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More Than Good Intentions

A book by Dean Karlan and Jacob Appel

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Excellent book on which programs help the poor and which don't

  • Apr 13, 2011
"More Than Good Intentions" focused on what programs (or parts of programs) actually achieved their objective of helping the poor. The authors talked about the studies they've done on this and explain their findings about what works, what doesn't, and how various programs might be improved. The authors acknowledge that people don't always act rationally, so we need to understand why the poor act in certain ways, modify programs to take that into account, and test those programs to see if they're working.

The book was easy to read and very engaging. It contained interesting stories of real people that were impacted by these programs. I'd highly recommend this book to those who donate money to organizations that help the poor and to the people who run these programs.

The topics the authors covered were their studies on how to "sell" a program to poor people (as in, get them to use it), various types of microfinance programs (individual, group, along with basic business training, along with specific business advice, etc.), microsavings programs, agricultural programs, educational programs, and health programs (including reproductive health). The last chapter listed the 7 programs that they discussed that they're the most excited about.

This book was a review copy provided by the publisher as an eBook through NetGalley.

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April 14, 2011
The book sounds interesting. Thanks for describing it. The only issue I'd take with the authors is with the idea that the poor (or just people) don't always act "rationally." I think we all act with perfect rationality. It's just that we, especially many with education, means and/or authority, often don't want to learn where the rationality of others comes from. :-)
April 14, 2011
Charley2, You're welcome. By "rationally," I was trying to summarize his view that people (not just the poor) don't always act in their own best economic interests. He was saying that forming aid programs that assume how people will act rather than observing and modifying the program based on how different people actually do act will mean that you aren't getting the most out of every dollar spent to help them. He's very much for learning what the people actually need rather than what we think they need. I hope that clarifies my "don't always act rationally" summary statement. :)
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Debbie White ()
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I review books, do organic gardening (vegetables, fruit trees, etc.), mentor a young lady, and work with inmates at the local jail and state prison units. I live in a passive solar house (with an active … more
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About this book


A leading economist and researcher report from the front lines of a revolution in solving the world's most persistent problem.

When it comes to global poverty, people are passionate and polarized. At one extreme: We just need to invest more resources. At the other: We've thrown billions down a sinkhole over the last fifty years and accomplished almost nothing.

Dean Karlan and Jacob Appel present an entirely new approach that blazes an optimistic and realistic trail between these two extremes.

In this pioneering book Karlan and Appel combine behavioral economics with worldwide field research. They take readers with them into villages across Africa, India, South America, and the Philippines, where economic theory collides with real life. They show how small changes in banking, insurance, health care, and other development initiatives that take into account human irrationality can drastically improve the well-being of poor people everywhere.

We in the developed world have found ways to make our own lives profoundly better. We use new tools to spend smarter, save more, eat better, and lead lives more like the ones we imagine. These tools can do the same for the impoverished. Karlan and Appel's research, and those of some close colleagues, show exactly how.

In America alone, individual donors contribute over two hundred billion to charity annually, three times as much as corporations, foundations, and bequests combined. This book provides a new way to understand ...
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ISBN-13: 9780525951896
Author: Dean Karlan, Jacob Appel
Genre: Economic Policy & Development
Publisher: Dutton Adult
Date Published: April 14, 2011
ISBN: 9780525951896
Format: hardback
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