Nurith Aizenman

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

It was the summer of 2013 and Daniel Handel had just moved to Rwanda. He was unpacking boxes in his new house, when his wife walked over with her laptop and said, 'You have to listen to this radio story!' The piece she played him was by NPR's Planet Money team, and it profiled a charity that was testing a bold idea: Instead of giving people in poor countries, say, livestock or job training to help improve their standard of living, why not just give them cash and let them decide how best to spend it?

Editor's Note: This story was originally published on Nov. 1, 2016, and has been updated.

Crazy Rich Asians is, of course, not a movie about global development. But as it happens, the topic gets a cameo in the rom-com.

Main character Rachel Chu (played by Constance Wu) is a professor of economics. And on a trip to Singapore to meet the family of her "crazy rich" boyfriend Nick, she goes to a big wedding and runs into a Malay princess, who has written an article about ... microloans.

So many aid programs in low-income countries have set "empowering women" as their goal. They don't just want to boost women's incomes and health and education level, but to give them the ability to make their own decisions over those aspects of their lives.

But how do you actually gauge how much control a woman has over her life?

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