About the Book & Authors
A surprising and intriguing examination of how scarcity—and our flawed responses to it—shapes our lives, our society, and our culture
Why do successful people get things done at the last minute? Why does poverty persist? Why do organizations get stuck firefighting? Why do the lonely find it hard to make friends? These questions seem unconnected, yet Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir show that they are all examples of a mind-set produced by scarcity.
Drawing on cutting-edge research from behavioral science and economics, Mullainathan and Shafir show that scarcity creates a similar psychology for everyone struggling to manage with less than they need. Busy people fail to manage their time efficiently for the same reasons the poor and those maxed out on credit cards fail to manage their money. The dynamics of scarcity reveal why dieters find it hard to resist temptation, why students and busy executives mismanage their time, and why sugarcane farmers are smarter after harvest than before. Once we start thinking in terms of scarcity and the strategies it imposes, the problems of modern life come into sharper focus.
Mullainathan and Shafir discuss how scarcity affects our daily lives, recounting anecdotes of their own foibles and making surprising connections that bring this research alive. Their book provides a new way of understanding why the poor stay poor and the busy stay busy, and it reveals not only how scarcity leads us astray but also how individuals and organizations can better manage scarcity for greater satisfaction and success.
Sendhil Mullainathan, a professor of economics at Harvard University, is a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” and conducts research on development economics, behavioral economics, and corporate finance. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Follow Sendhil Mullainathan on Twitter @m_sendhil
Eldar Shafir is the William Stewart Tod Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs at Princeton University. He conducts research in cognitive science, judgment and decision-making, and behavioral economics. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey.
To learn about the authors' nonprofit organization, ideas42, click here.
Our interest in scarcity led us to a remarkable study from more than a half century ago. The authors of that study did not think of themselves as studying scarcity, but to our eyes they were studying an extreme form of it—starvation. It was toward the end of World War II, and the Allies realized they had a problem. As they advanced into German-occupied territories, they would encounter great numbers of people on the edge of starvation. The problem was not food; the Americans and British had enough to feed the prisoners and the civilians they were liberating. Their problem was more technical. How do you begin feeding people who have been on the edge of starvation for so long? Should they be given full meals? Should they be allowed to eat as much as they want? Or should you start by underfeeding them and slowly increase their intake? What was the safest way to bring people back from the edge of starvation?
- For more excerpts, visit http://us.macmillan.com/BookCustomPage_New.aspx?isbn=9780805092646