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Innovative Social Policy Making to Alleviate Poverty in Developing Nations

Innovative Social Policy Making to Alleviate Poverty in Developing Nations

Esther Duflo, Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, MIT, delivers the 2015-16 Arnold C. Harberger Distinguished Lecture on Economic Development.

Thursday, April 28, 2016
6:00 PM
Korn Convocation Hall, UCLA Anderson School of Management
Los Angeles, CA 90095

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VIDEO: To watch the video from the lecture click here.

PODCAST: To listen to the podcast from the lecture click here.


"People who do crossword puzzles do not get Alzheimer’s." That is a correlation that suggests but does not assure that doing crossword puzzles is really beneficial. It might just be that early onset Alzheimer’s, before diagnosis, comes with a reduced ability and interest in doing crossword puzzles. To know more, we would have to conduct a randomized trial. Most public policy, to the extent that it has been evidenced-based relies on non-experimental correlations like puzzles and Alzheimer’s.

But in the last twenty years, large numbers of randomized controlled trials testing social policies have been conducted in developing countries. This talk will take stock of the role that randomized controlled trials have played to date, and can play in the future, in guiding policy. It assess both successes and tribulations, challenges and promises. Examples to be discussed in detail include the multi-country evaluation of graduation programs for the ultra-poor and microfinance programs.



ESTHER DUFLO is the Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics in the Department of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a co-founder and co-director of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL). In her research, she seeks to understand the economic lives of the poor, with the aim to help design and evaluate social policies. She has worked on health, education, financial inclusion, environment and governance.

Professor Esther Duflo’s first degrees were in history and economics from Ecole Normale Superieure, Paris. She subsequently received a Ph.D. in Economics from MIT in 1999. 

Duflo has received numerous academic honors and prizes including the Princess of Asturias Award for Social Sciences (2015), the A.SK Social Science Award (2015), Infosys Prize (2014), the David N. Kershaw Award (2011), a John Bates Clark Medal (2010), and a MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellowship (2009).  With Abhijit Banerjee, she wrote Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty, which won the Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award in 2011 and has been translated into 17 languages.

Duflo is a member of the President’s Global Development Council and she is a Founding Editor of the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics.


Established in 1997, the Arnold C. Harberger Distinguished Lecture on Economic Development celebrates Al Harberger as an eminent scholar and teacher. The lectures provide a special forum for outstanding students of international economics and policy to present their views and research to the UCLA community and the public.

Sponsor(s): Burkle Center for International Relations