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Poor Economics by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo

posted onOctober 23, 2017

Do you care enough about building a world free from poverty? Then Poor Economics is the book you were looking for. Co-authored by MIT economists Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo who have worked with the poor in dozens of countries spanning five continents for more than fifteen years, Poor Economics, stands out in the literature on development economics.

The authors of Poor Economics argue that so much of anti-poverty policy has failed over the years because of an inadequate understanding of poverty and they note that the biggest problems for reducing poverty are the “three I’s”: ideology, ignorance and inertia.

After years of field research in villages of India, Morocco, Kenya, Indonesia and other developing countries, Banerjee and Duflo explain us why the poor need to borrow in order to save, why they start many businesses but do not grow any of them, why their children go to school but often don’t learn, why they miss out on free life-saving immunisations but pay for drugs that they do not need and many other puzzling facts about living with less than 99 cents per day.

Their book is radical because it investigates the incredibly multi-faceted and complex lives of the poor but at the same time is practical, offering suggestions that could have a real impact. Each chapter is a detailed analysis of a particular problem, mentioning experiments conducted and leading to specific answers.

This is a useful, stimulating and well-writen book for policymakers, philanthropists, activists but also for business leaders who want to make a difference in the fight against poverty. The message is clear: Even if it takes time, careful thinking and persistence, the battle against poverty can be won.

The book won the 2011 Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award.

Poor Economics

Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee was born in 1961 in Calcutta, India. He attended South Point School and Presidency College, Calcutta, where he completed his B.S. degree in economics in 1981. He received his M.A. in economics at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi in 1983. In 1988 he went on to obtain a Ph.D. in economics at Harvard University. He is currently the Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics at MIT.

Esther Duflo was born in 1972 in Paris, France. She finished her degree in history and economics at École Normale Supérieure in 1994, and she received a master's degree from DELTA, now the Paris School of Economics. She completed a PhD in economics at MIT in 1999. She is currenly Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics in the Department of Economics at MIT.

Banerjee and Duflo are co-founders of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), a research center at the Economics Department at MIT, established in 2003.