How to Tackle Poverty

Economists are closing in on the answers

• Author(s): Diane Coyle • Published: September 2007
• Pages in paper: 6


There has been an unprecedented political focus on economic development and poverty reductions since the Gleneagles Summit of 2005, yet it seems economists have been unable to agree on how to capitalise on the opportunity. Is more aid the solution? Or the problem? This article argues that, beyond the headline-grabbing generalities, development economists are building up a detailed body of empirical evidence specific to individual countries which will shape more effective policy interventions in the years ahead. As in many other areas of applied economics, there is a quiet revolution in what economists know and consequently in their policy advice.

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Pride and Prejudice
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Economics is one of the most powerful of intellectual disciplines, applying enlightened scepticism to human society. Its analytical rigour often makes economists unpopular, but that ought to be a source of pride. Unfortunately, we are all too often our own worst enemies, as the formal study of economics has taken the scientific method to an unproductive extreme that is vanishingly rare even in the natural sciences. The most interesting research in economics now— looking at history or geography or institutions or psychology—is steering away from this reductive blind-alley, but there is a long way to go before economics returns to its fruitful intellectual roots.

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