Podcast episodes

Episode #7: Behavioural science: a cure for poverty? – Saugato Datta

Struggling to make ends meet reduces mental head space and makes it harder to make long-term decisions. Applying behavioural science to anti-poverty interventions can help people to take more strategic action. But widespread poverty reduction won’t be achieved without substantial degrees of redistribution.

These are some of the messages in this episode with Saugato Datta. Saugato is Managing Director at ideas42, a non-profit organisation that uses insights from behavioural science to improve positive impacts of social programmes. They operate around the world, from the Mozambique and Kenya to the US.

Behavioural science has become an increasingly important component of policymaking around the world. By understanding why people behave in a certain way and how they might be incentivised to act differently, behavioural science has informed many different policies ranging from reducing traffic jams to increasing physical activity. Its application within the realm of social policy is relatively new but growing quickly. It is appealing for its potential to improve social outcomes but also contested for its patriarchal nature and its reinforcement of the narrative that people in poverty aren’t able to take sensible decisions on their own.

Saugato explains what behavioural science can bring to social policy, elaborates on positive impacts that ideas42 and partners have achieved in various countries around the world, and reflects on some of the pitfalls and challenges.  

In this episode, Saugato refers to various initiatives. More information about ideas42’s work on applying behavioural insights to cash transfers can be found here and to family planning and reproductive health can be found here. More information about the study on farmers and investment in fertilisers can be found here.

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