Customer Reviews


45 Reviews
5 star:
 (33)
4 star:
 (8)
3 star:
 (3)
2 star:
 (1)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


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
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

versus
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 7 months ago by MumH


‹ Previous | 1 25 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

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
By 
T. Leunig "Dr Tim Leunig" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
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. British academic Paul Collier (Bottom Billion - a great book) gets the odd mention, but Sachs and Easterly are the reference points. I am not sure that they are the best reference points, although they are big names people are likely to have heard of.

Finally, some historical awareness would make this a better book still. For example, the authors argue that human capital, laws, etc are useful when the growth spark arrives - which sounds like a lot of the "why england, why not France?" and "Why Europe, why not China?" economic history literature. Similarly their (surely correct) argument that micro businesses and self employment are what poor people do when they can't get steady employment is matched by studies of the Great Depression (or street vendors in Greece today, for that matter). Such parallels would also make us understand that poor economics has a lot in common with the economics of poor people in history, and the economics of poor people in rich countries.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitely worth the read, 3 Jun 2011
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!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rather wonderful book, 5 April 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars There is no magic bullet, 19 July 2012
By 
A. O. P. Akemu "Ona" (Rotterdam, The Netherlands) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Economists, like the rest of humanity, see the world through ideological lenses. Therefore, it is not surprising that economists' prescriptions against poverty (defined as the condition of living on less than $1 per day) are tinted by political affiliation. Well-meaning intellectuals on the political right, exemplified by William Easterly, push a bottom-up anti-foreign aid agenda while equally well-meaning economists on the left such as Jeffrey Sachs advocate a top-down aid-driven approach to tackling poverty. Which camp is right? "It depends", say Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, the authors of this book. They argue that careful field experimentation, not political ideology, is the most credible way to illumine the causes of poverty and guide our attempts to alleviate human misery.

Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo are two of the finest economists alive. Their work has been published in the most prestigious academic journals. They are not only ivory tower theorists; they also serve as advisers to governments and international institutions such as the World Bank. Therefore, they are no strangers to the world of politics and policy implementation. Perhaps, most importantly, they are excellent field researchers. The book draws on the authors' extensive fieldwork in eighteen developing countries including India, Benin, Kenya and Bangladesh to answer apparently mundance questions such as: (1) Do the poor value mosquito nets (2) How effective are anti-HIV education campaigns (3) Are the poor entrepreneurial (4) Why do poor people not save for a rainy day?

FIVE IMPORTANT LESSONS
The authors draw five important lessons from the data:
1. The poor lack information and believe things that are not true. For example, they are unsure about the benefits of immunisation and fertiliser use.

2. Poor people bear too much responsibility for many aspects of their lives due to the absence of effective governments. For example, the poor must find their own water, purify it and, if necessary, distribute it. These are tasks that even die-hard small government idealists in the West do not perform. Due to the burden of providing these services, the poor often proscratinate on decisions about health, education and welfare.

3. Markets for health insurance and other financial services fail poor people.

4. Contrary to the expectation of institutional economists, poor countries are not condemned by their histories. Yes, institutions are notoriously sticky and difficult to change, but, despite the poor institutional contexts, change has occurred at the margins of those societies. A good example is Indonesia. In the 1980s, the dictator Suharto established schools across the country to consolidate his rule. An unintended consequence of this act was widespread education.

5. Expectations of the poor in a society can become self-fulfilling prophecies. If a country's education system is geared towards training the children of the elite - with the tacit assumption that the children of the poor are not smart enough to compete - the children of the poor give up on education. The result: an even more stratified society.

The lessons in the book are communicated by drawing insights from behavioural economics and weaving a very human tale about actual people that the authors met/interviewed as part of their research.

MINOR TECHNICAL FLAW
The authors mistake production for rate of return on the production function shown on page 216. The graph shows production (on the y-axis) versus capital invested (on the x-axis). The authors label the height of the graph as overall return and a small change in the height of the graph as the marginal return. This is wrong. The correct interpretation of the curve should be thus:
1. The vertical height is production.
2. The overall return at any point is the average slope of the curve from the origin to the point on the curve.
3. The marginal return is the instantaneous slope at any point on the curve (i.e. the tangent to the curve).

