Synopses & Reviews
Winner of the 2011 Financial Times/Goldman Sachs Best Business Book of the Year Award
Billions of government dollars, and thousands of charitable organizations and NGOs, are dedicated to helping the world's poor. But much of their work is based on assumptions that are untested generalizations at best, harmful misperceptions at worst.
Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo have pioneered the use of randomized control trials in development economics. Work based on these principles, supervised by the Poverty Action Lab, is being carried out in dozens of countries. Drawing on this and their 15 years of research from Chile to India, Kenya to Indonesia, they have identified wholly new aspects of the behavior of poor people, their needs, and the way that aid or financial investment can affect their lives. Their work defies certain presumptions: that microfinance is a cure-all, that schooling equals learning, that poverty at the level of 99 cents a day is just a more extreme version of the experience any of us have when our income falls uncomfortably low.
This important book illuminates how the poor live, and offers all of us an opportunity to think of a world beyond poverty.
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"Banerjee (Making Aid Work) and Duflo (a contributor to Reinventing Foreign Aid), professors at MIT and founders of the university's Poverty Action Lab, offer answers to questions about aid: what it accomplishes, where it fails, which anti-poverty programs work and which do not, and why nine million children under the age of five die every year. Their results are often surprising, even counter-intuitive. For instance, many poorer families will concentrate their education dollars on the child they think most likely to succeed, sending that child (usually a boy) to school longer rather than spreading their education spending between all children, which might yield more in the long run. Banerjee and Duflo found evidence that relatively inexpensive improvements, such as water purification, may ultimately benefit a community more than, say, providing grain products. They also discovered that Kenyan abstinence programs encouraging school girls to marry older men resulted in an increase in HIV-AIDS, as older men are more likely to be HIV-positive. Their empirical approach differs from policy discussions that base support or criticism of aid programs on a broad overview; instead they illuminate many practicable and cost-effective ways to keep children and parents living healthier and more productive lives. An important perspective on fighting poverty.
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From the award-winning founders of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab at MIT: A transformative reappraisal of the world of the extreme poor, their lives, desires, and frustrations
About the Author
Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee
was educated in Kolkata, Delhi and Cambridge, MA. He is currently the Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics at MIT. He is the recipient of many honors and awards, including most recently the inaugural Infosys Prize in 2009, and has been an honorary advisor to many organizations including the World Bank and the Government of India.
Esther Duflo is the Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics at MIT. She studied at the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris, and at MIT. She is a recipient of several important awards, including a MacArthur "genius" award (2009) and the John Bates Clark medal awarded annually to the best American economist under forty (2010). In 2003, Banerjee and Duflo co-founded the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), which they continue to direct.