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52 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book deserves to be read as well as bought
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...
Published on 9 April 2012 by T. Leunig

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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. Overall, though, worth reading (if you can manage to get to the end).
Published 3 months ago by MumH


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5.0 out of 5 stars For anyone interested in latest thinking in Economics today, 6 Mar 2014
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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
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5.0 out of 5 stars valuble contribution to the development debate, 27 Dec 2013
By 
os - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Poor Economics: Barefoot Hedge-fund Managers, DIY Doctors and the Surprising Truth about Life on less than $1 a Day (Paperback)
'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 is a feature of those people living on the $1/2 a day borderline. What is heartening about this book is a simple sense of optimism, that extreme poverty can be tackled. Also rather inspiring is general approach of the authors: namely that they seek to understand the poor, their motivations, circumstances and ambitions as if they were 'real' people -rational actors in their own lives not just a homogenous herd that need to have 'good works' done unto them or prodded into doing what some 'expert' deems appropriate. Banerjee and Duflo put great emphasis on research. By comparing population groups and how they respond to differing policy initiatives, strategies can be developed to deliver desired development outcomes. By considering anecdotal evidence, actually talking to the relevant client groups and reviewing uptake of particular programmes, activities and incentives can be adjusted. In other words by treating the poor as 'clients'- market participants and not passive recipients of aid or policy innovation, government can avoid waste and poor uptake, to the benefit of all.

The primary message of this book is that to address the issue of poverty and all that goes with it ( low life expectancy, wasted talent, productivity and disease ) governments and NGO's (Non Governmental Organisations) need to understand the lives of poorer citizens in order to tweak policy appropriately. The authors go through the list of current development 'magic bullets' and show why they seldom live up to expectations. So, mass immunisation programmes, centrally planned education and healthcare, micro-finance and micro-saving, food subsidies and insurance all have discernable benefits but somehow have yet to really deliver the benefits that their supporters claim they should. Banerjee and Duflo claim this is because such programmes either are not delivered properly or often not at all ( e.g.: the rural health clinic is perhaps too far away and often shut due to staff absence). Also often the programmes as outlined by NGO's or regional government are not culturally specific and do not address the short term needs of the target market. A person who is worried about feeding themselves or their family today is not worried particularly about the wider social good to the community of having their child de-wormed for instance.

Also of course governments in developing nations often lack expertise and the will to delivering large scale programmes. Corruption, inertia and a feeling that poverty is too intractable a problem to tackle is a feature of much government policy (or lack of it) of these countries. Banerjee and Duflo suggest that governments need to engage their local populations into accessing the help they need- be it in education, healthcare, enterprise support either by targeted action, creating incentives or allowing markets to form. But whatever programmes are put in place, they should reflect the needs and views of the poor, otherwise they will fail. Good examples of this could include chlorine bleach for adding to water in order to reduce the drastic health effects of diarrhoea or iron fortified flour to reduce anaemia. More important still could be the improving levels of credit and advice for entrepreneurs (often women) so that they can take their businesses from the level of street vending to a more established basis. This will involve government underwriting risk and providing repayment terms that allowing the small/medium sized entrepreneur sufficient leeway to grow without undue restriction and regulation.

'Poor Economics' is a convincing and well written contribution to the development debate. It is talking about the idea that some provision has to be 'top down' (healthcare) but adapted to suit the needs of the local population - i.e.: how, why, what and to whom it is delivered. Other initiatives have to do with allowing the poor to create their own opportunities, a more `bottom up' approach. Examples might include giving low income citizens access to cheaper banking and involvement in local level decision making. By creating the institutional framework to encourage confidence, enterprise and more transparent decision making,local populations will hopefully benefit.

The problem with the development issue is that it often gets caught up in ideological debates that often come down to state v free market approaches. The authors argue that absolute poverty will take a long time to disappear, but small targeted interventions can make all the difference. I would like to have heard something about how access to markets for less developed nations might alleviate poverty what if anything can be done about failing states or those run by rent seeking elites. Otherwise, 'Poor Economics' is a recommended read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking, 26 Dec 2013
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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
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!, 6 Nov 2013
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The authors have discussed such intricate issues with ease of writing and presentation of data which is quite rare to see. Efforts taken to discuss effective ideas without actually discussing political issues have paid off.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Why give aid?, 27 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Poor Economics: Barefoot Hedge-fund Managers, DIY Doctors and the Surprising Truth about Life on less than $1 a Day (Paperback)
Very helpful for understanding why aid does or does not work. Studies back up points made and suggest how results could could be applied elsewhere.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting and varied, 11 Sep 2013
By 
H. Poole (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Poor Economics: Barefoot Hedge-fund Managers, DIY Doctors and the Surprising Truth about Life on less than $1 a Day (Paperback)
This book was an accompaniment to a course I was doing online and it was a very interesting read and a good introduction to the topics we studied. It covers a number of different issues giving a very helpful overview, insight and also specific case studies. If you are interested in development work, with an emphasis on economics, then this is a must-read, but is also a springboard for further reading on this topic.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A new perspective, 16 Aug 2013
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This review is from: Poor Economics: Barefoot Hedge-fund Managers, DIY Doctors and the Surprising Truth about Life on less than $1 a Day (Paperback)
Often books about economics focus on the huge macroeconomic structures found in the West, especially since the crash in 2008. This book, however, focuses on the lives who live on a dollar a day, and the complex economics decisions they have to face every day. It is explains what has been implemented to help these people and just how successful those ideas have been - for example, the micro finance revolution and how perhaps it is not as amazing as it seems. This book really opened my eyes and taught me so much.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good read, 1 Aug 2013
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Some very interesting ideas , well written and some beautiful anecdotes. Well worthy of a read which questions conventional policies towards the poor
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4.0 out of 5 stars Considered solutions to the problem of poverty, 6 May 2013
This review is from: Poor Economics: Barefoot Hedge-fund Managers, DIY Doctors and the Surprising Truth about Life on less than $1 a Day (Paperback)
For anyone who has read The End of Poverty by Jeffery Sachs then this is another book that you should read. The authors are both Professors at MIT, Banerjee is economics and Duflo is Poverty Alleviation.

Even though it is a book about the economics of the poor around the world, it is not a high brow criticism of the way the poor manage themselves, but a series of practical suggestions and principles and ways that we, them and all stakeholders can make a big difference to their lives.

A lot of the examples in the text are based on randomised trial that they have conducted, or are party to the data from. This has given them a unique insight to the best way of alleviating a series of problems; from intestinal worms, micro finance, malaria nets, child immunisation to minimising the spread of AIDS.

The fact that a lot of these have been tested, means that the suggestions in the book are eminently practice, and with the right structures in place will make a hug he difference to the worlds poor.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Elucidating, 8 April 2013
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This review is from: Poor Economics: Barefoot Hedge-fund Managers, DIY Doctors and the Surprising Truth about Life on less than $1 a Day (Paperback)
An excellent glance into the issues underlying the work of NGOs and other poverty relief efforts, especially for those with little/no background in the subject.
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