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

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  631 ratings  ·  95 reviews
Figuring out how to deal with today's critical economic problems is perhaps the great challenge of our time. Much greater than space travel or perhaps even the next revolutionary medical breakthrough, what is at stake is the whole idea of the good life as we have known it.

Immigration and inequality, globalization and technological disruption, slowing growth and
Kindle Edition, 417 pages
Published November 12th 2019 by PublicAffairs
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Jason Furman
Dec 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 22, 2019 rated it liked it
Uhhhh yeah good I guess
Ryan Boissonneault
Dec 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Laurent Franckx
Feb 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It's one of those interesting twists of fate that Banerjee and Duflo won the Nobel Prize in economics (together with Michael Kremer) a few days after having published their second book targeting a non-specialist audience.
Professors Banerjee, Duflo and Kremer won their prize “for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty”. In short, defying the idea that economics is not suited for the experimental approach, they set up randomized controlled trials (such as is the golden standard
Anandh Sundar
Oct 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
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
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,
Feb 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Poor Economics was a phenomenal book in which Banerjee and Duflo wielded the quantitative, through their use of Randomized Control Trials, to understand the qualitative: what policies work and why. Now, Banerjee and Duflo are back, broadening their scope geographically and thematically. This approach suits them. They dare to take a more political stand and convey that things like decency and quality of life may even matter more than just income. They ensure that economics is open tot ...more
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
Ben Gigone
Jan 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Interesting take on a variety of global subjects. Lots of good (backed-up) information to give insight into how our world has evolved.
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.
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.
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?
John Calhoun
Feb 04, 2020 rated it liked it
I learned some interesting factual tidbits from this book, which succeeded best at gathering research findings (especially RCTs, the forte of the authors) in one place. However, I ultimately didn't find a lot of the authors' broader conclusions particularly compelling. And, in many places, I think the authors glossed over nuance too quickly/too unthinkingly liberally.

I agreed with the authors' opening chapter, which makes the point that policy/economics matters and that paying attention to
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
AbdulRahman عبدالرحمن
Brilliant! If you were to read only one book about "economics", read this book. Beautifully written and easy to follow.
Jan 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fic
This was so GOOD!! It took me a while but it was worth it. Will be rereading this soon.
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
Neil Bradford
Slightly disappointed. I thought Poor Economics was brilliant, but this follow-up is a more general discussion of economic theory and practice when tackling the worlds big problems — migration, inequality, climate change etc etc. Weak in parts and without any tables, maps or graphs — how can that be? Felt rushed and without a conclusion / unifying theme.
Angie Boyter
Jan 14, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: mit-book-group
This is a lot of interesting information and discussion in this book, and it COULD have been a real winner for me except for 2 BIG (to my mind) weake areas. First of all, the writing seriously needed editing, inexcusable in a book by people at their level. There were sentences that did not parse and explanations that just plain were not clear (which I confirmed by reading some of them to my husband to make sure it was not just me). Second, the book was too slanted towards their political ...more
Jan 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
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
Amanda Williamson
Jan 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: economics, politics
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
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
Tomasz Piotrowski
Dec 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Very interesting, mind-blowing information and theories. Worth reading.
Chuck Kollars
Jan 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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
Caitlin French
Dec 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
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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
“no one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark you only run for the border when you see the whole city running as well your neighbors running faster than you breath bloody in their throats the boy you went to school with who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory is holding a gun bigger than his body you only leave home when home won’t let you stay.7” 1 likes
“The answers to these problems take more than a tweet. So there is an urge to just avoid them. And partly as a result, nations are doing very little to solve the most pressing challenges of our time; they continue to feed the anger and the distrust that polarize us, which makes us even more incapable of talking, thinking together, doing something about them. It often feels like a vicious cycle.” 0 likes
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