Discussions on Deaton

Slow start today to blogging; my urgent attention was directed towards preparing the discussion at our weekly Conversations slot this week, the topic being birthday boy and recent Nobel prize-winner Angus Deaton.

I’ve prepared these slides: https://www.dropbox.com/s/7n6u1wgq6eiqfq2/deaton.pdf?dl=0

Hopefully they are of use, I’ll be delighted if they generate some interesting discussion.

Deaton seems to be, by and large, a very empirical man, which means he has less inclination towards wild outspoken comments that might make a discussion spicy.

He’s advocated the use of more and more micro data in saying things at the aggregate level, the macroeconomy, so he’s far from irrelevant when it comes to us thinking about macroeconomics in the Spring, and such a focus on individual level, or disaggregate level data, does raise a question of how widely applicable any conclusions that can be drawn will be. Individual data is messy as a general rule, whereas aggregate data is that bit less messy (albeit full of puzzles due to the effect of aggregation).

Interestingly enough, this does appear to be his main criticism of the use of Randomised Control Trials (RCTs) in a lot of economic development work: do they reality apply more widely? An RCT is a trial in economics that resembles a medical trial – somehow the treatment is randomly administered in the population at large, allowing more to be learnt about the impact of that treatment than might be the case without random assignment.

Probably most controversially, Deaton has argued that foreign aid is useless – mainly because it undermines local governments, and he argues that poorer countries need their governments to function better in order for them to grow longer term.

See you at 1pm in HumSS 125!