Angus S. Deaton

Deaton’s Early Life and Education

Angus Stewart Deaton (b. 1945) was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, in the UK.

Deaton was from a modest economic background. He was able to attend private boarding schools in Edinburgh for his high school education thanks to scholarships he won. Upon completing his secondary education, he worked at summer jobs to help put himself through college.

Deaton attended Cambridge University for his higher education, earning his bachelor’s degree in 1967, his master’s degree in 1971, and his doctorate in 1974, all from that institution.

Deaton’s Career

In 1972, Deaton was appointed a Fellow of Cambridge University’s Fitzwilliam College, where he also became Director of Studies in Econometrics and Research Officer in the College’s Department of Applied Economics.

In 1976, Deaton was appointed Professor of Econometrics at the University of Bristol, a position he held until 1983. During the 1979–1980 academic year, he also held a visiting professorship at Princeton University, in Princeton, New Jersey, in the US.

In 1983, Deaton left Bristol to become a professor at Princeton, where he has taught ever since. During the 1990–1991 academic year, he was a visiting professor at Churchill College, Cambridge.

Deaton currently holds joint appointments at Princeton, as the Dwight D. Eisenhower Professor of International Affairs, Emeritus, and as Professor of Economics and International Affairs, Emeritus, in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the Department of Economics.

In 2015, Deaton was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. His Nobel lecture, entitled “Measuring and Understanding Behavior, Welfare, and Poverty,” was published the following year in the American Economic Review (see “Selected Works by Deaton” below).

Deaton’s Ideas

Deaton’s research has always focused on the field of econometrics, which is essentially the theoretical study and design of various methods of measurement of economic phenomena.

In an early paper, Deaton presented a highly mathematical model of economic demand known as the “almost ideal demand system (AIDS),” which was widely read and cited by other econometricians and economists more generally.

A review article by Kenneth J. Arrow and others, published in 2011 in the American Economic Review, said that Deaton’s article:

. . . introduces a practical system of demand equations that are consistent with preference maximization and have sufficient flexibility to support full welfare analysis of policies that have an impact on consumers.

Throughout his career, Deaton has directed his attention especially towards the application of econometrics to welfare and development economics.

However, Deaton is undoubtedly best known to the general public for an article he published in 2015, in collaboration with Anne Case, which the authors later elaborated upon in their 2020 book (see below).

In this work, Deaton and Case documented increasing mortality rates among non-Hispanic whites, especially those with less education, due to such things as drug overdoses, alcohol poisoning, cirrhosis and other chronic liver diseases, and suicide.

The phrase that Deaton and Case introduced to represent this phenomenon—“deaths of despair”—caught on and has been widely cited and discussed, in the academic literature and in the public media alike.

Selected Works by Deaton

1. Works Authored or Co-authored by Deaton

The Measurement of Demand and Price Elasticities,” European Economic Review, 6: 261274 (1975).

The Structure of Demand in Europe, 19201970 (out of print) (1975).

Models and Projections of Demand in Post-War Britain(1975).

An Almost Ideal Demand System,” with John Muellbauer, American Economic Review, 70: 312–326 (1980).

Economics and Consumer Behavior, with John Muellbauer (1980).

The Measurement of Welfare: Theory and Practical Guidelines (1980).

“Model Selection Procedures, or Does the Consumption Function Exist?,” in Gregory C. Chow and Paolo Corsi, eds., Evaluating the Reliability of Macroeconomic Models. New York: John Wiley & Sons; pp. 4369 (1982).

Life-Cycle Models of Consumption: Is the Evidence Consistent with the Theory?,” NBER Working Paper 1910 (1986) (reprinted in Truman F. Bewley, ed., Advances in Econometrics: Fifth World Conference, Volume II. New York: Cambridge University Press; 121148) (1987).

Quality, Quantity and Spatial Variation in Price,” American Economic Review, 78: 418–430 (1988).

Understanding Consumption (1993).

International Commodity Prices, Macroeconomic Performance, and Politics in Sub-Saharan Africa, with Ronald I. Miller (1996).

The Analysis of Household Surveys: A Microeconometric Approach to Development Policy (1997; reissued: 2019).

Relative Deprivation, Inequality, and Mortality,” NBER Working Paper 8099 (2001).

The Convoluted Story of International Studies of Inequality and Health,” International Journal of Epidemiology, 31: 546–549 (2002).

Household Surveys, Consumption, and the Measurement of Poverty,” Economics Systems Research, 15: 135–159 (2003).

Global Patterns of Income and Health: Facts, Interpretations, and Policies,” NBER Working Paper 12735 (2006).

Measuring Poverty,” in Abhijit Banerjee, Roland Bénabou, and Dilip Mookherjee, eds., Understanding Poverty. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 316 (2006).

Evidence-based Aid Must Not Become the Latest in a Long String of Development Fads,” in Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee, Making Aid Work. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press (2007).

Instruments of Development: Randomization in the Tropics and the Search for the Elusive Keys to Development,” NBER Working Paper 14690 (reprinted in Proceedings of the British Academy, 2008 Lectures, 162: 123–160) (2009).

The World Development Report at 30: A Birthday Tribute or a Funeral Elegy?,” in Shahid Yusuf, ed., Development Economics through the Decades: A Critical Look at Thirty Years of the World Development Report. Washington, DC: World Bank; 105114 (2009).

Understanding the Mechanisms of Economic Development,” Journal of Economic Perspectives, 24: 3–16 (2010).

Price Indexes, Inequality, and the Measurement of World Poverty,” American Economic Review, 100: 5–34 (2010).

The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality (2013).

Rising Morbidity and Mortality in Midlife Among White non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st Century,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, 112: 15078–15083 (2015).

Measuring and Understanding Behavior, Welfare, and Poverty,” American Economic Review, 106: 1221–1243 (2016).

Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism, with Anne Case (2020).

The Great Divide: Education, Despair and Death,” with Anne Case, NBER Working Paper 29241 (2021).

2. Book Edited or Co-edited by Deaton

Essays in the Theory and Measurement of Consumer Behaviour: In Honour of Sir Richard Stone (1981).

The Great Indian Poverty Debate, with Valerie Kozel (2005).

Selected Works about Deaton

Besley, Timothy, “The Contributions of Angus Deaton,” Scandinavian Journal of Economics, 118: 375396 (2016).

Besley, Timothy, Anne Case, and Christina Paxson, eds., “Symposium in Honour of Angus Deaton,” Economic Journal, 121: F119–F227 (2011).