Media Coverage

  • Financial systems in developing countries: how poor people lift themselves out of poverty.
    Interview by Stephen Yeo of VOX EU
    December 10, 2010

    Robert M. Townsend of MIT talks about his research on how the lives of the world’s poor can be improved through more efficient financial systems. Drawing on data gathered from an extensive survey of Thai households, Townsend discusses risk-sharing and the importance of networks, the rate of saving and return on assets, and villages as small, open economies. The interview was recorded in London in November 2010.

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  • Economists may bring into focus the financial lives of billions.
    November 17, 2010

    Economists Krislert Samphantharak of UC San Diego and Robert M. Townsend of MIT have defined a far-reaching framework that may contribute significantly to the meaningful assessment and analysis of the financial lives of the world’s poor. The lack of a cohesive framework for gathering and organizing data about the finances of poor households often results in data that are inconsistent or analysis that does not make sense. This inhibits the ability of researchers and policymakers to make sound decisions that truly benefit the poor. In their book Households as Corporate Firms, published by Cambridge University Press,Samphantharak and Townsend establish a framework that shows how researchers can create detailed accounts for households based on corporate financial accounting principles.

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  • Economists reveal factors that help poor people lift themselves out of poverty.
    October 26, 2010

    What factors contribute to poor people in developing countries lifting themselves out of poverty? A forthcoming paper by economists Anan Pawasutipaisit of Thammasat University and Robert M. Townsend of MIT provides important insights into what kinds of households might be most effective at moving themselves out of poverty and how they are able do it. Their paper, which is due to be published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Econometrics, suggests that poor people who skillfully manage their assets are especially successful in improving their net worth. The authors discovered that the ability of poor families to increase their wealth was strongly related with their rate of saving and, even more so, with their ability to create a high return on assets.

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  • Templeton Foundation highlights Enterprise Initiative’s work.
    John Templeton Foundation 2008 Capabilities Report.
    October 15, 2008

    "We actually are the ones being trained by the successful individuals who are out there -- we learn from them, from what they do, and how they overcome obstacles."  That is the modest analysis offered by Professor Robert M. Townsend of the ambitious program over which he is presiding, funded by a $3.3 million Templeton grant, "Discovering the Power of Free Enterprise to Create Wealth and Alleviate Poverty Through a New Applied General Equilibrium Enterprise. The shorthand name for the project is "The Enterprise Initiative" and it is a collaborative effort between senior researchers at three major institutions: the University of Chicago, the Poverty Action Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Economic Growth Center at Yale University.


  • Database on developing economies to change economics.
    October 9, 2008

    The most comprehensive set of data gathered on Thailand's developing economy is now available free online. The Townsend Thai Data, which economist Robert M. Townsend and his colleagues gathered, is available at The site includes 10 years of consecutive data, which will be updated with new information as it becomes available. The resource gives users not only a snapshot of economic life at a particular time, but a constantly evolving portrait of Thailand's economy at different levels.

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  • Templeton Foundation funds major study of entrepreneurship in developing world.
    March 20, 2008

    The John Templeton Foundation has provided a $3.3 million grant for a new project to focus on wealth creation and poverty reduction in developing countries by bringing together some of the nation’s leading economists and scholars to form The Enterprise Initiative, based at the University of Chicago. University scholars will join researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Poverty Action Lab and Yale’s Economic Growth Center.

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  • Enterprising spirit: Economics professor Robert Townsend examines Thai entrepreneurship.
    By William Harms. University of Chicago Magazine, Jan/Feb 08, Vol. 100, Issue 3.
    January 1, 2008

    The Thai Family Research Project is a ten-year longitudinal study begun in 1997 by Robert M. Townsend. With a group of Thai collaborators, Townsend has compiled a comprehensive database, documenting how rural people in the rapidly developing country are, for example, borrowing money to invest in new farm equipment or purchasing vehicles to begin trucking businesses. The aim—as the title of his forthcoming book, Financial Systems in Developing Economies; Growth, Inequality, and Policy Evaluation in Thailand (Oxford University Press), makes clear—is to help researchers and policy-makers guide emerging nations into the global economy.