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November 4, 2011

News & Opinion: Poor Economics, Winner of The FT/Goldman Sachs Award

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 6:30 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture


Congratulations are in order for Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo, authors of Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty (and their publishers PublicAffairs), for winning this year's Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award.

Both professors of economics at MIT, the authors based the book on their more than fifteen years of careful research and analysis of the economics of poverty—and their attempt to find solutions to it. They have worked all over the world during that time conducting randomized control trials that they themselves have pioneered, and come away with what seem to be practical, evidence-backed conclusions and solutions.

In his review of the book and the judges' decision to elevate it, Andrew Hill of The Financial Times writes:

With much of the developed world racked by crisis and shaken by protest about capitalism’s deficiencies, the judges said co-authors Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo offered a hopeful guide to the way forward. ... Of the six shortlisted finalists, Poor Economics had “the potential for the greatest impact,” said one of the judges, Vindi Banga, a former Unilever executive, now a partner with private equity firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice. Mario Monti, economics professor and former European commissioner, said it was “highly relevant” for a world “where the problems of inequality are becoming overriding.”

[...]

The two MIT professors are part of a group of economists known as the “randomistas.” They have used randomised control trials across five continents to test the impact of policies aimed at beating poverty, from the provision of free anti-malaria bed-nets to education subsidies.

Poor Economics maps out a third way between those experts who believe aid does more harm than good, such as William Easterly [author of White Man's Burden and Reinventing Foreign Aid] and Dambisa Moyo [author of Dead Aid and How the West Was Lost], and those who believe the reverse, like Jeffrey Sachs [author of The End of Poverty, Common Wealth and The Price of Civilization].

This year's keynote speaker, Lord Patten of Barnes added, offering high praise not only for the impact of the book, but for the impact of the award itself:
This prestigious literary award has helped to rescue the concept of "business books" from that pile of volumes at airport terminals which advise you, first, how to make the most of your attributes as a first-class underling, and second, never knowingly to underestimate the taste of the public. This prize, with its distinguished list of past winners, has transformed the whole notion of business literature.
I can't help but think it would have been a more effective and touching tribute to the book to have someone the authors had worked with to alleviate poverty over the years speak to the quality of their work, but I suppose a British Lord—the last Governor of British Hong Kong, in fact—will do in a pinch.

Regardless of who spoke, though, the Financial Times and Goldman Sachs have yet again picked a fine field of books to choose from and made a worthy choice to lead them. You can find the shortlisted titles and read excerpts from them all online at The Financial Times website. And learn more about Poor Economics and the epic amount of work surrounding it at pooreconomics.com.


About Dylan Schleicher


Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.