These errors are minor and do not detract from the message of the book.

CONCLUSION
By championing experimentation and fieldwork in addition to theoretical modeling, the authors demonstrate that the fight against poverty cannot be won with one intellectual magic bullet. Economic prescriptions need to be backed up and validated/refuted by field data. Would you rather have a surgeon that recommends surgical procedures based on medical theory without the guiding hand of hard empirical data? If not, why would we provide 'economic surgery' to poor countries without reliance on field work and data?

Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo remind us (economists, policymakers, governments) to be humble and to embrace experimentation - with its attendant successes and failures. Bureaucracies abhor words like experimentation and 'trial and error', but experiment we must. With a little luck and critical thinking, humanity will chip away at the problem of poverty and provide dignity to the majority of the world's population. This message deserves four glittering stars.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poor Economics, 14 April 2012
By 
Rolf Dobelli "getAbstract" (Switzerland) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
After decades of effort, billions of dollars, thousands of aid workers and hundreds of antipoverty programs, 865 million people still barely survive on the equivalent of less than a dollar a day. But that can change, one small clinic, one incentive and one schoolroom at a time according to this eye-opening work - The Financial Times/Goldman Sachs' business book of the year for 2011. Authors and MIT economic researchers Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo report field-tested experiments showing that lifting the world's poor into a more comfortable, productive life is possible, mostly with relatively simple changes, not masses of money. They call for understanding the human behaviors and motivations that drive all people, rich and poor alike, and apply that understanding to solving the seemingly overwhelming, intractable problem of global poverty. getAbstract strongly recommends this highly accessible yet scientific account of how to make life better for millions of people, while enabling the poor to contribute to the world's economic and social progress.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ground-breaking, world-changing and grippingly readable, 30 Mar 2012
By 
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Study Closely, Test and Measure Potential Solutions . . . and Do More of What Works, 11 Aug 2011
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
"So the poor have hope,
And injustice shuts her mouth." -- Job 5:16 (NKJV)

If a pharmaceutical company wants to improve health, it begins by studying what goes wrong in a disease. Having found the patterns of disease, it looks for ways to interrupt those patterns. When a promising molecule is identified, controlled trials begin. If such trials prove the molecule is safe and effective, governments will license production and prescription of the new medicine.

Professors Banerjee and Duflo employ a similar methodology for finding ways to interrupt patterns that lead to and sustain poverty. That's the key message of this book: Unless you employ good methods to identify what to do, money and effort spent on eliminating poverty may well be unproductive or even counterproductive.

Those who aren't familiar with the research results will learn a lot about how poverty shapes perspectives and problems so that poor people may well choose alternatives that don't optimize wealth and poverty elimination. Once again, "economic man" and "economic woman" are proven to be myths created by theoreticians.

My takeaway from this book is that a lot more would be accomplished by earmarking 10 percent of money intended for poor people to conduct studies and trials to find what really works, rather than just spending money on what some "expert" believes will work.

In my own work on the 400 Year Project (to accelerate global improvements by 20 times), successful poverty elimination experiments have required a lot of individual adjustments for each person and family. But typical "solutions" to poverty don't encompass such flexibility.

I liked the last part of the book best, "In Place of a Sweeping Conclusion," where the professors point out the results of individual studies completed to date don't allow for any sweeping conclusions.

Bravo and Brava!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and humane, 29 Jan 2012
This is one of the best public policy books I have ever read. By painstakingly piecing together rigorous evidence from research Banerjee and Duflo step behind the aid good/bad debate and look at how the poor really live - and how it might be possible to design policy interventions which can help them live their lives better and possibly lead out of poverty. Full of insight about "development" - but also very relevant to the way developed countries make policies for themselves and where policy goes wrong when it falls foul of the three Is - ignorance, ideology and inertia. and even better, it is compellingly written
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Another good book is the Bottom Billion by Paul, 1 July 2014
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
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3.0 out of 5 stars Another way of looking at helping the poor, 6 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty (Kindle Edition)
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).
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 25 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Only search this product's reviews