research institute for compassionate economics



Dean Spears

Executive Director

Dean’s research focuses on children’s health  and human capital, which these days often means height, sanitation, and social forces in Indian households and villages. He has also done research about population issues in social welfare and about decision-making, in particular decision-making by poor people and the social psychology of interaction between richer and poorer people. Dean has worked in El Salvador, India, and South Africa. His is originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma and has an MA in International Studies from the University of Oklahoma. He has an MPA in Development Studies and a PhD in Economics from Princeton University.  He is currently a visiting economist at the Economic and Planning Unit of the Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi.

See his google scholar page here. You can view his CV here.



Grant window: Work with r.i.c.e. and 3ie to learn how to promote the use of SBM latrines!

By Dean Spears, on August 19th, 2016

We are delighted to announce that a grant window -- in partnership with 3ie and the WASH team at the Gates Foundation -- is now open for projects that can help us learn about how to promote the use ofRead More..


Preventing climate change is pro-poor

By Dean Spears, on December 9th, 2015

Two pieces of news today.  First, a new paper in PNAS by Francis Dennig,  Mark Budolfson, Marc Fleurbaey, Asher Siebert, and Robert H. Socolow: Inequality, climate impacts on the future poor, and carbon prices.  It is available for free atRead More..


Who is representing the most powerless Indians in Paris?

By Dean Spears, on December 5th, 2015

Today the Indian Express published my op-ed: Question from a future India.  The question I imagine is from the future Indians who will be so profoundly impacted by the decisions at this week's climate summit in Paris: who was politicallyRead More..


New review of Joshua Greene's Moral Tribes in EPW

By Dean Spears, on November 29th, 2015

This week, Economic and Political Weekly published my review of Joshua Greene's book Moral Tribes.  The review begins by considering the arguments Greene makes for the implications of moral psychology for ethics: perhaps many of our ethical intuitions are asRead More..



Greene's Moral Tribes and Cooperation and Conflict in India

By Dean Spears, on November 29th, 2015

A review of Joshua Greene's recent book Moral Tribes, with special attention to the consequences of India's highly fragmented society for the trustworthiness of ethical intuition. Review published in Economic and Political Weekly, Vol - L No. 48, November 28,Read More..


Caste, purity, and pollution and the puzzle of open defecation in India: Evidence from a novel measure in a nationally-representative survey

By Dean Spears, on September 25th, 2015

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 origins in theRead More..


Decision costs and price sensitivity: Field experimental evidence from India

By Dean Spears, on December 30th, 2014

Poor people often exhibit puzzlingly high sensitivity to low prices of important consumer health goods. This paper proposes decision costs as one explanation: whether a person buys at a price depends on whether she carefully considers the offer, which itself depends onRead More..


Bounded Rationality as Subjective Menus: Contraction Consistency and Intertemporal Choice

By Dean Spears, on December 30th, 2014

How would a boundedly rational agent react to a larger menu? I model bounded rationality as choice from an unobservable, subjective consideration subset. Consideration sets satisfy Sen's (1969) property alpha: larger objective choice sets can generate smaller consideration sets. InRead More..