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.



Rukmini S: Why Swachh Bharat Abhiyan matters for India’s children

By Dean Spears, on December 7th, 2018

Rukmini's article, published  yesterday in LiveMint, contains some of the best data visualizations that I have seen from the NFHS-4.  She also achieves the reasonable but rare step of emphasizing that many issues simultaneously are important: height among Indian childrenRead More..


Social progress and social inequality: Measurements and assessments are needed... and possible

By Dean Spears, on November 3rd, 2018

One of r.i.c.e’s recent projects is SARI: a phone survey for Social Attitudes Research in India. A series of papers and other writings by Diane, Amit, Payal, Nazar, Nidhi, and the SARI team have shown that it is possible toRead More..


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..



Implications of WASH Benefits trials for water and sanitation

By Dean Spears, on February 25th, 2019

This paper argues that while the results of the WASH Benefits trials are important for understanding sanitation intervention and similar programmes, they do not imply that child health would not be improved by a large transition from open defecation to latrineRead 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..

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