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Good Economics for Hard Times: Better Answers to Our Biggest Problems

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  403 ratings  ·  66 reviews

In this revolutionary book, prize-winning economists Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo show how economics, when done right, can help us solve the thorniest social and political problems of our day. From immigration to inequality, slowing growth to accelerating climate change, we have the resources to address the challenges we face but we are so often blinded by

Kindle Edition, 405 pages
Published November 12th 2019 by Penguin
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Jason Furman
This book has a huge amount of good economics. It surveys a wide range of areas: labor, tax, growth, politics, immigration, trade, and generally provides up-to-date discussions of some of the latest literature. The discussions of development--particularly India--are subtle, nuanced and thought provoking. A lot of the evidence is in the form of randomized control trials (RCTs), Abhijit Baanerjee and Esther Duflo are as committed to the method and process as they are to any particular conclusions. ...more
Jan 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is written by a husband and wife team who just won the Nobel Prize in Economics.

The book is well written and researched. In fact, it is surprisingly easy to read and understand for a lay person. The authors take a global approach to the subject. What impressed me was the fact they actually did research and analyzed data to find out what worked or not. They examined the most crucial issues the world faces such as migration, trade wars, inequality and climate change. They said “the book’
Thomas Rososchansky
Uhhhh yeah good I guess
Ryan Boissonneault
Aristotle warned us against expecting more precision from a subject than it allows. As Aristotle wrote, “for it is the mark of an educated mind to seek only so much exactness in each type of inquiry as may be allowed by the nature of the subject-matter.”

The idea that economics commands the same level of precision as physics has led to the perpetuation of several misconceptions and dogmas. That the authors fully understand this is a testament to the book. The authors are not dogmatic, nor are
Jan 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics
The old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum all manner of morbid symptoms appear.

- An influx of new workers will shift the demand curve right since the newcomers spend money and thus increase overall consumption. The influx increases the demand for labor and increases the supply of laborers. With the arrival of migrants, native low-skilled workers may engage in occupational upgrading: employers reorganize production to make effective use of the new workers.
“There is
Anandh Sundar
Oct 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book gives anecdotes from RCT(randomized trials) and research papers, to provide their supposedly objective view on how to perceive economics's impact on those adversely impacted by globzliation. The book has some good insights as to why less people immigrate than expected, and if they do why the job market is slow to absorb them, the high government wage impact on the labour job market, the UBI(Universal basic income) story etc. This is an immensely readable one.

The reason I docked a star
Nov 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a book by the two most recent winners of the Nobel Prize for economics. They are husband and wife and they have made their careers by studying economics largely among poor people
(a southern rather than northern focus). They also coauthored “Poor Economics”, which also is well worth reading. They are highly unusual among the economists who gain the most traction in the US for multiple reasons: 1) they do experiments (RCTs), 2) they are interested in how theory and practice fit together,
Dec 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Tackles all the big issues of our time (inequality, immigration, globalisation, automation, economic growth, poverty, discrimination, trade). Debunks a substantial number of myths and provides evidence for what is actually going on. Key takeaways include: labour markets are STICKY, cutting taxes on the wealthy does not improve income or employment (but cutting taxes on the bottom 90% does) even though the top tax rate in the US has gone down from >90% to 37% since 1950s, the Stolper Samuelson ...more
Oct 17, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: junk
How Evolution has generated Intelligent Design from the religious crowd, this is the apologetics of the Big Brother. Of course everyone will be better, in Heavens of course.
Rahul  Adusumilli
Couple of chapters, like the one on growth, are really really good. Rest are merely good. For a book whose motto is “Mostly, what is clear is that we don’t know and have no way to find out other than by waiting,” it is quite exhaustive.

