The Elusive Quest for Growth

The Elusive Quest for Growth

Economists' Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics

By William R. Easterly

Why economists' attempts to help poorer countries improve their economic well-being have failed.
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Why economists' attempts to help poorer countries improve their economic well-being have failed.

Since the end of World War II, economists have tried to figure out how poor countries in the tropics could attain standards of living approaching those of countries in Europe and North America. Attempted remedies have included providing foreign aid, investing in machines, fostering education, controlling population growth, and making aid loans as well as forgiving those loans on condition of reforms. None of these solutions has delivered as promised. The problem is not the failure of economics, William Easterly argues, but the failure to apply economic principles to practical policy work.

In this book Easterly shows how these solutions all violate the basic principle of economics, that people—private individuals and businesses, government officials, even aid donors—respond to incentives. Easterly first discusses the importance of growth. He then analyzes the development solutions that have failed. Finally, he suggests alternative approaches to the problem. Written in an accessible, at times irreverent, style, Easterly's book combines modern growth theory with anecdotes from his fieldwork for the World Bank.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262050654 360 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 4 illus.


$36.95 T ISBN: 9780262550420 360 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 4 illus.


  • A highly readable and iconoclastic treatment of the determinants of economic growth.

    Richard N. Cooper

    Foreign Affairs

  • It is impossible to convey the depth and range of The Elusive Quest for Growth.

    Bruce Bartlett

    The Wall Street Journal


  • William Easterly knows his way not only around economics but also around the developing world. He has written a hard-nosed book about the hardest problem of all: how to get the poorest countries on a path of sustained growth.

    Robert M. Solow

    Institute Professor of Economics, Emeritus, MIT, and Nobel Laureate in Economics

  • This is a brilliant, original work. It is simply the best book I know on economic development. Easterly writes with clarity, honesty, and humor. And he is courageous in his analysis of what went wrong with the development policies followed by the World Bank.

    Sergio Rebelo

    Tokai Bank Distinguished Professor of International Finance, Kellogg Graduate School of Management, Northwestern University

  • Every college student who protests against free trade and every young economist who builds models of development should read this extraordinary book. Easterly presents both the power of simple economic models of the development process and the painfully disappointing track record of official development assistance. He writes beautifully and cares deeply about his subject.

    Paul Romer

    Graduate School of Business, Stanford University

  • Curing emerging market poverty is on everyone's list of priorities along with peace on earth. Yet the success has been dismal. This powerful book may help cure the ignorance of people with pat answers, do-gooders, the Seattle-Prague crowd, and economists who have neglected to keep up with the evidence. Far from dry, the book takes you to the scene, gives you the local color, and challenges you to concede that a lot of your prejudices are just that—yet in the process does not throw economics overboard. Brilliant!

    Rudi Dornbusch

    Ford Professor of Economics and International Management, MIT