Most of the academic traffic is concentrated at the busy crossroads between economics and psychology, where a nudge is as good as a blink. This gap was first comprehensively explored in the pioneering work of Daniel Kahneman and the late Amos Tversky, through their Nobel-prize winning analysis of how man and woman, but mainly man is anything but a creature of logic in market places of all kinds. When I interviewed him about his ideas, he observed that the most useful subject for his study of internal biases and wonky reasoning had always been himself. Scarcity, the latest of the post-Kahneman adventures into this behaviourist world, comes with a quoted tribute from the master: "the finest combination of heart and head that I have seen in our field". Some of that dichotomy is a result of this book being a collaboration between another distinguished double act: a Harvard economist and a Princeton psychologist. The duetting professors present their adventures in metaphor as a kind of quest, though it is not always clear who is Quixote and who Sancho Panza.
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He studies decision-making, cognitive science, and behavioral economics. His recent research has focused on decision-making in contexts of poverty and on the application of behavioral research to policy. Prior to his talk at Boston University, Eldar Shafir sat down with PHP Fellow Gilbert Benavidez to discuss the many faces of scarcity, the behaviors that stem from it, and how to craft effective policy to combat it.
Here are some highlights from their conversation. They need more time to navigate and get anywhere with public transportation. There are physical hurdles, noise, and lack of respect, which happens to have a significant effect as well.
What happens is that a lack of money creates a lack of bandwidth. When you are struggling with not having enough, say money or time, you are also spending a lot of your cognitive resources managing it. From a policy perspective, that means when you see a poor client arrive, you have to keep in mind that not only do they have less money, they also have less bandwidth.
What is Scarcity? If you took them to New Delhi they would be middle class. The point is a psychological sense of scarcity where you basically cannot live a minimally acceptable life in the time and place in which you live.
Crafting Public Policy to Combat Perpetuation of Scarcity In general scarcity is going to be a function not just of your income, but of how easy or difficult it is to manage it. Take two people with equal income: One of them has a system that has automatic deposits and payments, reliable arrival income every two weeks, and reliable public transportation, while the other does not have those things.
Although the income is the same, one is going to be juggling scarcity a lot more than the other. So one way to deal with and reduce the scarcity tax is to help with the juggling. Those who need more help with the juggling, have less of it. Building Fault Tolerance into Social Programs Everything from forgetfulness to showing up late to the office for a benefit.
You have to be tolerant of lateness, impose less demands in terms of filling out paperwork and showing up on time, all the way to reforming systems to make things easier.
Medicare Part D was a great example. What you want to do is proof it for human failure. You could for example get a panel of experts and develop a list of five that would be the best choices for people. A Colony in a Nation: Abundance vs.
What you have is a division. The increasing wealth and poverty is becoming more problematic. A really interesting impact is that everybody is made less happy by that division, not just the poor but the rich as well. So in that sense everybody loses. I still, to this day, believe those in Washington have good intentions. They do things all over the place: everything from reminding students in college to reapply for FAFSA, to poverty, to poverty, to drunken driving in South Africa.
His primary interest is combining data analytics with law and policy instruments to pursue human rights. He was a Public Health Post Fellow. You might also like:.
Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir – review
Share via Email Indian sugar cane farmers performed worse in intellegence tests pre-harvest, when money was tight, compared to post-harvest. Awkwardly, for those who find this obnoxious, the research sometimes makes it seem true. Poverty, they argue, is indeed a matter of willpower and bad decisions, but the Mail has it back-to-front. Living with too little imposes huge psychic costs, reducing our mental bandwidth and distorting our decisionmaking in ways that dig us deeper into a bad situation. But the alarming conclusion of this book is how completely scarcity colonises the mind. In another study, Indian sugar cane farmers performed worse pre-harvest, when money was tight, compared to post-harvest.
Eldar Shafir: Policy in the Contexts of Scarcity
Stay ahead of the curve with recommended reading lists curated by experts. Join Blinkist to get the key ideas from Get the key ideas from Get the key ideas from Scarcity Why Having Too Little Means So Much By Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir Read in 15 minutes Start free Blinkist trial Upgrade to Premium Read or listen now Synopsis Scarcity makes the compelling case for the amazing impact that the perceived lack of vital resources — whether time, money or even friendship — has on our lives. It builds its case from fascinating scientific research which reveals how the feeling of scarcity can influence our decision making and even change the way we perceive the world. Key idea 1 of 9 Many problems in society are linked by the concept of scarcity. What do the tragedy of global poverty and the difficulties of sticking to yet another fad diet have in common? Yet upon closer inspection we discover that they are both consequences of the same malaise: scarcity. Imagine a world-class chef who, having spent her entire life perfecting her craft, must create her best dish in less than two hours for a TV show, under intense time pressure.