Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty

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Two practical visionaries upend the most common assumptions about how economics works in this gripping and disruptive portrait of how poor people actually live. Why do the poor borrow to save? Why do they miss out on free life-saving immunizations, but pay for unnecessary drugs? In Poor Economics, Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo, two award-winning MIT professors, answer these questions based on years of field research from around the world. Called "marvelous, rewarding" by the Wall Street Journal, the book offers a radical rethinking of the economics of poverty and an intimate view of life on 99 cents a day. Poor Economics shows that creating a world without poverty begins with understanding the daily decisions facing the poor.
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Additional Information

Publisher
PublicAffairs
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Published on
Mar 27, 2012
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Pages
320
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ISBN
9781610391603
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Development / Economic Development
Social Science / Developing & Emerging Countries
Social Science / Poverty & Homelessness
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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An encouraging account of the potential of foreign aid to reduce poverty and a challenge to all aid organizations to think harder about how they spend their money.

With more than a billion people now living on less than a dollar a day, and with eight million dying each year because they are simply too poor to live, most would agree that the problem of global poverty is our greatest moral challenge. The large and pressing practical question is how best to address that challenge. Although millions of dollars flow to poor countries, the results are often disappointing. In Making Aid Work, Abhijit Banerjee—an "aid optimist"—argues that aid has much to contribute, but the lack of analysis about which programs really work causes considerable waste and inefficiency, which in turn fuels unwarranted pessimism about the role of aid in fostering economic development. Banerjee challenges aid donors to do better. Building on the model used to evaluate new drugs before they come on the market, he argues that donors should assess programs with field experiments using randomized trials. In fact, he writes, given the number of such experiments already undertaken, current levels of development assistance could focus entirely on programs with proven records of success in experimental conditions. Responding to his challenge, leaders in the field—including Nicholas Stern, Raymond Offenheiser, Alice Amsden, Ruth Levine, Angus Deaton, and others—question whether randomized trials are the most appropriate way to evaluate success for all programs. They raise broader questions as well, about the importance of aid for economic development and about the kinds of interventions (micro or macro, political or economic) that will lead to real improvements in the lives of poor people around the world. With one in every six people now living in extreme poverty, getting it right is crucial.

In this brilliant, breathtaking book by Pulitzer Prize winner Katherine Boo, a bewildering age of global change and inequality is made human through the dramatic story of families striving toward a better life in Annawadi, a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport. As India starts to prosper, the residents of Annawadi are electric with hope. Abdul, an enterprising teenager, sees “a fortune beyond counting” in the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away. Meanwhile Asha, a woman of formidable ambition, has identified a shadier route to the middle class. With a little luck, her beautiful daughter, Annawadi’s “most-everything girl,” might become its first female college graduate. And even the poorest children, like the young thief Kalu, feel themselves inching closer to their dreams. But then Abdul is falsely accused in a shocking tragedy; terror and global recession rock the city; and suppressed tensions over religion, caste, sex, power, and economic envy turn brutal. With intelligence, humor, and deep insight into what connects people to one another in an era of tumultuous change, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, based on years of uncompromising reporting, carries the reader headlong into one of the twenty-first century’s hidden worlds—and into the hearts of families impossible to forget.
 
Winner of the National Book Award | The PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award | The Los Angeles Times Book Prize | The American Academy of Arts and Letters Award | The New York Public Library’s Helen Bernstein Book Award
 
NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The New York Times • The Washington Post • O: The Oprah Magazine • USA Today • New York • The Miami Herald • San Francisco Chronicle • Newsday
 
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The New Yorker • People • Entertainment Weekly • The Wall Street Journal • The Boston Globe • The Economist • Financial Times • Newsweek/The Daily Beast • Foreign Policy • The Seattle Times • The Nation • St. Louis Post-Dispatch • The Denver Post • Minneapolis Star Tribune • Salon • The Plain Dealer • The Week • Kansas City Star • Slate • Time Out New York • Publishers Weekly
 
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
 
“A book of extraordinary intelligence [and] humanity . . . beyond groundbreaking.”—Junot Díaz, The New York Times Book Review
 
“Reported like Watergate, written like Great Expectations, and handily the best international nonfiction in years.”—New York

“This book is both a tour de force of social justice reportage and a literary masterpiece.”—Judges’ Citation for the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award
 
“[A] landmark book.”—The Wall Street Journal
 
“A triumph of a book.”—Amartya Sen
 
“There are books that change the way you feel and see; this is one of them.”—Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
 
“[A] stunning piece of narrative nonfiction . . . [Katherine] Boo’s prose is electric.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
 
“Inspiring, and irresistible . . . Boo’s extraordinary achievement is twofold. She shows us how people in the most desperate circumstances can find the resilience to hang on to their humanity. Just as important, she makes us care.”—People
Brilliant and engagingly written, Why Nations Fail answers the question that has stumped the experts for centuries: Why are some nations rich and others poor, divided by wealth and poverty, health and sickness, food and famine?

Is it culture, the weather, geography? Perhaps ignorance of what the right policies are?

Simply, no. None of these factors is either definitive or destiny. Otherwise, how to explain why Botswana has become one of the fastest growing countries in the world, while other African nations, such as Zimbabwe, the Congo, and Sierra Leone, are mired in poverty and violence?

Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson conclusively show that it is man-made political and economic institutions that underlie economic success (or lack of it). Korea, to take just one of their fascinating examples, is a remarkably homogeneous nation, yet the people of North Korea are among the poorest on earth while their brothers and sisters in South Korea are among the richest. The south forged a society that created incentives, rewarded innovation, and allowed everyone to participate in economic opportunities.

