research institute for compassionate economics


Dean Spears

Executive Director

[email protected]

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..



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..


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..