ARE POOR PEOPLE IN POOR COUNTRIES DIFFERENT? I have posted several times (for example, here and here) on articles by Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee. I welcomed the articles because of the details about how people live on $1 a day and how the “middle class” lives on $2 to $10 a day. A profile of Esther Duflo by Ian Parker in the May 17 New Yorker also features Professor Banerjee, who is one of Professor Duflo’s mentors. Many economists have assumed that poor people are just like other people. Banerjee had the insight that being poor makes you different—because you have fewer opportunities. For example, you can’t borrow because you have no collateral. The profile tells how Professor Duflo’s view of the poor has changed. When she was a child, she thought of the poor as having no control of anything. She says she now thinks that the poor are “incredibly smart” about day-to-day matters because they have no margin of error, but that they can make huge errors such as not seeing the value of fertilizer or of immunization of their children.

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