Kai Fu-Lee's AI Superpowers has a better last chapter on a similar topic than this book's last chapter. So mix and match?
Ben Gigone
Jan 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting take on a variety of global subjects. Lots of good (backed-up) information to give insight into how our world has evolved.
Binit Agrawal
Nov 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A must read for our times. It deals with most of the problems our politics, society, environment and economy (across the world) are facing. It discusses the problems and proposes reasoned solutions for each. It raises some of the most important questions on the decisions being made today.
Dec 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Abhijit Bannerjee and Esther Duflo open their book with an admission: It is “a book about where economic policy has failed, where ideology has blinded us, where we have missed the obvious”. However, they also hold out a lamp by writing “about where and why good economics is useful, especially in today’s world”. The book trails the most fraught economic issues - immigration, trade, growth, inequality, environment.

Authors present the common ideological claims we’ve internalized and show how we
Jan 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
like most all books written for the general public by academics, this book definitely oversimplifies many of the realities and presents the world through a biased lens for the sake of a clean, easy-to-understand narrative. however much of what I feel like this book argues for is pretty much common sense: people want to be treated with respect and they want some purpose in life and they want to maintain social connections (no one wants to be obscenely rich in a relative vacuum), so almost the ...more
This is a really well-organised (I was about to say 'well-plotted) book. Each section is coherent and follows logically from the last. The 'better answers' promised are a paragraph at the end of each chapter and are necessarily vague. The whole point of the book is that the problems we constantly hear about are more complicated than they seem, so naturally the solutions will be also.

I particularly liked the chapter on immigration, aka why it doesn't happen remotely as much as people worry that
Tomasz Piotrowski
Very interesting, mind-blowing information and theories. Worth reading.
Amanda Williamson
Engaging, brilliant, and valuable for understanding the current state of the world and what does and does not work for policy. I was surprised to see that the authors strayed from evidence sometimes and offered their opinions but equally valued that they highlighted when this was the case and provided a very good rationale for the approach taken. The book covers an astounding array of topics, providing up to date insights on such things as open trade, migration, education, racism, and Stolper ...more
Jan 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, economics
Okay, but a lot of this book is fairly standard, mainstream economics, of the sort that you would find on an NY Times editorial page (minus the heavy politics). There's much less novelty than in "Poor Economics." In particular, what I liked best about that book was how much I learned about interesting randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in economics research. This book also mentions RCTs through most of it, but not all of it (!) and many of them only provide very weak evidence for the authors' ...more
Dec 24, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had thought there would be more economic theory in this book; given the authors are famous economists (and the title), but it ended up being partly about economics and partly about politics. They tend to go together – as our main political parties believe in different economic theories. The book looks at history with a somewhat ‘who was in charge’ position to try to predict what we should do in the present and future. Sadly, the main theme of this book was ‘economists never get it right’. Much ...more
Caitlin French
Dec 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Written by the 2019 Economics Nobel Prize winners, Good Economics for Hard Times uses the views of research economists (like the IGM Booth panel) and experimental evidence in a data-driven approach, to comment on:

1. Immigration
- Dispelling false beliefs about immigration, and showing why the classic supply-demand theory doesn’t apply to immigration

2. Trade & Tariffs
- Explaining how trade works, and how comparative advantage means countries should do what they are relatively best at doing
Chuck Kollars
Jan 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Overview of intersection of current "development economics" with "national politics". Much about India (one author is from India); quite a bit about the U.S. (both authors are Nobel-winning professors at MIT in Cambridge MA) and other English-speaking parts the former British Empire; and some about various European countries (one author is from Denmark). Very much directed at the lay reader: no footnotes (notes are collected in the back), no bibliography, no mathematical formulas or graphs, no ...more
Sanket Barhate
Dec 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book provides counter-intuitive perspectives on several burning issues such as trade, migration, discrimination, and welfare programs. The writer has done excellent job of convincing the reader to adopt new perspectives by supporting them with research. The book will also increase your awareness of increasing income inequality, its causes, and counter measures.
Anlam Kuyusu
The book revolves around issues having to do with poverty and poverty relief.

