Learning about development economics

Dean Yang posted his syllabus (pdf) for the graduate Development Economics course he is teaching at the University of Michigan this Fall. It looks a terrific course. I particularly approved of the selection of books recommended for purchase:

Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty (2011) by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo – an inspiring exposition of the use of experimental methods to determine what interventions are effective in certain contexts. There’s a danger of overdoing the enthusiasm for RCTs because you need to be confident about controlling for context – a bag of lentils as an inducement to get a child vaccinated has different results in, say, Chennai and Liverpool. But this approach represents a huge step forward in development economics.

Poor Economics: Barefoot Hedge-fund Managers, DIY Doctors and the Surprising Truth about Life on less than $1 a Day

Portfolios of the Poor: How the World’s Poor Live on $2 a Day (2009) by Daryl Collins, Jonathan Morduch, Stuart Rutherford, and Orlanda Ruthven. One of my favourite books. It gathers new evidence about the financial services people on very low incomes need – and the answers are sometimes surprising. Should be read by anyone with views on microcredit and/or payday loans.

Portfolios of the Poor: How the World’s Poor Live on $2 a Day

Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much (2013) by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir. I haven’t read this yet but am keen to do so. Here’s a great review by Cass Sunstein and here it is written up on Marginal Revolution.

Scarcity: Why having too little means so much

The fact these are recommendations on a graduate course syllabus should not put anyone off – the two I’ve read are clear and definitely accessible to the general reader.