Meet Esther Duflo

Does foreign aid make life better for the poorest people in the world, or does it actually harm development ?

Answering this polarising question is the life’s work of Esther Duflo, Professor of Poverty Economics at MIT and co-founder of ALJ Poverty Action Lab, which aims to gather evidence to make anti-poverty efforts more effective.

Esther answers the question “does aid work ?”, by asking another question “what aid works ?”

Esther and her colleagues try to look deeper into the issues and problems affecting the world’s poor, that conventional economics often struggles to answer; such as why would a man living in shanty accomodation and who struggles to feed his own family, buy a television ? The answer should perhaps be obvious: because the poor get bored too, and have precious few other opportunities to enjoy life. Interestingly Esther herself has never owned a TV in her life.

Her most recent book: Poor Economics, argues that there is no single magic bullet for alleviating poverty, but if we are to be more effective in tackling poverty, we first need to be more familiar with the lives of the poor we are actually trying to help.

 

Photo from Wikicommons

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