One of the key theses the authors argue for is that people don't move very much (if they can stay where they are) even if it is in their economic interest to do so. A lot go into settling in another city and unless people are absolutely forced due to war, violence or other such extreme conditions, people just don't migrate a lot. For instance, the authors write:

It is not only in developing countries that people do not
Miebara Jato

Esther and Abhijit are couples. They are also the 2019 winners of the Nobel Prize in Economics. In their previous book, Poor Economics, the duo set new outlines for fighting global poverty and help developing countries improve everything from school enrollment to immunisation rates. This current book examines the current global challenges with a broad analysis of available economic research. The authors methodically proffered humane and unambiguous solutions to these crucial problems humanity
Brice Karickhoff
If you like studies and data, you might like this book. All I do in school is read journal articles and analyze data, but this book still made me feel like I was drinking out of a firehose. I really liked it along some dimensions and really disliked it along others. So I guess it’s 3 star through and through.

Duflo and Banerjee were lucky enough to release this book right as they won the 2019 Nobel prize for economics, which they are well deserving of because they are brilliant. I’ve read many
Harsha Varma
Economics plays an extremely important role in designing public policy and thus has an outsized impact on how it affects all our lives. As the authors put it, "Economics is too important to be left to economists." The book covers a lot of interesting topics: immigration, trade, universal basic income, inequality, corporate taxation and explains the authors' framework on understanding them in simple economic terms. It goes into the empirical research conducted and with the help of effective ...more
Brennan Shearer
Jan 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good Economics for Bad Times is a book written by a pair of the most esteemed economists in the world, in a topic that is squarely in the middle of what they do best: applied microeconomics. I think that I think where Duflo and Banerjee rise above the rest is their ability to provide that vocabulary for the most discussed issues of our time, but to also thoughtfully weigh and reflect the human lives impacted in a way that’s often missed by traditional economics. Things such as happiness, ...more
Guillaume Kosmala
A copernican revolution in Economics.

Fueled by the logic of Randomized Control Trials, Banerjee and Duflo have collected a series of irrevocable scientific evidence contradicting the vast majority of the accepted truths of current political discourse, picking apart the nuances of the ACTUAL truths and prescribing feasible policy to rectify our must burning issues.

Here are just a few of the cornerstone of common sense economic thought taught in most Econ 101 classes that they debunk:
Jan 03, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Banerjee and Duflo do an exemplary job explaining the importance of randomized control trials in setting policy. Their examples show why the 'conventional wisdom' is often wrong, and how data from experiments will lead to better outcomes for people.

They take on the big issues - trade, immigration, poverty - and come to conclusions based on the available data that often contradict conventional wisdom. As an example, they highlight why trade has both winners and losers, and while in aggregate the
Richard Marney
Dec 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics
The book reads like the transcript of a casual conversation. The speakers just so happen to be Nobel laureates. When finishing, I felt I should walk my guests to the door and then clean up the tea service.

Straightforward, insightful, compelling and instructive, the discussion generates quite a few “light bulb going on” moments. In today’s tortured debate about immigration, for example, the extension of the concept of “stickiness” to the movement of our fellow world citizens (it takes a lot to
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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
“The bottom line is that, much as in rich countries, we have no accepted recipe for how to make growth happen in poor countries. Even the experts seem to have accepted this. In 2006, the World Bank asked the Nobel laureate Michael Spence to lead the Commission on Growth and Development (informally known as the Growth Commission). Spence initially refused, but convinced by the enthusiasm of his would-be fellow panelists, a highly distinguished group that included Robert Solow, he finally agreed. But their report ultimately recognized that there are no general principles, and no two growth episodes seem alike. Bill Easterly, not very charitably perhaps, but quite accurately, described their conclusion: “After two years of work by the commission of 21 world leaders and experts, an 11-member working group, 300 academic experts, 12 workshops, 13 consultations, and a budget of $4m, the experts’ answer to the question of how to attain high growth was roughly: we do not know, but trust experts to figure it out.” 0 likes
“The endless repetition whips people into a frenzy (much like the way political demonstrations use repeated chants), making it harder for them to stop and check the stories.” 0 likes
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