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Esther Duflo’s advice to students? Spend time in the field. “It’s only through this exposure that you can learn how wrong most of your intuitions are and preconceptions are,” she explains. For Duflo, it was time spent in the Soviet Union on the brink of collapse. While there she saw how Jeff Sachs used the tools of economics to advise policymakers on matters of crucial importance. To her it seemed like the best job in the world—and she began to pursue it in earnest. Now it is she who is advising governments on how best to reduce poverty, having co-founded one of the leading policy research centers in the world. That work, together with that of frequent collaborators Abhijit Banerjee and Michael Kremer, has now been honored with the Nobel Prize.
She joined Tyler to discuss that work, including how coaching increases the effectiveness of cash transfers, why she cautions against falling in love with growth rates, what France gets right about child-rearing, the management philosophy behind her success building J-PAL, how she briefly became the face of an anti-Soviet revolution, the under-looked reasons behind the decline of geographic mobility in the United States, what rock climbing can teach us about being a good empirical economist, her daily musical move from Bach to Bob Dylan, and more.
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