Accounting for the Poor

13 Pages Posted: 15 Apr 2020

See all articles by Robert M. Townsend

Robert M. Townsend

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Date Written: October 2013


Economists and other social scientists have long tried to understand the nature of poverty and how poor people make decisions. For example, T.W. Schultz, a Nobel Laureate, former professor of economics at the University of Chicago, and former president of the American Economic Association, spent his career working in development and agricultural economics. In his 1980 Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Schultz suggests that there is some accounting for the behavior of the poor in agriculture. “Farmers, the world over, in dealing with costs, returns, and risks are calculating economic agents. Within their small, individual, allocative domain they are fine‐tuning entrepreneurs, tuning so subtly that many experts fail to recognize how efficient they are” (Schultz 1980).

Suggested Citation

Townsend, Robert M., Accounting for the Poor (October 2013). American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Vol. 95, Issue 5, pp. 1196-1208, 2013, Available at SSRN: or

Robert M. Townsend (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ( email )

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