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Economic Opportunity: Abhijit V Banerjee

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Abhijit V Banerjee

Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee is an Indian economist. Born February 1961, Kolkata, IndiaHe is currently the Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Banerjee is a co-founder of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (along with economists Esther Duflo and Sendhil Mullainathan), a research affiliate of Innovations for Poverty Action, and a member of the Consortium on Financial Systems and Poverty. Banerjee is a past president of the Bureau for the Research in the Economic Analysis of Development, a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, a research fellow at the Centre for Economic Policy Research, international research fellow of the Kiel Institute, fellow at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a fellow at the Econometric Society. He also has been a Guggenheim Fellow and an Alfred P. Sloan Fellow. Together with Esther Duflo, he is the co-author of Poor Economics.

What Others are Saying about Poor Economics

"A marvellously insightful book by two outstanding researchers on the real nature of poverty."
—Amartya Sen, Lamont University Professor and Professor of Economics and Philosophy at Harvard University and winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics

“This book is a must-read for anyone who cares about world poverty.  It has been years since I read a book that taught me so much. Poor Economics represents the best that economics has to offer.”
—Steven D. Levitt, William B. Ogden Distinguished Service Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago and author of Freakonomics

“Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo are allergic to grand generalizations about the secret of economic development. Instead they appeal to many local observations and experiments to explore how poor people in poor countries actually cope with their poverty: what they know, what they seem (or don't seem) to want, what they expect of themselves and others, and how they make the choices that they can make. Apparently there are plenty of small but meaningful victories to be won, some through private and some through public action, that together could add up to a large gains for the world's poor, and might even start a ball rolling. I was fascinated and convinced.”
—Robert Solow, Institute Professor of Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics

"Highly decorated economists Banerjee and Duflo (Economics/Massachusetts Institute of Technology) relay 15 years of research into a smart, engaging investigation of global poverty—and why we're failing to eliminate it.

Aiming to change the stigma that revolves around poverty, the authors explore not just how many find themselves in economic quicksand, but why. They suggest that policymakers, economists and philanthropists alike fail to understand the unique problems that lead to poverty; as such, attempts to eradicate it are often misguided. The poor need more than food, the authors write; they need programs that empower them with a real, fighting chance. Through a blend of on-the-ground observations, social experiments and psychological analysis, Banerjee and Duflo showcase an expansive understanding of poverty's traps and its potential solutions. They extol the virtues of such practices as microsaving and microfinance, which cut out debilitating interest rates and predatory moneylenders. But even these solutions aren't without their issues, including lack of trust in the lender and an unwillingness to take risk. The authors advocate for increased access to family planning, as family size is often a leading cause for why many are saddled with financial burden. They also investigate why many forego free or low-cost medical care or education.

A refreshingly clear, well-structured argument against the standard approach to poverty, this book, while intended for academics and those working on the ground, should provide an essential wake-up call for any reader."
Kirkus Reviews

Poor Economics should appease some of [the authors] critics. It draws on a variety of evidence, not limiting itself to the results of randomised trials, as if they are the only route to truth. And the authors’ interest is not confined to “what works”, but also to how and why it works. Indeed, Ms Duflo and Mr Banerjee, perhaps more than some of their disciples, are able theorists as well as thoroughgoing empiricists.

They are fascinated by the way the poor think and make decisions. Poor people are not stupid, but they can be misinformed or overwhelmed by circumstance, struggling to do what even they recognise is in their best interests. The authors recount (with grudging admiration) how nurses in rural Rajasthan outwitted the two professors’ efforts to stop them skiving off work. They also describe how borrowers in south India exploited a contractual loophole to avoid taking out health insurance, which their microlender insisted they buy for their own good."
The Economist, "Untying the knot"

"Called Poor Economics, and written by Abhijit Banerjee and EstherDuflo, both professors at MIT, it is the most interesting essay I have read in a long time. The book, soon to be published, is accessible to any reader. It is full of surprises, and will change our way of thinking about poverty and how to alleviate it."
—Moisés Naím, Read this book, El País

 

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