Sunday, August 10, 2008

The spirit is willing

From a report on an Edge "master class" on Behavioral Economics.

Sendhil Mullainathan
showed a bunch of data on itinerant fruit vendors (all women) in India. 69% of them are constantly in debt to money lenders who charge 5% per day interest. The fruit ladies make 10% per day profit, so half their income goes to the money lender. They also typically buy a couple cups of tea per day. Sendhil shows that 1 cup of tea per day less would let them be debt free in 30 days, doubling their income. 31% of these women have figured that out, so it is not impossible. Why don't the rest get there?
There are different kinds of poverty
very busy people are exactly like these poor fruit vendors. If you have very little time, it is scarce and you are as time-poor as the fruit ladies are cash-poor. So, you act like there is a high discount—and you commit to future events—like agreeing to travel and give a talk. Then as the time approaches, you tend to regret it and ask "why did I agree to this?"

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