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This episode, EconTalk host Russ Roberts welcomed back Chris Blattman to continue an ongoing conversation about the best ways to help alleviate poverty in places like Africa. Blattman recently penned a letter to Bill Gates to challenge his idea that the best way to help the poor in Africa would be to give them all chickens. In May, Roberts talked with Lant Pritchett about his response to Blattman’s open letter to Gates. Are you with me? I promise, the chain isn’t as confusing as it sounds.

In any case, the real question under consideration here is what’s the best way to help raise people out of extreme poverty, and how do we know what the best way is? Is there a way to conduct experiments to help discover the best means?

1. Why does Blattman think Gates is wrong about giving chickens to the poor? How does Blattman’s view compare to Pritchett’s? What about Roberts? And of course, what about you?  What do Roberts and Blattman mean when they make a distinction between poor people and poor countries, and why is this important to them?

3. What’s wrong with Pritchett’s admonition to focus poverty alleviation efforts only on economic growth, according to Blattman? What does Blattman think should be the focus of development economists and others interested in curing poverty? To what extent do you agree with him, and why?