviate
Woman Reading
4 ☆

Scott Fitzgerald may have observed "that [the very rich] are different from you and me," but many believe the same about the very poor.

Billions of dollars have been committed to eradicating global poverty, defined here as living on the purchasing power parity equivalent of $1 a day. Two public policy economists have articulated strenuously about the big picture questions - such as "what ultimately caused poverty?" (A grossly simplified explanation follows.) The End of Poverty by Jeffrey D. S
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
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
Jan 05, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Piyush Bhatia
May 18, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although I ain't an economics student, I picked this book to expand my world view. And I'd say that it has been quite helpful in doing so, given the fundamental insights that it offers.

Poor Economics is a well - researched and extensive discourse that contextualizes the realities of the lives of the poor and the real causes of poverty. The book is focused both on the "poor" and the "economics", but more than that it focusses on the "psyche of the poor" - for e.g.., what do they know, what they
Jan 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Feb 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
3.5 stars. The downside first: Living in a developing country and far away from policymaking processes, I might not be the main target audience. Some parts are familiar. The authors used a lot of examples from my country so I got annoyed sometimes with the typos on names, places, and religious holidays. The mid parts of the book was a bit hard to digest, not sure why but I felt it took way too long to get into the point/gist of the argument. Or maybe since I suck at economics so my brain could n ...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
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
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
Jan 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Ben Thurley
Nov 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Oleksandr Zholud
Jul 31, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a non-fic about poverty and ways to eradicate it, ones that worked and others that failed. I read is as a part of monthly reading for July 2021 at Non Fiction Book Club group.

The authors, Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo, are a couple that won the 2019 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (together with Michael Kremer, among other things making them possibly he youngest economists to win it. Their main research is about different aspects of poverty and possible ways to alleviate
Jan 05, 2022 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tbr-clean-2022
The title of this book suggests that the authors have some sort of theory on how global poverty can be combated. To my surprise, they not only had theories but actual field data to prove or disprove what they thought would happen and not just field data but actual programs that are in place right now that are actually fighting poverty.

I was ready for a doom and gloom survey of how the world's governments fail the poor with some talk about here's what we could do. Banerjee instead talks about the
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
James Van
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 06, 2021 rated it really liked it
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
Daniella Araujo
Oct 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 15, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-non-fiction
Economics literature is under the radar for most of my reading "life" until recently. Banerjee and Duflo were made famous as the proponents of Randomised Control Trial (RCT) method in anti-poverty measures that earned them the Nobel Peace Prize. My old Economics prof is a fan of theirs (he has the habits of giving us book recommendations in Economics).
But this book is my initiative. I do like what the authors got to say in this book, however in my opinion, it fell short in being radical. The boo
Shubham Chaudhary
Before reading this book I had a very narrow view of the poverty problem. I used to think that education was the solution to all of their problems. If only the poor people would get their children educated, that will basically fix all of their problems and open doors to a lot of opportunities. When you start looking into the situation in depth, it is much more nuanced than that.

Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo are MIT profs and economists who spent decades understanding and studying these nuanc
Anmol Gupta
Jan 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dakshesh Thacker
Feb 28, 2021 rated it it was amazing
As a development sector professional I am reading this book four years too late. After reading Poor Economics, I am almost inclined to make this recommended reading to any high school or college student who is interested in understanding how the world works. Banerji and Duflo manage to craft a lucid and insightful narrative which will benefit any reader.
Although the punchy and analytical nature of the book deserves an essay by itself, I'll limit myself to highlighting why I simply enjoyed the b
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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.” 37 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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