Esther Duflo is the founder and director of the Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), a research network that evaluates social experiments to fight poverty. It’s concerned less with wide-ranging policy than with specific questions. Esther Duflo takes economics out of the lab and into the field to discover the causes of poverty and means to eradicate it.

In Esther Duflo’s TED Talk, she brought up three specific questions people care about:

  1. The “last mile problem” of immunization.
  2. Should we donate lots of bed nets to solve malaria?
  3. What do we do about education?

When you ask the general question of whether millions dollars of aid are good or bad for Africa’s development, no one seems to be able to produce an exact answer. No one knows and no one can do the control experiment to prove his or her point, because Africa is a singularly unique continent whose development cannot be so easily compared to other regions of the world. But when you specify that big idea into small questions, social experiments, in some areas, may answer these questions. This may not answer people’s big questions like whether or not donating to African charities is a good or bad thing, but they definitely can tell us what we should do to help make Africa a more stable and prosperous continent.

– Caiqing Jin (Kelly)

Source: TED Talk