A pioneering contribution to the poverty debate fails to see the bigger pictureby Oliver Kamm / May 25, 2011 / Leave a comment
Published in June 2011 issue of Prospect Magazine
A loan from a microfinance company enabled this tailor in Hyderabad to set up his own shop
Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty
by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, (PublicAffairs, £15.99)
Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo want to reduce poverty. That goal is common—what distinguishes the work of these young economists, both at MIT, is their methods. They aim to inject scientific evidence into policy deliberation, and advance the debate with conclusions that can be widely agreed on while not being truisms.
The authors have assembled evidence from hundreds of randomised control trials, which test anti-poverty measures (for example, whether insecticide-treated bed nets should be sold or given away) in the same way that trials are used in medicine to test the effectiveness of new drugs. The data provide no grand universal answer to poverty. There is, however, “a body of knowledge that grows out of each specific answer and the understanding that goes into those answers that give us the best shot at, one day, ending poverty.”