Sendhil Mullainathan on behavioral economics and the hardest social problems

MacArthur winner and Harvard behavioral economist Sendhil Mullainathan talks about a tricky set of social problems — those we know how to solve, but don’t. We know how to reduce child deaths due to diarrhea, how to prevent diabetes-related blindness and how to implement solar-cell technology … yet somehow, we don’t or can’t. Why?


  • Jim Tobias

    I’d like to see more detail on some of the other cases he shows on that crowded slide: energy efficient light bulbs, low cost solar cells, low cost pumps, etc.

    Isn’t there already some academic literature (e.g., E. Rogers) on barriers to adoption, or at least the patterns of non-adoption or delayed adoption?

    I wonder if we’re seeing this effect in broadband adoption. Look how many non-adopters give the reason “I don’t have a computer”, then consider how effective bundling an inexpensive computer with broadband service can be — especially in mobile devices and smart phones.