Chris Blattman

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A personal account of why I think Angus Deaton won the Nobel Prize

I was a master’s student at Harvard, more interested in economic history than anything else, when my econometrics professor, Rob Jensen, hired me to spend the summer in India to run a household survey — a questionnaire on every family member’s work activities, earnings, health, education, and what food and items they consumed. I didn’t know the first thing about household surveys, and so I bought a couple of books to bring with me.

One was Deaton’s Analysis of Household Surveys, a technical manual on analyzing poverty data. The other was Deaton’s hefty 3-volume manual on Designing Household Surveys, written with Margaret Grosh, which weighed probably 20 pounds in reality (and 50 in my memory). I needed a separate suitcase to bring them all to India. It’s only when I arrived I realized that Volume 1 held a CD on the back page with the full text of the books. Even so, I couldn’t bring myself to give away these paper treasures, and carted the heavy bastards around the country for four months.

An excerpt from my piece in Foreign Policy today. There were multiple times in my career where Deaton deeply influenced my direction. He couldn’t be a better pick, in my opinion.

In the piece, I also note how Deaton scooped me on my dissertation twenty years before I started, and what I think of his new critique of randomized trials.

26 Responses

  1. My only problem with your Foreign Policy piece is that “the world” does not wake up to a new Noble winner on a Monday. For many of us it is Tuesday.

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