MITx: 14.73x: The Challenges of Global Poverty

School: MITx
Course Code: 14.73x
Classes Start: 5 Feb 2014
Course Length: 14 weeks
Estimated effort: At least 6 hours/week


This course is intended to be an introduction to the main topics in global poverty as conceptualized by leading economists and political scientists. Some previous exposure to economics will be... see more...
MITx The Challenges of Global Poverty

The Challenges of Global Poverty

A course for those who are interested in the challenge posed by massive and persistent world poverty.

About this Course

This is a course for those who are interested in the challenge posed by massive and persistent world poverty, and are hopeful that economists might have something useful to say about this challenge. The questions we will take up include: Is extreme poverty a thing of the past? What is economic life like when living under a dollar per day? Are the poor always hungry? How do we make schools work for poor citizens? How do we deal with the disease burden? Is microfinance invaluable or overrated? Without property rights, is life destined to be "nasty, brutish and short"? Should we leave economic development to the market? Should we leave economic development to non-governmental organizations (NGOs)? Does foreign aid help or hinder? Where is the best place to intervene? And many others.

At the end of this course, you should have a good sense of the key questions asked by scholars interested in poverty today, and hopefully a few answers as well.

All required readings are available within the courseware, courtesy of The MIT Press and Perseus Books Group. You can also purchase a hard copy of both books. A print version of the textbook, Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty, is available to purchase here: A print version of the textbook, The Elusive Quest for Growth, is also available for purchase. The MIT Press is offering enrolled students of 14.73x a 30% discount on books ordered directly through the publisher’s website. To take advantage of this offer, please use promotion code EQG30.

Ways to take this edX course:

Simply Audit this Course

Audit this course for free and have complete access to all of the course material, tests, and the online discussion forum. You decide what and how much you want to do.


Try for a Certificate

Looking to test your mettle? Participate in all of the course's activities and abide by the edX Honor Code. If your work is satisfactory, you'll receive a personalized certificate to showcase your achievement.

Course Staff

  • Esther Duflo

    Esther Duflo

    Esther Duflo is the Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics in the Department of Economics at MIT. She was educated at the Ecole Normale Supérieure, in Paris, and at MIT. She has received numerous honors and prizes including a John Bates Clark Medal for the best American economist under 40 in 2010, a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship in 2009. She was recognized as one of the best eight young economists by The Economist magazine, one of the 100 most influential thinkers by Foreign Policy since the list exists, and one of the “Forty under 40” most influential business leaders under forty by Fortune magazine in 2010.

  • Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee

    Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee

    Abhijit Banerjee was educated at the University of Calcutta, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and Harvard University. He is currently the Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics at MIT. Banerjee is a past president of the Bureau for Research in the Economic Analysis of Development, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Econometric Society, and has been a Guggenheim Fellow and an Alfred P. Sloan Fellow. He is the recipient of many awards, including the inaugural Infosys Prize in 2009, and has been an honorary advisor to many organizations including the World Bank and the government of India.


This course is intended to be an introduction to the main topics in global poverty as conceptualized by leading economists and political scientists. Some previous exposure to economics will be helpful for students, as concepts such as utility functions, Engel curves, and income vs. substitution effects will be discussed. Similarly, some familiarity with statistics will be useful, since we will be examining leading research in the field, which often involves interpreting empirical evidence in the form of regression results. However, previous exposure to economics and statistics is not critical to understanding the material and learning from the course. Various resources will be made available throughout the course for students to learn or refresh on the most important topics. We also provide links to recommended resources for further study.


How does this course use videos? Do I need to watch the lectures live?

Various videos will be released each week including lecture sequences on the topic for that week, special interview videos with leading economists, and supplementary videos for reviewing topics in economics and statistics. You can watch these at your leisure once the come available each week, though we encourage you to keep up with the pace of the course.

Will the text of the lectures be available?

Yes, transcripts of the videotaped lectures will be available alongside each video on YouTube.

Is there a required textbook?

You do not need to buy a textbook. All material is included in the edX course and is viewable online.

How are grades assigned?

Grading will be based on lecture sequence questions (25%), homework assignments (45%), a brief final project (10%), and a final exam (20%). See syllabus for more details.

Will certificates be awarded?

Yes. Online learners who achieve a passing grade in a course can earn an honor code certificate of mastery. These certificates will indicate you have successfully completed the course, but will not include a specific grade. The certificates will be issued by edX under the name of MITx.

Will the material be made available to anyone registered for this course?

Yes, all the material will be made available to all students.

What type of computing environment do I need for this course?

You need to have a computer running one of the following operating systems:

  • Microsoft Windows, version XP or greater (XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7)
  • Apple OSX, version 10.2 or greater
  • Linux - most distributions that have been released within the past two years should work

In addition, you will need the ability to download, install, and run software on your computer.