Apr 23, 2011
The title of this post can be parsed either as “new (development books)” or as “(new development) books” since both of these are new books about development economics and are also books that deal with the new style of development economics, focusing on micro / individual level studies and in particular rigorous (usually randomized) evaluations of possible interventions. This tells us what works — and how much it costs per unit of inprovement in outcomes.
The first book, which came out about a week ago, is More than Good Intentions by Dean Karlan and Jacob Appel. The writing style is very approachable, so it has been described (in a good way) as the perfect book for workers in this field to give to their parents / friends / SOs / etc. as an introduction to what they do. Each chapter focuses on a different topic (health; savings; and so on) and discusses real case studies (with real people) from the field as well as summarizing the recent academic research in the area. They are particularly interested in behavioral “nudges” which of course I’m sympathetic to. Recommended!
The second book comes out this monday (the 26th), so it’s an opportune time for the genre! This one is Poor Economics by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo. [disclaimer: I know the authors of both books personally, and have coauthored with Karlan, but I have no financial interest in either book] It focuses more specifically on poverty, as one would guess from the title, although to some extent that is the central goal for all of development economics*. Again there are explanations and summaries of the randomized evaluation method, which the authors (and Karlan) are pioneers in the use of within this context. Unfortunately I haven’t actually seen the book yet, but I’m hoping to soon. Knowing their other work, it will be highly insightful.
*one of my pet peeves is that there isn’t more serious discussion of well-being (utility) in development economics, and indeed throughout economics, but that’s hardly a criticism of these books — nor is it totally ignored in these