Summary of Social Experiments to Fight Poverty

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Donor fatigue presents a thorny challenge for aid organizations around the world. Many would-be altruists are deterred from donating to charity because they feel their contributions won’t make a difference, and decades of failed aid policy seem to corroborate that sentiment. According to economist Esther Duflo, a co-recipient of the 2019 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, micro experiments can help policy makers hit upon the best and most effectiveness poverty alleviation measures, allowing charities to target and eliminate causes of poverty more precisely.

About the Speaker

Development economist Esther Duflo is a co-recipient of the 2019 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.



Social policy makers can benefit greatly from randomized controlled trials to find the most effective ways to improve and save lives.

High-profile humanitarian emergencies, such as the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, quickly raise millions of dollars in aid donations. Alas, chronic crises – such as the 25,000 children worldwide who die each day of preventable diseases – fail to garner the same level of aid or publicity. Part of the reason is that confusion abounds about what type of aid actually helps people. For instance, does giving millions of dollars to developing countries alleviate suffering or create dependence and encourage corruption? No one knows for sure. While decades of international aid have failed to generate significant increases in GDP in Africa, there is no way to tell how Africa would have fared without the aid.

The issue of how to unequivocally solve global poverty is a large, thorny issue. By breaking that problem into smaller components, society can take steps to reduce poverty. Happily, social policy makers have a tool – randomized...

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