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Poverty: A Ranking of What I’ve Been Reading

Summary:
Here’s a hierarchical picture of the books I’ve been reading about poverty during the last nine months.  Left-right position means nothing.  Vertical row, however, indicates quality. Top row: These are the books that deeply changed the way I think about poverty.  Whether or not I fundamentally agree with the work, I learned fruitful new ways of looking at the facts.  The big tan book with the faded spine is The Children of Sanchez by Oscar Lewis. 2nd row: These are highly informative books.  While they taught me nothing fundamental, the author shares vast knowledge about poverty with the reader.  Many of them begin and end with dogmatically ideological chapters, but the rest of the book remains well-crafted research. 3rd row: These books are just OK.  They have

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Poverty: A Ranking of What I’ve Been Reading

Here’s a hierarchical picture of the books I’ve been reading about poverty during the last nine months.  Left-right position means nothing.  Vertical row, however, indicates quality.

Top row: These are the books that deeply changed the way I think about poverty.  Whether or not I fundamentally agree with the work, I learned fruitful new ways of looking at the facts.  The big tan book with the faded spine is The Children of Sanchez by Oscar Lewis.

2nd row: These are highly informative books.  While they taught me nothing fundamental, the author shares vast knowledge about poverty with the reader.  Many of them begin and end with dogmatically ideological chapters, but the rest of the book remains well-crafted research.

3rd row: These books are just OK.  They have some new details about poverty, but not much more.

Bottom row: These are the self-righteously uncurious books.  They helped me understand how specific authors preach to their respective choirs about poverty.  They taught me next to nothing about poverty itself.

Yes, I know that many of the books in my third row are “classics.”  I’m happy to concede that they may have been great in their day.  Unfortunately, classics in the third row haven’t aged well.  Modern researchers can safety skip them.

P.S. Needless to say, there were a few close calls.  I rounded down.

P.P.S. If the book titles look illegible, click here and zoom in.

Bryan Caplan
Bryan Caplan is Professor of Economics at George Mason University and Senior Scholar at the Mercatus Center. He has published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the American Economic Review, the Economic Journal, the Journal of Law and Economics, and Intelligence, and has appeared on 20/20, FoxNews, and C-SPAN. Bryan Caplan blogs on EconLog.

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