Saturday, October 10, 2020

Angus Deaton Goes To Cambridge

From The Conversable Economist, October 7:

The Education of Angus Deaton

Gordon Rausser and David Zilberman have "A Conversation with Angus Deaton" in the Annual Review of Resource Economics (2020, 12: pp. 1-22) For those not already somewhat familiar with Deaton's life and work, the first few page provide a capsule overview. The interview goes into more depth about his early education, working with Richard Stone and Arthur Lewis, and his more recent work including his thesis about "deaths of despair" in the US and his skepticism about the popular randomized control trial methodology.  As a sample, here are some Deaton's comments for how he entered the field of economics, which for modern American academics will sound as if Deaton arrived from some different planet. Deaton says: 

For me in high school, the great virtue of mathematics was you could do it very quickly. I had lots of time for writing and music and for playing sports and things that I actually cared about a lot more. When I went to Cambridge, that really didn’t work anymore. There were a lot of really serious mathematicians there. It’s something that we observe in  all of our classes, I think. You get these kids who come in and they’ve been superstars wherever they were before and suddenly realize they’re not such bright superstars compared with some of the other people in the class.

I spent a couple of years not really doing mathematics but playing cards and going to the movies and enjoying myself. Then at some point the authorities, like my tutor, said, “You can’t go on like this. You’ve really got to do something else. The mathematicians don’t want you anymore.” I said, “Well, I don’t really want them either.” Then I said, “Well, what should I do?” They said, “Well, there’s only one thing for people like you, and it’s called economics.” I had no idea what it even was. I said, “What’s economics?” ......


If interested see also:

Her Husband Got the Nobel But She's The Brains of the Outfit