Morten Jerven Morten Jerven

Reviews of Poor Numbers

It takes a little while, about a year, between publication and when academic reviews start appearing. Andrew Jack at the Financial Times was early with a review of the book before it was published, and Bill Gates similarly asked for a pre-publication copy of the book and had his review ready in May last year. The same month, Nicolas van de Walle, reviewed it in Foreign Affairs.

This month I had a smattering of reviews in academic journals. Rodrigo Garcia-Verdu, Senior Economist in the African Department and International Monetary Fund published his review in the Harvard African Policy Journal. Rodrigo mentions that the book could have relied more on francophone countries and included more information on technical assistance, but he also finds some time for some praise:

The book is persuasive in arguing that national account statistics in most countries are in serious need of revamping, both in terms of updating their base years and improving their collection, including through expanding their coverage.

To make its case, the book relies on a mixture of evidence, ranging from the description of the actual production process of national accounts statistics documented after field visits to some of the national statistical offices, the revision and careful comparison of published data by the national statistics offices (NSOs) and international organizations, and the results of a survey collected by the author. In this sense, the book is remarkable given that it is largely the result of the efforts of a single individual gaining access to NSOs, mainly through conducting interviews with their personnel and through searching often poorly documented methodological documents in their libraries and archives.

The review of Poor Numbers in African Affairs written by Sandrine MesplĂ©-Somps was just published. So was the review by Erin Lentz in the African Studies Review in addition  to Jane Guyer in the Canadian Journal of Development Studies and finally Marlous van Waijenburg just reviewed it in the Journal of Economic History.

My favourite: probably Michael Lipton’s review in the Journal of Development Studies. Most amusing and annoying: look no further than the video review by Busani Ngcaweni.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *