Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Economists' fatal flaws

Berkley, Matt (2003): Economists' fatal flaws. Published in: Taipei Times (7 June 2003): p. 8.

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...a prime aim of international development policy is to reduce the proportion of people in poverty. There is something wrong here. The proportion will fall faster if more poor people die earlier. The proportion is not an indicator of success of hungry people unless you know that survival rates are improving. Let us hope that the UN will recognize this as soon as possible.

Let us also hope that social scientists will, in their outcome measures, count survival as a good outcome in itself rather than of no welfare value.

Let us also hope that one day economists will recognize that income is not a measure of poverty unless the inflation rate for the poor is taken into account.

There are other common flaws in economic research on poverty: such as failure to take into account

a) that extra items of expenditure may be needed in cities, where more poor people now live, and

b) that the ratio of adults to children is rising in many countries, and adults need more food.

Together, the mortality flaw and the inflation flaw, in particular, may have contributed to the devising of policies which, though they made the statistics look better, made the condition of poor people worse.

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