Esther Duflo: «La philanthropie ne doit pas se substituer aux gouvernements locaux»
Esther Duflo, co-founder and co-director of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) with Abhijit Banerjee, discusses her learnings and perspectives from a career dedicated to alleviating global poverty. Esther's approach to addressing social and economic development through randomised evaluations and evidence-based policy design, has resulted in governments around the world adopting the methodology. In a wide-ranging interview with Le Temps, Esther speaks on deconstructing stereotypes about the poor, resource management, the value of evidence-based policy and her children's book series, illustrated by Cheyenne Olivier and published by Seuil jeunesse.
On poverty in Europe, Esther states: "In the same way as in developing countries, poverty has many facets and is accompanied by a series of health problems, particularly mental ones, in the countries of the North – it is not just a question of money. All these problems combine in the same way in rich countries. A preconceived idea that we were able to deconstruct is that social assistance makes people lazy. This is not the case, and this has been demonstrated repeatedly, including for poor countries."
On the role of evaluations in informing government policy, she says: "Evaluations have their place in the government arsenal, to learn what works and what doesn't, what needs to be generalised, what needs to be stopped. We don't need to evaluate all public policies all the time. But it is effective to know what can be done and done well, and sometimes it is less costly to estimate the cost of a program before rolling it out. The amounts wasted are worse when we develop projects whose effectiveness has not been tested."