Scarcity: The New Science of Having Less and How It Defines Our Lives

Sendill Mullainnathan and Eldar Shafir | 2014
Posted in: Social Psychology
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Too often we argue about the existence, size, and implications of the welfare state. We quibble about whether we should feed people or teach them how to fish. The implicit assumption is that the poor lack some basic knowledge that makes managing their finances difficult or they have some character flaw that prevents them from managing well. This book turns those assumptions on their heads. The authors, using research, experiments and anecdotal stories show that having too little makes smart people stupid; the same person loses between 13 to 14 IQ points when financial scarcity was simulated among Princeton students. Losing 13 IQ points can take you from superior to average or average to borderline deficient. If goal-oriented, highly motivated Princeton students can lose bandwidth due to a simulation, then we have no need to resort to character flaws or lack of knowledge to explain why the poor stay poor.