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Development economics reading recommendations

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This page lists some reading recommendations in the subject of development economics. Because of the complexity of the subject, many of the books are controversial, and often contradict each other. We recommend that you develop a background in economics before delving into these books. Some of the more important of the recommendations here overlap with our reading recommendations for books with a contested thesis.

Book Author Purchase links What it's about
Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can't Explain the Modern World Deirdre McCloskey Amazon link McCloskey's book is an attempt to answer the question of why standards of living did not improve much until the 18th century, and then improved dramatically between the 18th and the 20th century. McCloskey considers numerous hypotheses proposed by others, and offers rebuttals to each. She then offers her own thesis and attempts to justify it. The book is part of a lengthy series.
we recommend the book largely because of its discussion of a wide variety of theories for economic growth over the last 200 years, rather than for McCloskey's own thesis, though that may also be of interest to many readers.
The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists' Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics William Easterly Amazon link Easterly argues that development economists have had a decidedly mixed record in helping kickstart economic growth around the world. We recommend that this book be read together with books by other development economists, in order to get broad perspective on development economics.
Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo Amazon link Summary pending.
The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time Jeffrey Sachs Amazon link Sachs argues for a "Big Push" approach to ending poverty, and this book extolls the Millennium Development Goals and Millennium Villages Project. Easterly's book The Elusive Quest for Growth was in part a response to the arguments put forth by Sachs, so reading both books can give a good sense of the debates in development economics.
The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good William Easterly Amazon link This book continues with some of the themes that Easterly raised in The Elusive Quest for Growth. Unlike the previous book, it concentrates more heavily on the track record of international aid and development assistance efforts, rather than considering the general question of how countries grow.
The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It Paul Collier Amazon link Summary pending.

See also