The economic success thus spurred was sustained because the government became accountable and responsive to citizens and the great mass of people. Sadly, the people of the north have endured decades of famine, political repression, and very different economic institutions—with no end in sight. The differences between the Koreas is due to the politics that created these completely different institutional trajectories.

Based on fifteen years of original research Acemoglu and Robinson marshall extraordinary historical evidence from the Roman Empire, the Mayan city-states, medieval Venice, the Soviet Union, Latin America, England, Europe, the United States, and Africa to build a new theory of political economy with great relevance for the big questions of today, including:

- China has built an authoritarian growth machine. Will it continue to grow at such high speed and overwhelm the West?

- Are America’s best days behind it? Are we moving from a virtuous circle in which efforts by elites to aggrandize power are resisted to a vicious one that enriches and empowers a small minority?

- What is the most effective way to help move billions of people from the rut of poverty to prosperity? More philanthropy from the wealthy nations of the West? Or learning the hard-won lessons of Acemoglu and Robinson’s breakthrough ideas on the interplay between inclusive political and economic institutions?

Why Nations Fail will change the way you look at—and understand—the world. 
Understanding poverty and what to do about it, is perhaps the central concern of all of economics. Yet the lay public almost never gets to hear what leading professional economists have to say about it. This volume brings together twenty-eight essays by some of the world leaders in the field, who were invited to tell the lay reader about the most important things they have learnt from their research that relate to poverty. The essays cover a wide array of topics: the first essay is about how poverty gets measured. The next section is about the causes of poverty and its persistence, and the ideas range from the impact of colonialism and globalization to the problems of "excessive" population growth, corruption and ethnic conflict. The next section is about policy: how should we fight poverty? The essays discuss how to get drug companies to produce more vaccines for the diseases of the poor, what we should and should not expect from micro-credit, what we should do about child labor, how to design welfare policies that work better and a host of other topics. The final section is about where the puzzles lie: what are the most important anomalies, the big gaps in the way economists think about poverty? The essays talk about the puzzling reluctance of Kenyan farmers to fertilizers, the enduring power of social relationships in economic transactions in developing countries and the need to understand where aspirations come from, and much else. Every essay is written with the aim of presenting the latest and the most sophisticated in economics without any recourse to jargon or technical language.
"There is a growing belief in development policy circles that participation by local communities in basic service delivery can promote development outcomes. A central plank of public policy for improving primary education services in India is the participation of village education committees (VECs), consisting of village government leaders, parents, and teachers. The authors report findings from a survey in the state of Uttar Pradesh, of public schools, households, and VEC members, on the status of education services and the extent of community participation in the public delivery of education services. They find that parents do not know that a VEC exists, sometimes even when they are supposed to be members of it; VEC members are unaware of even key roles they are empowered to play in education services; and public participation in improving education is negligible, and correspondingly, people's ranking of education on a list of village priorities is low. Large numbers of children in the villages have not acquired basic competency in reading, writing, and arithmetic. Yet parents, teachers, and VEC members seem not to be fully aware of the scale of the problem, and seem not to have given much thought to the role of public agencies in improving outcomes. Learning failures coexist with public apathy to improving it through public action. Can local participation be sparked through grassroots campaigns that inform communities about the VEC and its role in local service delivery? Can such local participation actually affect learning outcomes, and can any impact be sustained? The authors describe information and advocacy campaigns that have been experimentally implemented to address some of the problems with local participation, and future research plans to evaluate their impact. "--World Bank web site.
Esther Duflo, Premio Princesa de Asturias de Ciencias Sociales 2015

El libro que cambiará nuestra manera de pensar sobre la pobreza y lo que debemos hacer para aliviarla

¿Cómo se vive con menos de un dólar al día? ¿Por qué los microcréditos resultan útiles pero no son el milagro que algunos esperaban? ¿Por qué los pobres dejan pasar las campañas de vacunación gratuita pero pagan por medicinas que a menudo no necesitan? ¿Por qué sus hijos pueden ir a la escuela año tras año y no aprender nada? ¿Por qué no siempre invierten en obtener más calorías, sino calorías que saben mejor?

Nuestra tendencia a reducir a los pobres a un conjunto de clichés nos ha impedido hasta ahora comprender los problemas a los que se enfrentan a diario. Dado que poseen tan poco, hemos asumido que no hay nada de interés en su vida económica. Las políticas gubernamentales destinadas a ayudarles muchas veces fracasan porque se fundamentan en suposiciones erradas con respecto a sus circunstancias y su conducta.

Repensar la pobreza supone un revolucionario giro en el modo de abordar la lucha global contra la pobreza. Sus autores, dos consagrados economistas del MIT, han acudido directamente a los protagonistas para comprender cómo funciona de verdad la economía de los pobres, cuáles son sus motivaciones y aspiraciones. Los resultados de sus observaciones contradicen muchas de nuestras creencias más arraigadas.

El innovador planteamiento de este libro empieza por cambiar las preguntas. A partir de ahí, ofrece las respuestas y, con ellas, un gran potencial transformador y una guía esencial para políticos, activistas y cualquier persona preocupada por construir un mundo sin desigualdad.

Reseñas:

«Un libro maravillosamente lúcido sobre la naturaleza real de la pobreza.»
Amartya Sen, Premio Nobel de Economía

«El ensayo más interesante que he leído en mucho tiempo. Está lleno de sorpresas y va a cambiar nuestra manera de pensar sobre la pobreza y lo que se debe hacer para aliviarla.»
Moisés Naím en «Lea este libro», El País

«Este libro debe ser de lectura obligada para cualquier persona que se preocupe por la pobreza en el mundo. Representa lo mejor que la economía puede ofrecer.»
Steven D. Levitt, autor de Freakonomics

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