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Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The Challenge of World Poverty (Spring 2011)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology via MIT OpenCourseWare


Course Features
  • Video lectures
  • Captions/transcript
  • Selected lecture notes
  • Assignments: written (no examples)
  • Exams and solutions
Course Description

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? Why do some countries grow fast and others fall further behind? Does growth help the poor? Are famines unavoidable? How can we end child labor—or should we? How do we make schools work for poor citizens? How do we deal with the disease burden? Is micro finance invaluable or overrated? Without property rights, is life destined to be "nasty, brutish and short"? Has globalization been good to the poor? 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?


1. Introduction.
2. What is a Poverty Trap?.
3. Social Experiments: Why and How?.
5. Is There a Nutrition-Based Poverty Trap?.
6. Nutrition: The Hidden Traps.
8. Health: Low Hanging Fruit?.
9. Education: Setting the Stage.
10. Is It Possible to Deliver Quality Education to the Poor-The Pratham-JPAL Partnership.
11. Education: The Man Made Trap.
12. (Somewhat) Un-Orthodox Findings on the Family.
13. How Do Families Decide?.
14. Gender Discrimination.
15. Risk and Insurance.
16. Insurance.
17. The (Not So Simple) Economics of Lending to the Poor.
19. The Promise and Perils of Microfinance.
20. Savings.
21. Savings 2.
22. Entrepreneurs and Workers.
24. Policies, Politics: Can Evidence Play a Role in the Fight Against Poverty?.
25. Policies, Politics: Can Evidence Play a Role in the Fight Against Poverty?, cont..
26. Five Thoughts in Place of a Sweeing Conclusion.

Taught by

Prof. Esther Duflo and Prof. Abhijit Banerjee


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