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56 of 57 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 Dr T

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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 10 months ago by MumH


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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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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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5.0 out of 5 stars Skips the big picture and focuses on what actually happens, day to day, in the lives of the poor, 5 Mar. 2013
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M Cox (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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A great insight into how the poor live, make their choices and make financial decisions. Particularly useful for those who are thinking about making charitable donations and are concerned about donating where it will really help.
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5.0 out of 5 stars More effective poverty reduction methods, 5 Feb. 2013
By 
laurens van den muyzenberg "laurens" (Villa Lama, Super Cannes, 06220 Vallauris Golfe-Juan.) - See all my reviews
This book is about people that spend less than what you can buy for 99 cents per person per day in the USA. In 2005, 865 million people actually did, most of them in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
The message of the book is that in all countries extreme poverty can be reduced much faster and more effective than is happening to day. A lot of effort and money is wasted because the causes of the poverty are not understood leading to wrong policies and right policies that are poorly executed (often lack of follow up). The positive message is that significant progress can be made with without radical changes of institutions, corruption, or enormous subsidies.
Finding ways to lead poor people out of their poverty traps is far from easy. You have to understand how they make decisions, and if they make the wrong decisions what method is effective leading to correct decisions. That is not easy either. Understanding is not a question of only questions and answers and verbal persuasion. The authors describe many examples like the problem of state paid teachers in poor villages in India that were often absent. The book describes a wide range of common problems l reducing hunger, insurance for healthcare and drought, poor teacher performance, family planning, ethnicity problems, the merits of entrepreneurship of the poor and additional action required for more "good" jobs, that is with a fixed stable income over time, the significant merits and limitations of microcredit, the need additional credit possibilities, saving money without risk and reasonable returns. I was surprised to learn that many of these very poor save money, lend and borrow from each other, and why it is so difficult to replace moneylenders.
The two authors are Professors at MIT and use a scientific method making experiments that prove if a method works or not, (RCT) Randomized Controlled Trials. That means that they compare the performance of groups that are exposed to different methods, and analyzing the results. It is fascinating to read about these tests and how excellent solutions were discovered.
These two academics point out that they have radical different views from other well known academics in this field notably, Jeffrey Sachs, Darin Acemoglu and James Robinson, and Paul Collier. These academics present Big Ideas like radically changing the institutions, even by force, or doing no more than promoting freedom. These generalizations can lead to doing nothing or wasted effort and funds. To be successful you have to investigate causes, test solutions and monitor implementation.
Some leaders of government like Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva Brazil and Deng Xiaoping of China and Manmohan Singh from India, have introduced policies and programs that have significantly reduced poverty. However these countries still face serious poverty problems. Many of the projects described are from these countries
I have been amazed about how much can be done with simple measures in what look like hopeless situations. Just one example. Corruption is a huge problem. In Kenya the government paid for schools, teaching material and teachers but there was some doubt about how much actually reached the schools. An audit was made that found that only 13% of the funds the government sent to the schools actually arrived at the schools. These results were widely published in the newspapers. Soon thereafter the percentage became 70%. This is one of several examples how corruption can be reduced from the bottom up, rather from the top down, that is policy change leading to political change. Other similar examples are described. Improvements can and should be made top down and bottom up in politics and policies. For me a brilliant idea.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting., 16 Dec. 2012
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An extremely interesting and thought provoking text. I really like the variety of examples used to illustrate the points made.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A thought provoking read, 13 Nov. 2012
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I "enjoyed" this book as it made me stop and think. I say "enjoyed" as there are some difficult illustrations that seem counter-intuitive so to say it was enjoyable would be wrong given the human struggle involved. It seems to be presented in a balanced and evidenced way, rather than a mere set of opinions.

I would say it is definately worth a read.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Slightly insidious and I wonder if the authors realise this, 2 Dec. 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)
Being winner of the FT/Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year is surely no accolade.

This is a very us and them book. The authors claim that poor people think differently to the way The West expects them to think - and therefore our aid interventions often fail. This attitude wrong-foots the reader from the first page. People who are up against it in America and Europe react the same way to straightened circumstances; they drop their insurance where possible, they take part-time or self-employed work, they take children out of education, they lose hope and enthusiasm and reduce their expectations as much as they can. I can't see where the difference is between the developed and the undeveloped countries - apart from the fact that poorer countries often have to deal with unclean water, corrupt non-leaders and warfare. So it’s simply easier to sympathise with their situation.

There are some revealing comments in this book that expose the uglier side of what the authors are implying; an example surfaces in the Education section. During the Raj Indian schools educated Indian children to set them apart from their own kind and ensure that they realigned their allegiances to the British Raj and not to Indian nationalistic interests. It's phrased differently but I can't locate the quote. This point raised alarm bells. Why? Well, aren't the poor nations the result of the rich ones? Globalisation (which I predict will one day be a dirty word) purports to make the planet one great tube of toothpaste; squeeze it in one spot and it rises in another. Globalisation was intended to mean benefits for all worldwide but one hardly needs to open ones eyes to see global businesses use its mantle as an excuse to suck the blood from other countries. In short, the rich countries NEED other countries to be poorer. Before globalisation this was not the case. The Raj needed to educate an elite set of Indians to join the British side. When the authors claim education in India is in need of loosening-up and returning to basics for all they forget that it doesn't turn this corner because it doesn't suit the richer countries. Everyone aspirational wants to work for the winning side. Obviously the winning side is the richer side. It's hardly any wonder that in developing countries individuals continue the us and them mentality within their own communities. They are doing something logical.

Another revealing statement along the lines that people don't finish their cycle of immunisations after just having stated that clinics are often closed when they should be open. Sort of difficult to drop your work and children to get to a closed clinic - which would obviously make it difficult to finish the cycle in the allotted time.

Here's another one - the incidence of under-aged pregnancies. The heading for this section is "Sex, School Uniforms and Sugar Daddies" (an inappropriate juxtaposition in an economics book) ... Apparently these rates are rather high in Congo etc because the girls need parental consent to get the contraceptives. There is no mention of rape statistics.

One other reviewer mentioned that the authors should have read the mesmerically fascinating book Thinking Fast and Slow by a nobel prize winner. I concur. Lies, damn lies and statistics. The authors of Poor Economics need to learn a little more wisdom before they state at the end of the book that "we can stop pretending that there is some solution at hand". Whilst I recognise that their research and trials are sound their conclusions miss the mark time and time again. By focusing on the perspective of the poor, whilst interesting, they deflect the spotlight on the powers that be - powers who will not allow these people off their knees until they need those people to buy their goods. No wonder Goldman Sachs gave it their stamp of approval. This is a book for capitalists and not for well-meaning people.

(I gave it 3 stars to acknowledge its research but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.)
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4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting book and lot to learn from this. ..., 23 Jan. 2015
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Very interesting book and lot to learn from this. Gives an insight to a completely new world for me.
And gives a lot of interesting insight in peoples behavior.
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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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