The Nobel Prize committee Monday announced that Angus Deaton, a Princeton University professor and one of the world’s leading experts on poverty, has been awarded its 2015 prize in economics.
Deaton won the Nobel Prize for “his analysis of consumption, poverty, and welfare,” the committee said in its announcement. His award-winning work focuses on three central questions: How do consumers distribute their spending among different goods? How much of society’s income is spent and how much is saved? How do we best measure and analyze welfare and poverty?
The committee says that understanding the answers to these questions is key to designing economic policies that promote welfare and reduce poverty.
Deaton’s research examines the dynamics of poverty by studying household consumption surveys as opposed to looking at income data. The prize committee said this methodology “has helped transform development economics from a theoretical field based on aggregate data to an empirical field based on detailed individual data.”
Born in Scotland, Deaton holds dual British and U.S. citizenship. Currently, he serves as the Dwight D. Eisenhower professor of international affairs and as professor of economics and international affairs in Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He has been a faculty member there since 1983.
Deaton is currently researching the determinants of health in rich and poor countries and the measurement of poverty in India and around the world. He is best known for encouraging economists look at individuals’ consumption choices when analyzing statistical data.
“In the end, it’s individual peoples’ well-being that counts,” Deaton said in a statement. “When you’re counting the poverty rate in India or the mortality rate in the United States, all of those things you’re looking at are aggregates. But it’s one death at a time. It’s one person at a time who’s in poverty. … In the end, I don’t think you’re going to want to get away from the individual.”
As The New York Times points out, Deaton’s emphasis on the individual consumer leads to “skepticism about general or universal rules for promoting economic development” and risks oversimplifying poverty measurements.