ABOUT THIS COURSE
This is a course for those who are interested in the challenge posed by massive and persistent world poverty, and are hopeful that economists might have something useful to say about this challenge. The questions we will take up include: Is extreme poverty a thing of the past? What is economic life like when living under a dollar per day? Are the poor always hungry? How do we make schools work for poor citizens? How do we deal with the disease burden? Is microfinance invaluable or overrated? Without property rights, is life destined to be "nasty, brutish and short"? Should we leave economic development to the market? Should we leave economic development to non-governmental organizations (NGOs)? Does foreign aid help or hinder? Where is the best place to intervene? And many others. At the end of this course, you should have a good sense of the key questions asked by scholars interested in poverty today, and hopefully a few answers as well.
This course is intended to be an introduction to the issues of global poverty, as conceptualized by leading economists and political scientists. Previous exposure to economics would be beneficial, then, as concepts such as income vs. substitution effects, Engel curves, and utility functions will be discussed. Similarly, some experience with statistics will also be helpful: we will be examining, for example, empirical evidence in the form of regression results.
That said, these prerequisites are not critical to understanding and learning from the course. Links will be provided, as much as possible, on background issues and further reading to allow all participants to gain from the course.
Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee
Abhijit Banerjee was educated at the University of Calcutta, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and Harvard University. He is currently the Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics at MIT. Banerjee is a past president of the Bureau for Research in the Economic Analysis of Development, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Econometric Society, and has been a Guggenheim Fellow and an Alfred P. Sloan Fellow. He is the recipient of many awards, including the inaugural Infosys Prize in 2009, and has been an honorary advisor to many organizations including the World Bank and the government of India.
Esther Duflo is the Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics in the Department of Economics at MIT. She was educated at the Ecole Normale Supérieure, in Paris, and at MIT. She has received numerous honors and prizes including a John Bates Clark Medal for the best American economist under 40 in 2010, a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship in 2009. She was recognized as one of the best eight young economists by The Economist magazine, one of the 100 most influential thinkers by Foreign Policy since the list exists, and one of the “Forty under 40” most influential business leaders under forty by Fortune magazine in 2010.
Professors Banerjee and Duflo, together with Prof. Sendhil Mullainathan of Harvard University, founded the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab in 2003. In 2011, their book, Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty, won the Financial Times/Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award.