‘More Than Good Intentions’: An Eye-Opener for Understanding Poverty and Ways to Reduce It

Woman in front house in Indian village.

Global poverty seems like an eternal issue. But unfortunately, people are polarized as well as passionate about this. (Image: Antonella865 via Dreamstime)

More Than Good Intentions: Improving the Ways the World’s Poor Borrow, Save, Farm, Learn and Stay Healthy is a book by Dean Karlan and Jacob Appel. Global poverty seems like an eternal issue. But unfortunately, people are polarized as well as passionate about this.

There are two extremes to this particular issue. On one side, there is a need for more and more investment of resources for addressing the problem, and on the other side, billions are being spent on the issue over the years with no visible results. Therefore it isn’t easy to understand the exact situation. In this book, Jacob Appel and Dean Karlan bring to the forefront an entirely new approach, which presents a realistic and optimistic bridge between the two extremes of the issue.   

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A globally persistent problem

In this book, a renowned economist and researcher discuss how this globally persistent problem can be solved or minimized. More Than Good Intentions is a pioneering book that takes human irrationality into account and unlocks the mystery of making philanthropic spending really work. In it, Appel and Karlan combine worldwide field research with behavioral economics.

More Than Good Intentions: Ideas for reducing poverty.
A leading economist and researcher report from the front lines of a revolution in solving the world’s most persistent problem. (Image: via Amazon)

The authors seem to have explored different villages globally and gathered insights and data about people, their living, their monetary condition, etc. From the writing, it appears that the authors are taking the readers with them to villages in India, the Philippines, Africa, and South America. You can feel how economic theory bumps into real life at all these places. Through their studies and travels, the writers are optimistic that the lives of the poor and downtrodden can be made better to quite an extent.

Small changes

In the book, the writers show brilliantly that if small changes are made in insurance, banking, healthcare, and other developmental initiatives, the lives of poor and downtrodden people will improve drastically globally. As such, the problem of poverty can be addressed to an extent.

There is a vast difference in the ways people lead lives in developed and developing countries. In developed nations, people have found various ways to improve their lives. How people have developed their lives will vary from one person to another.

People tend to use different tools and equipment to make lives better and more manageable in the developed world. For instance, there are new tools with which you can spend intelligently and save more. More savings means you have money at your disposal. With the availability of funds, people can eat better and live lives much better.

Philippine family sitting on steps in front of their door.
The authors seem to have explored different villages globally and gathered insights and data about people, their living, their monetary condition, etc. (Image: Sjors737 via Dreamstime)

These tools are not only for the affluent and wealthy. Even the poor and impoverished can use the tools and get benefits. Appel and Karlan have done intensive research on the matter, and some of their close colleagues put the research results on paper through this book. They have tried to show how the impoverished can use various tools to improve their lives.

Suppose you read a financial survey or research report. In that case, you will come to know that in the United States of America alone, there is enormous charity done every year — the donation figure is gigantic. Contribution figures touch almost more than $200 billion annually from individual donors in the U.S. alone. Moreover, when donations from foundations, corporations, and bequests are combined, the contribution from individual donors is almost three times more, which is a highly encouraging fact.

This book shows a new way of understanding what works for reducing poverty. Those billions of dollars obtained from charity and donations can be invested in other significant ways, which are effective in combating poverty. Once the problem of poverty is addressed successfully, it is evident that the overall well-being of the whole world is ensured.

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