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Common Reader 2015-2016 Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis: Sendhil Mullainathan

Sendhil Mullainathan

SENDHIL MULLAINATHAN is a Professor of Economics at Harvard University, and the author of Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much. He was hired with tenure by Harvard in 2004 after having spent six years at MIT.

He helped co-found a non-profit to apply behavioral science (ideas42), co-founded a center to promote the use of randomized control trials in development (the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab), serves on the board of the MacArthur Foundation, and has worked in government in various roles, including most recently as Assistant Director of Research at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

He is a recipient of the MacArthur “genius” Award, has been designated a “Young Global Leader” by the World Economic Forum, labeled a “Top 100 Thinker” by Foreign Policy Magazine, and named to the “Smart List: 50 people who will change the world” by Wired Magazine (UK).

News and Reviews

The PLACE title by Sendhil Mullainathan is Scarcity

In this provocative book based on cutting-edge research, Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir show that scarcity creates a distinct psychology for everyone struggling to manage with less than they need.  The dynamics of scarcity reveal why dieters find it hard to resist temptation, why students and busy executives mismanage their time, and why the same sugarcane farmers are smarter after harvest than before.  Once we start thinking in terms of scarcity, the problems of modern life come into sharper focus, and Scarcity reveals not only how it leads us astray but also how individuals and organizations can better manage scarcity for greater satisfaction and success.

Compelling, important...A handy guide for those of us looking to better understand our inability to ever climb out of the holes we dig ourselves, whether related to money, relationships, or time. (The Boston Globe)

[Scarcity offers] groundbreaking insights into...the effects of poverty on cognition and our ability to make choices about our lives. (Samantha Power, The Wall Street Journal)

Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir show how the logic of scarcity applies to rich and poor, educated and illiterate, Asian, Western, Hispanic, and African cultures alike. They offer insights that can help us change our individual behavior and that open up an entire new landscape of public policy solutions. A breathtaking achievement! (Anne-Marie Slaughter, professor emerita, Princeton University, and president and CEO of the New America Foundation)

Here is a winning recipe. Take a behavioral economist and a cognitive psychologist, each a prominent leader in his field, and let their creative minds commingle. What you get is a highly original and easily readable book that is full of intriguing insights. What does a single mom trying to make partner at a major law firm have in common with a peasant who spends half her income on interest payments? The answer is scarcity. Read this book to learn the surprising ways in which scarcity affects us all. (Richard H. Thaler, University of Chicago, coauthor of Nudge)


Sendhil Mullainathan