What do new economics undergraduates care about? Many of the same things as Angus Deaton, the 2015 Nobel laureate in Economics, it seems.
Last week the ECON1001 freshers at UCL were asked “What is it that economists study, or should study?”. You can see their replies, and the word that dominated, in the word cloud (above) that was created by lecturers Parama Chaudhury and Christian Spielmann. And because UCL’s CORE students also studied Unit 1 (The capitalist revolution) last week, they will have read about what recent empirical research can tell us about inequality. For example:
When 300 years of British rule of India ended in 1947, according to Angus Deaton, an economist: “It is possible that the deprivation in childhood of Indians… was as severe as that of any large group in history”.
Also, on Unit 1’s reading list: The Great Escape: Health, Wealth and the Origins of Inequality – Deaton’s most recent book, and the source of that quotation.
Deaton’s early work developed models of consumer demand that could be taken to data and used to evaluate outcomes. He then pioneered measurement of consumption and saving in household micro data, meaning that we could perform micro-level estimation of macro models. He also pioneered measurement of household economic wellbeing in developing countries. As a result we can estimate measures such as global poverty lines or estimation of the number of poor people in the world.
More recently, he has been investigating the relationship between health, subjective wellbeing, and economic development. He argues that, while consumption and income are clearly ingredients of a good life, they are not independent of our mental and physical health.
So Deaton has pioneered many of the ideas and themes we now use in CORE: bridging micro- and macroeconomics, connecting economic theory to empirical data, and measuring distribution (that is, the number of poor people) together with growth.