Editorial Reviews. From Publishers Weekly. Starred Review. The struggle for insufficient Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much by [Mullainathan, Sendhil, Shafir. Audible Sample. Audible Sample. Playing Playing Loading. Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much is a book by sociologists Sendhil Mullainathan, and Eldar Shafir. The authors discuss the role of scarcity in. Start by marking “Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much” as Want to Read: Sendhil Mullainathan (Goodreads Author), Eldar Shafir (Goodreads Author).


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Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir – review

This seems counterintuitive, but the book provides plenty of supporting evidence. What this means is that what is merely important, but not urgent, is consistently suppressed.

For example, replacing seriously worn tires on the car is important, of course, but at no scarcity sendhil mullainathan is it necessarily urgent — until it is too late. Dental care, same thing. Budgeting for long-term but completely predictable expenditure is important, but to someone tunneling through life, with two jobs with variable hours, child care troubles, etc.

This is where juggling scarcity sendhil mullainathan in: By way of an empirical analysis, they quiz strangers in a mall.

Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much by Sendhil Mullainathan

After getting some socioeconomic data, the intelligence of the participants is tested. Then they are asked a key question, and then their intelligence is tested some more.

The key question is scarcity sendhil mullainathan designed to selectively trigger the scarcity-capture phenomena. For those at the high end of the economic scale, there was no change in the intelligence testing.

Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much

Another empirical study looked at how air traffic controllers interact with their families. On days when the air traffic load was low, the controllers had a cognitively easy day, and went home and appeared to engage with their children in a stereotypically upper- or middle-class scarcity sendhil mullainathan.

On days when the job was especially tough, their interactions with their family were troubled and reminiscent of a stereotypical lower-class family. The effect of scarcity is seen across cultures and in diverse scarcity sendhil mullainathan.

Quite a few of the studies cited take place among struggling farmers or impoverished street vendors in India.

In fact, the book is chock full of interesting examples. Some are illustrative just-so stories or telling anecdotes, but the forty pages of endnotes are tied to the large volume of empirical scarcity sendhil mullainathan.

This weight of substantiation is necessary because the message is counter-paradigmatic.

While we often remind ourselves not to blame the victim in some contexts, that is still pervasive in many domains. Unfortunately, the mass of examples gets in the way of scarcity sendhil mullainathan.


Tunneling and decreased bandwidth causes individuals to focus on urgent tasks, needing scarcity sendhil mullainathan with a time constraint, rather scarcity sendhil mullainathan important tasks, needing attention but without a time constraint.

Urgent tasks cause many to use quick fixes, like loans, which have significant consequences. Without planning, and only addressing urgent tasks, low income individuals are ill-equipped to handle shocks, extreme events that require more slack than available and enter the scarcity cycle.

Designing for Scarcity[ edit ] The authors suggest that programs for low-income earners could be improved to make it them more effective for the groups they serve.

For example, low-income citizens often juggle many different obligations and experience scarcity sendhil mullainathan into other actions, like helping their children or addressing financial problems.