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Marie Spear

I really enjoyed this article, because I feel like it gives really thorough and wholistic view to the lives and spending patterns of the poor. That being said, however, I agree with the people above who commented generally on the authors' response to the fact that the "poor" and "extremely poor" spend less than half of their income on food, despite those same people reporting that only 57% had enough to eat on a day to day basis (using Udaipur as an example). The authors began by making assumptions about the poor's spending habits based on what they considered the most rational/reasonable decision, that is, by spending as much on possible on food or "on other commodities which they greatly need." Instead, they reveal that the poor tend to spend the rest of their income on non-necessary expenditures including, alcohol, tobacco, and especially festivals.
The authors seem to imply that these type of expenditures, especially the festivals, are a waste or at the very least a poor choice, considering so many suffer from malnutrition, hunger, or poor health. However, I think this forgets the fact that the poor have greater "needs" than just pure survival, and that as people also have the right and the inclination to value less tangible items. It reminds me of discussions we had back in poverty 101 (I think regarding Sen?) that poverty is not necessarily a measure of income, but also a measure of whether or not you can participate in society. The poor also want to participate in the society they live in, and I think that the authors diminish this in their discussion about the poor's spending habits.

Jenny Rea Bulley

Something that struck me in this article that the author did not explore thoroughly is the cultural, social, and communal barriers to acting in the ways he described as beneficial. He went into how and why the poor do not save, invest in education, migrate long-term, etc; however, he did not explore some of the non-economic barriers to acting in these ways. Something I found while working on the Navajo Indian reservation is that their ties to family, land, and history trumped their financial obligations. They would rather stay on the reservation earning less income than move off and earn more. The same goes for weddings, funerals, and ceremonies. Often, these practices have heavy spiritual and cultural significance that to neglect the would be detrimental to individuals.

Another thing I notice while reading this article is that the author tends to assume that the poor are consciously making these decisions with full knowledge. I do not think that is the case in most instances. Perhaps the poor would purchase higher calorie food if they were better informed about nutrition. Perhaps they would specialize and reap better returns to scale if they knew what benefits could be reaped.

Overall, I agree with most the author said about the way poor interact with the world around them. There is more to poverty than individual neglect and market barriers. Like other students discussed, there exists a cycle of poverty that ensnares generations of people. There is no easy solution to this problem as it is an aggregate of many problems.


I found the final section of the paper in which the authors question some of the behavior of the poor very interesting. However, I would be interested to know how some of the behavior of the poor laid out in the book compares to those who are not considered poor. The author speaks of self-control problems as if it is solely an issue faced by the poor. I would imagine no individual feels they are making perfect, long term decisions with their money. When describing the trap of poverty I think it is important to be able to separate behaviors that are a result of ones situation (little infrastructure etc.) from behaviors that are simply a part of being human. I think this distinction becomes very important when thinking about addressing poverty issues. It is much more effective to attempt to change institutions and environments that contribute to poverty than to change very common human behaviors.

(Posted by James L. not sure why my name isnt showing)

Sean Gebhard

One section in this article that really stood out to me was The Pursuit of Health and Well-Being. Considering our discussion from Tuesday on the Human Development Index, health is a primary dimension in this measure of social and economic development. As I read the paper, I continually asked myself, "how can this particular problem or issue be traced back to the issue of health?" For example, one staggering statistic that Banerjee and Duflo point out is that in the Indian city of Udaipur, "Forty-three percent of the adults and 34 percent of the adults aged under 50 report having difficulty with carrying out at least one of their 'activitiesof daily living', such as working in the field, walking, or drawing water from a well" (8). Poor health therefore puts them at an even greater disadvantage as it directly affects their ability to work in a society where they are forced to diversify their job options and work multiple jobs. In regards to migration, if one can’t even work in their own field let alone walk, they certainly will not be able to migrate even in the prospect of a better job presents itself far away from home. Assuming a poor household even has access to an educational institution, if a parent is sick and can't work, the onus falls on the child to do the work, hampering their ability to improve their own human capital in the classroom. Finally, even if access to healthcare is available, there is a high chance that treatments may do more harm than good due to the incompetence of doctors in these poor areas as described by Das and Hammer 2004.


As it has been already pointed out it is surprising to see that poor people who earn less than $1 per day are spending a considerable amount of their budget in alcohol and tobacco (ranging from 2.1% in Papua New Guinea to 8.1% in Mexico ) and in festivals. One could argue that they could use this money for food, education, or even they could put the funds in a savings account in case of a future emergency. Why don't they do so? One possible answer could be related to the importance of maintaining strong ties with family and friends. Poor people due to their economic and social situation lack access to many basic needs and are vulnerable to many aspects of society that they cannot control. Nonetheless, one thing that they have for sure is their family and friends which they see as important support systems that help them deal with many daily challenges. Therefore, festivals and family reunions become important in maintaining and building these strong relationships. As one would expect these gathering often involve alcohol and tobacco. Looking just at the surface , one might tend to judge the choices of the poor to spend their money in “luxuries” per say, but digging deeper one might find that festivals are as in important as food for poor people because while the latter ensures their physical survival the former ensures their emotional survival.

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