Media Coverage

  • Townsend Elected New Member of National Academy of Sciences
    National Academy of Sciences
    May 1, 2012

    Robert M. Townsend was elected as a 2012 new member of the National Academy of Sciences for his distinguished and original research. Established in 1863, the National Academy of Sciences annually selects new members within the scientific and engineering fields dedicated to the use of science and technology for public good. Townsend is among 84 newly elected members of the now 2,152 active members of the National Academy of Sciences.

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  • Townsend Participates in World Bank-IMF Spring Meeting on Financial Inclusion
    The Consortium on Financial Systems and Poverty
    April 22, 2012

    Robert M. Townsend participated in the World Bank-IMF panel discussion titled, "Financial Inclusion: From Principles to Action." Townsend joined colleagues from the Mexico Ministry of Finance, the World Bank, and the Alliance for Financial Inclusion to present and discuss strategies for enhancing financial inclusion. Townsend's remarks on the panel included insights gained from his 15 years of research in urban and rural Thailand. Townsend noted the emphasis on examining "the big picture" of how financial systems are put together and possibilities for innovation using data and theory.


  • Townsend Gives Chief Economist Talk at World Bank
    All About Finance World Bank Blog
    December 21, 2011

    Robert M. Townsend gave the Financial and Private Sector Development (FPD) Network Chief Economist Talk at the World Bank in November. Townsend's talk, entitled "Informal Networks and Shadow Banking: Policy Implications" presented an overview of research lessons on risk sharing and networks in Thai villages as well as the importance of extensive panel data in understanding these occurrences.  The lecture was also geared toward policymakers, highlighting potential policy implications, backed by the current research.

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  • Townsend Awarded 2011 Laffont Prize in Economics
    MIT News
    November 18, 2011

    Robert M. Townsend has been named the 2011 recipient of the Jean-Jacques Laffont Prize in economics for his work in Thailand, combining the theoretical and applied aspects of economics.  The prize will be awarded by the Institute of Industrial Economics (IDEI) in January 2012.

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  • More Than Just Minutes: Mobile Banking in Kenya
    MediaGlobal News
    September 14, 2011

    Mobile technology is changing the world in profound and unimaginable ways.  In the developing world, mobile phones present an opportunity to bypass costly infrastructure required for installing landlines, making long distance communication not only easy, but cheap. Together, Robert M. Townsend, William Jack of Georgeton, and Tavneet Suri of MIT are examining mobile technology in Kenya that allows people to send and receive money.

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  • The Rich Complexity of Village Life
    The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, The Region
    June 15, 2011

    A Thai village study finds wide variation in risk attitudes, suggesting that policy to smooth economic volatility may need to be nuanced. “Heterogeneity and Risk Sharing in Village Economies” (Minneapolis Fed Working Paper 683, January 2011, Pierre-André ChiapporiKrislert Samphantharak, Sam Schulhofer-Wohl, and Robert M. Townsend) looks at differences in risk aversion among households in four rural provinces in Thailand. The authors discover a rich complexity of village economics and a wide range of preferences regarding risk: Some households have an extreme aversion to it; others welcome it.  The research further suggests that before policymakers seek to address poverty by mitigating fluctuations that impose hardships on some villagers, they need to consider this variability. A number of households, the researchers indicate, might actually benefit from volatility in village income.

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  • Escaping Poverty
    New research reveals how poor get richer
    April 20, 2011

    Economists have developed a wealth of tools in recent decades.  But few scholars have applied those methods to an important social question: how do poor people manage their finances?

    Economics Professor Robert M. Townsend is shedding light on the issue through a long-term study of the poor in small villages in Thailand. Townsend's work shows that having a sound financial strategy emphasizing saving significantly helps families escape poverty, and education is also linked to advances in wealth.

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  • How Do We Know if Financial Innovations in Developing Countries Help or Hurt in the Fight Against Poverty?
    March 22, 2011

    Ever since widespread defaults on microloans in India thrust the microfinance industry into crisis, a compelling and fundamental question has been renewed: How do we determine what impact financial innovations and financial policy changes will have on the economies of developing countries?  A new book by MIT economist Robert M. Townsend explains for the first time how economists and policymakers can merge rigorous economic models with extensive data to answer important questions like these. Financial Systems in Developing Economies outlines the theoretical and practical foundations for analyzing the impact of financial systems on growth, inequality and poverty. Townsend demonstrates how researchers can quantify potential gains and losses to individual households and firms, to regions, and to national economies under varying financial policies.

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  • Townsend on Development, Poverty and Financial Institutions
    Interview on EconTalk, hosted by Russ Roberts
    March 15, 2011

    Robert M. Townsend of MIT and the Consortium on Financial Systems and Poverty talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about development and the role of financial institutions in growth. Drawing on his research, particularly his surveys of households in Thailand, Townsend argues that both informal networks and arrangements and formal financial institutions play important roles in dealing with risk. Along the way, he discusses the role of microfinance in poor countries and the potential for better financial arrangements to lead to higher growth and the accumulation of wealth.


  • Households as corporate firms.
    Interview by Stephen Yeo of VOX EU
    December 17, 2010

    Robert M. Townsend talks about his recent book, co-authored with Krislert Samphantharak, that analyses household finance in developing countries using integrated household surveys. Townsend describes how to create new and more comprehensive household ‘accounts’, and use them to analyse productivity, capital structure and liquidity in households. The interview was recorded in London in November 2010.