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Poor Economics: Barefoot Hedge-fund Managers, DIY Doctors and the Surprising Truth about Life on less than $1 a Day [Paperback]

Abhijit Banerjee , Esther Duflo
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
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Book Description

29 Mar 2012 0718193660 978-0718193669

Winner of the FT Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award 2011

Why would a man in Morocco who doesn't have enough to eat buy a television?

Why do the poorest people in India spend 7 percent of their food budget on sugar?

Does having lots of children actually make you poorer?

This eye-opening book overturns the myths about what it is like to live on very little, revealing the unexpected decisions that millions of people make every day. Looking at some of the most paradoxical aspects of life below the poverty line - why the poor need to borrow in order to save, why incentives that seem effective to us may not be for them, and why, despite being more risk-taking than high financiers, they start businesses but rarely grow them - Banerjee and Duflo offer a new understanding of the surprising way the world really works.

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Poor Economics: Barefoot Hedge-fund Managers, DIY Doctors and the Surprising Truth about Life on less than $1 a Day + The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It
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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (29 Mar 2012)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0718193660
  • ISBN-13: 978-0718193669
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,753 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Poor Economics is making waves . . . refreshingly original, wonderfully insightful . . . an entirely new perspective (Guardian)

A marvellously insightful book by two outstanding researchers on the real nature of poverty (Amartya Sen)

It has been years since I read a book that taught me so much (Steven D. Levitt)

A page-turner about the micro-economics of aid policy might not sound too probable, but that's what [Banerjee and Duflo] have written, and it is a truly remarkable book . . . unmistakably contemporary, written beautifully (Guardian)

A compelling and important read (Forbes)

An engrossing new book (Economist)

Marvellous . . . they deserve to be congratulated, and to be read (Wall Street Journal)

About the Author

Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee is currently the Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics at MIT. He is the recipient of many awards, including the inaugural Infosys Prize in 2009, and has been an honorary advisor to many organizations including the World Bank and the Government of India.

Esther Duflo is Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics in the Department of Economics at MIT. She has received numerous honors and prizes including a John Bates Clark Medal for the best American economist under 40 in 2010, a MacArthur 'genius' Fellowship in 2009. Together with Abhijit Banerjee and Sendhil Mullainathan of Harvard University, she founded the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab in 2003.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
53 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book deserves to be read as well as bought 9 April 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is an excellent book, that brings their research - and that of others - to the intelligent but not expert reader. (Think: broadsheet newspaper reader)

I am an economist (I teach at LSE), but I am not a development economist. I have no vested interested in the area. I found this a straightforward read - 2 days worth of holiday reading. I think it spot on for the target market - my wife is currently reading it.

The conclusion are broad: poor people are rational, but often ill informed, and that becoming well-informed takes time and effort. As a result, unless everyone understands what the poor think, and why they think it, policies may not work. If poor people don't believe immunisation works, they won't want it whether it is free or not. If poor people think that education is only worthwhile for the brightest, they won't send their kids to school unless they think that they are bright. And if teachers have the same views, their efforts in teaching weaker students will be weak, and universal education will not achieve much. In contrast if schools and parents believe in education, universal education will work much better, for any given level of staffing, funding, etc. We therefore need to understand - and sometimes work to change - beliefs.

The authors are great fans of "random controlled experiments" whereby policy is applied to one group and not to another, and the results compared. This is obviously a good idea, but it would be nice to know a bit more about whether the results are replicable. After all, if beliefs matter, results from one place in India may not travel to another in India, let alone to Africa, etc.

I make two mild criticisms. The books intellectual "straw men" (Jeff Sachs and Bill Easterly) are very American.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitely worth the read 3 Jun 2011
By G-man
Professors Banarjee and Duflo have produced a stream of high quality papers over the years using the most innovative and illuminating empirical techniques to show us how the world's poor can benefit greatly from small changes in current policy administration.

This book is not simply a summary of their seminal work, although their previous research applied appropriately. Rather, it shows how the status quo approaches are not working effectively yet are still used despite obvious flaws.
For example, various aid packages do not have the structuring incentives to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation.

