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Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty Audio Download – Unabridged

4.5 out of 5 stars 59 customer reviews

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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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By William Jordan TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The two authors have impeccable credentials as economists researching the effectiveness of interventions aimed at relieving extreme poverty and its associated harms: as have Dean Karlan and Jacob Appel whose book “More Than Good Intentions: Improving the Ways the World's Poor Borrow, Save, Farm, Learn, and Stay Healthy” was published one year earlier and covers similar territory. Both books took me by surprise in similar ways. I had expected much more data from their own work and that of others. I was looking for hard facts derived from good research. Most of the facts presented by the authors were ones I was previously aware of from websites of the various organisations concerned with such e.g. Innovations for Poverty Action, Give Well, Giving Evidence, the Life You Can Save. I was also surprised by the amount of what I can only describe as “descriptive research”, “soft science” or conjecture which made up most of both books. Banerjee and Duflo (like Karlan and Appel) do not just set up randomised controlled trials and crunch the numbers, they also work in the field. Both books are replete with rich descriptions and case studies but this is the province of sociologists and social anthropologists not economists (or even behavioural economists). So there is a mixture of hard science (which they are world leaders in) and very soft science (which can be misleading because it is not the product of rigorous evaluation).

Of the two books I found Banerjee and Duflo’s more informative and better written than Karlan and Appel’s. However there are two far superior books that, though having slightly different aims, do address the evidence base for effective interventions.
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