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.



Nobel laureate Bill Nordhaus’ ideas for India

By Dean Spears, on October 15th, 2018

William Nordhaus has won a share of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Economics for his contribution to climate economics. In this post from Ideas for India, Dean Spears discusses Nordhaus’ work and its implications for India. He contends that IndiaRead More..


"Policy advice is not just a question of evidence and values, it also requires thinking politically."

By Dean Spears, on March 30th, 2018

Ashok Kotwal interviews Jean Drèze in Ideas for India.Read More..


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..



Willingness to sacrifice for climate mitigation in representative samples of Indian adults.

By Dean Spears, on August 2nd, 2018

Under review.Read 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..