research institute for compassionate economics


Dean Spears

Executive Director

[email protected]

Dean is an economic demographer and development economist.  His research areas include: the health, growth, and survival of children, especially in India; the environment, pollution, and climate change; and population dimensions of social well-being. 

In addition to being a founding Executive Director of r.i.c.e., Dean is Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Texas at Austin, is a visiting economist at the Economic and Planning Unit of the Indian Statistical Institute in Delhi, and is an affiliate of the Climate Futures Initiative at Princeton University.   With Diane Coffey, he is the author of the award-winning book Where India Goes: Abandoned Toilets, Stunted Development, and the Costs of Caste.

See his google scholar page here and his CV here.



New open access paper with Aashish Gupta in JEEM

By Dean Spears, on October 23rd, 2017

My paper with Aashish, "Health externalities of India's expansion of coal plants: Evidence from a national panel of 40,000 households," is now available open access at JEEM at this link.  Here's the abstract: Coal power generation is expanding rapidly inRead More..


What fraction of sexual violence in India is within marriages?: Media coverage of research by Aashish Gupta

By Dean Spears, on September 5th, 2017

In most countries around the world, marital rape may be prosecuted (see box 11 on page 113 of this UN report).  But in India, marital rape is not classified as a crime.  Recently the Government of India filed an affidavitRead More..


Where India Goes in The Economist

By Dean Spears, on August 17th, 2017

The book and the SQUAT survey are both quoted in an article in the Asia section of this week's issue of The Economist: "Indian officials are humiliating people who defecate outdoors: Building lots of toilets does not guarantee they willRead More..


Where "Where India Goes" Goes

By Dean Spears, on August 7th, 2017

In homage to the people who posted photos of On What Matters on top of things, a post on Where India Goes has been the past few days.  I won't start by commenting on the "subtle art" of book curationRead More..



Open defecation in rural India, 2015-2016: Levels and trends in the NFHS-4

By Dean Spears, on January 28th, 2018

The Government of India’s NFHS-4 offers the best new data on open defecation in rural India to be released in over a decade. Although open defecation has become less common than it was ten years ago, it is still highlyRead More..


The puzzle of open defecation in rural India: Evidence from a novel measure of caste attitudes in a nationally-representative survey

By Dean Spears, on November 15th, 2016

Uniquely widespread and persistent open defecation in rural India has emerged as an important policy challenge and puzzle about behavioral choice in economic development. One candidate explanation is the culture of purity and pollution that reinforces and has its originsRead More..


Caste and Life Satisfaction in Rural North India

By Dean Spears, on January 23rd, 2016

The article explores the association between caste and life association, an indicator to measure the subjective well-being of people. In addition to reporting the differences in life satisfaction across caste categories in rural North India, where the Dalits and OtherRead More..


Improving sanitation is a policy priority for children’s human capital in rural India: lessons from recent literature and the IHDS

By Dean Spears, on November 30th, 2015

The first part of this chapter reviews evidence from the literature of a large effect of open defecation on child height that can account for important international differences. The second part of the chapter presents new empirical results using theRead More..