Who is Jeffrey Sachs

Jeffrey Sachs is an American economist who is a professor of sustainable development and health policy and management at Columbia University. His work centers on economic development, poverty, globalization and global warming.

BREAKING DOWN Jeffrey Sachs

Jeffrey Sachs is an expert on economic development and the fight against poverty. He serves as a special advisor to United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on sustainable development goals and is also the director of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network. Previously, he was the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

Sachs has served as an advisor to the governments of many developing countries across the world. He is known for his work advising post-communist countries as they transitioned to market economies and for advising countries in Latin America on bringing down high inflation rates.  

Sachs is well known outside of academia for his New York Times bestsellers, "The End of Poverty" and "Common Wealth." He has received numerous awards and honors, and Time magazine named Sachs one of the most influential leaders in the world.

Sachs was born in Detroit, Michigan, and he earned his BA, MA and PhD from Harvard, where he also taught before joining Columbia University.

Sachs’ Work with Economic Development and the Poverty Trap

In his 2005 book, "The End of Poverty", Sachs laid out a blueprint to eradicate poverty by 2025. He also detailed his vision for addressing the poverty trap, which is a mechanism that makes it very difficult for people to escape poverty. The poverty trap exists when an economic system requires a significant amount of capital in order to earn enough to escape poverty.

The solution that Sachs proposed for escaping the poverty trap was that aid agencies should function as venture capitalists, funding developing nations the way venture capitalists fund start-up companies. As with investment in start-ups, he proposed that developing nations should receive the full amount of aid necessary for them to begin to reverse the poverty trap.

According to Sachs, people living in extreme poverty lack a few different kinds of capital: human capital, business capital, infrastructure, natural capital, public institutional capital and knowledge capital. He argues that the public sector should invest in human capital, infrastructure, natural capital, public institutional capital and knowledge capital, whereas the private sector should invest in business capital.

Sachs has advised many African countries on his strategies for reducing poverty, as well as working with international organizations including the World Health Organization, the African Union, the Asian Development Bank and the Islamic Development Bank on development and sustainability.