Scarcity Book Summary - Scarcity Book explained in key points

Scarcity summary

Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir

Why Having Too Little Means So Much

4.1 (36 ratings)
15 mins

Brief summary

Scarcity by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir explains how our brains react to scarcity. Whether it is time, money, or food, scarcity affects our decision-making abilities, and how this knowledge can be used to reduce poverty and promote cognitive health.

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    Many problems in society are linked by the concept of scarcity.

    What do the tragedy of global poverty and the difficulties of sticking to yet another fad diet have in common? At first there doesn’t seem to be any link; in fact, they seem to be contradictory in every way.

    Yet upon closer inspection we discover that they are both consequences of the same malaise: scarcity.

    In fact, scarcity, defined as “having less than you feel you need,” is the link that connects many of the seemingly unrelated problems we face every day. This isn’t physical scarcity, as in the literal unavailability of objects, but rather the feeling of not having enough, whether it’s time, money, food or even something more abstract like education.

    Imagine a world-class chef who, having spent her entire life perfecting her craft, must create her best dish in less than two hours for a TV show, under intense time pressure. Here, time is scarce, and she doesn’t feel she has enough minutes for what she needs to do.

    The chef’s feeling of scarcity is essentially the same as that of the dieter who’s struggling to eat less than he’s accustomed to. To him, scarcity is the amount of calories he feels he’s missing from his meals.

    However, to a certain degree we can control our experience of scarcity by using something called a critical safety valve. For example, if you’ve overcommitted to work projects, your safety valve might mean missing a few deadlines. Or if you’re on a diet, you can take a break and have a slice of pizza. In this way, you are choosing how much scarcity you have to face.

    But not everything has a critical safety valve. If you’re poor, you can’t just decide to be rich for a day to alleviate the pressure. This lack of freedom to manipulate your situation means that poverty represents a particularly extreme form of scarcity. Regardless, the actual experience of scarcity is the same.

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    What is Scarcity about?

    Scarcity makes the compelling case for the amazing impact that the perceived lack of vital resources – whether time, money or even friendship – has on our lives. It builds its case from fascinating scientific research which reveals how the feeling of scarcity can influence our decision making and even change the way we perceive the world.

    Scarcity Review

    Scarcity (2013) explores the hidden effects of scarcity on our lives and provides practical insights on how to overcome its negative impact. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Through compelling research and real-life examples, it sheds light on how scarcity affects our decision-making and behavior, offering valuable insights into human psychology.
    • The book presents practical strategies for managing scarcity, helping readers break free from the cycle of scarcity and improve their overall well-being.
    • With its thought-provoking ideas about scarcity and its consequences, the book captivates readers' attention, making it an engaging and enlightening read.

    Who should read Scarcity?

    • Behavioral economists and students
    • Policy makers
    • Anyone struggling to get out of a rut, be it poverty, obesity or time management

    About the Author

    Sendhil Mullainathn is a professor of economics at Harvard University, and a recipient of the MacArthur Foundation’s Genius Grant.

    Eldar Shafir is William Stewart Tod Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs at Princeton University, where he specializes in inference mechanisms, judgement, decision making and other economic behavior.

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    Scarcity FAQs 

    What is the main message of Scarcity?

    The main message of Scarcity is how scarcity affects our thoughts, behaviors, and decision-making.

    How long does it take to read Scarcity?

    The reading time for Scarcity varies, but it typically takes a few hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Scarcity a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Scarcity is definitely worth reading. It provides valuable insights into the psychological impact of scarcity and how it shapes our lives.

    Who is the author of Scarcity?

    The authors of Scarcity are Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir.