Author's Evening: Samuel Bowles

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Much popular belief--and public policy--rests on the idea that those born into poverty have it in their power to escape. But the persistence of poverty and ever-growing economic inequality around the world have led many economists to seriously question the model of individual economic selfdetermination when it comes to the poor. In Poverty Traps, Samuel Bowles, Steven Durlauf, Karla Hoff, and the book's other contributors argue that there are many conditions that may trap individuals, groups, and whole economies in intractable poverty. For the first time the editors have brought together the perspectives of economics, economic history, and sociology to assess what we know-- and don't know--about such traps.

Among the sources of the poverty of nations, the authors assign a primary role to social and political institutions, ranging from corruption to seemingly benign social customs such as kin systems. Many of the institutions that keep nations poor have deep roots in colonial history and persist long after their initial causes are gone.

Neighborhood effects--influences such as networks, role models, and aspirations--can create hard-toescape pockets of poverty even in rich countries. Similar individuals in dissimilar socioeconomic environments develop different preferences and beliefs that can transmit poverty or affluence from generation to generation. The book presents evidence of harmful neighborhood effects and discusses policies to overcome them, with attention to the uncertainty that exists in evaluating such policies.

Can the welfare state survive in an economically integrated world? Many have argued that globalization has undermined national policies to raise the living standards and enhance the economic opportunities of the poor. This book, by sixteen of the world's leading authorities in international economics and the welfare state, suggests a surprisingly different set of consequences: Globalization does not preclude social insurance and egalitarian redistribution--but it does change the mix of policies that can accomplish these ends.

Globalization and Egalitarian Redistribution demonstrates that the free flow of goods, capital, and labor has increased the inequality or volatility of labor earnings in advanced industrial societies--while constraining governments' ability to tax the winners from globalization to compensate workers for their loss. This flow has meanwhile created opportunities for enhancing the welfare of the less well off in poor and middle-income countries. Comprising eleven essays framed by the editors' introduction and conclusion, this book represents the first systematic look at how globalization affects policies aimed at reducing inequalities.