Concurrently, the failure of the market to support some of the mechanisms for development is also discussed. A prominent example of this is the lack of insurance provision for the activities that generate output in poorer economies. Insurance is extremely helpful for farming when weather variation is crucial to the success of failure of the product, yet it is rarely found in such countries.

Definitely a top work, from 2 top economists.

I just hope politicans have the guts to implement it!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rather wonderful book 5 April 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A great non-fiction book. The authors cast new light on the lives of the poor, and of us all.

Early chapters discuss individual rationality. There's enough money to spend on food but there is more to the good life for human beings than food - even if you are poor. There is TV, or wedding feasts. Education can be seen as a lottery in which the winer - the brightest child in the family - should take all. Actually everyone benefits from each extra year do education. And people don't understand health issues. Actually none of us do, but we in the west have states that take much of the strain here for us.

The second part of the book deals with systemic issues. Handling costs make it hard for the poor to access lending or borrowing (though micro finance now helps). And they are not much interested in insurance, choosing instead to hedge the risks in their life by diversifying their economic activities. Many are entrepreneurs faute de mieux. A regular wage can transform Iives. Finally when it comes to politics, changes to eg transparency can make a big difference. So too can eg quotas for eg women in politics, by transforming expectations.

My one regret about this book is that the authors have not read Thinking Fast and Slow. This could explain many of their findings further. A causal story is a good story for the fast thinking system - in this book explaining to schoolgirls thatbsugarndaddies are more likely to have HIV than young men. Sometimes - as in the statistical thinking needed to get a grip on insurance or public health issues - there is no alternative but to wake up the slow thinker who lurks in all of us.

But this is very strongly recommended.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Why is there still so much confusion and debate about how best to reduce poverty and improve the life chances of the global poor? This book takes a very bright spotlight to that large, mushy question.

The authors refuse to provide sweeping answers but take on issues one by one -- food, disease, education, work, saving, entrepreneurship -- revealing what works and what doesn't and explaining why.

It is a compelling read because the authors combine years of academic rigour with on-the-ground observation and a dogged use of controlled trials to create transparency about what works. They are also talented writers in their own right and have put together a fascinating and readable narrative.

Although they steer away from sweeping conclusions, there are two clear ingredients needed:
- really understanding human behaviour, to avoid wasted effort and unintended consequences, and
- creating transparency about the facts based on controlled trials, in a world in which many institutions (charities, micro-finance groups, governments) have vested interests to push their preferred but unproven solutions

I hope this book gets the audience it deserves since it has the potential to bring about a quiet revolution in the types of interventions used in developing countries and significantly increase their impact.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Book arrived quickly. It really is the most poorly ...
Book arrived quickly. It really is the most poorly written and presented economics book I've ever read.
Published 16 days ago by Mr T A Kay
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
great read
Published 28 days ago by james1995
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book
Published 1 month ago by alba
5.0 out of 5 stars Another good book is the Bottom Billion by Paul
There is a lot in this book that that dispels many assumptions people have about poverty. Another good book is the Bottom Billion by Paul Collier
Published 2 months ago by your dad
3.0 out of 5 stars Another way of looking at helping the poor
A good book full of different ideas and explanations as to why aid is either unused or misguidedly given. It certainly made me think, but it is very wordy and somewhat repetitive. Read more
Published 4 months ago by MumH
5.0 out of 5 stars For anyone interested in latest thinking in Economics today
Economics used to start with a theory and then look for the stats to fit the theory. Now it starts with the data and then analyses the theories that form
Published 5 months ago by R Woodroffe
5.0 out of 5 stars valuble contribution to the development debate
'Poor Economics' is about the lives of poor people around the globe. It examines the lack of opportunity, education, health care provision and sustained employment and income that... Read more
Published 8 months ago by os
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking
A good rethink and analysis of current aid practices aimed at helping the poor. The honest and direct approach of the experiments result in some very surprising conclusions
Published 8 months ago by Adam F
3.0 out of 5 stars Slightly insidious and I wonder if the authors realise this
Being winner of the FT/Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year is surely no accolade.

This is a very us and them book. Read more
Published 9 months ago by nosila
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!
The authors have discussed such intricate issues with ease of writing and presentation of data which is quite rare to see. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Manaswini Pingali
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