A Toast to Angus Deaton, Nobel’s New King of Anti-Poverty Economics

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The Nobel Prize in Economics was instituted in 1968 by the Swedish central bank in memory of Alfred Nobel. It was not part of the original Nobel prizes in Physics, Chemistry and other natural sciences established in 1895. Many economists, with varying tendencies, have won the Nobel Prize in Economics, ranging from monetarists like Milton Friedman to neo-Keynesians such as James Tobin.  In recent times, a critic of economic orthodoxy, Joseph Stiglitz, won the Nobel Prize for his work on information asymmetry.

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The 2015 prize awarded to Angus Deaton marks a slight departure when one considers the relevance of his work to developing countries like Nigeria. Deaton, currently a Dwight D. Eisenhower Professor of Economics and International Affairs at Princeton University, was awarded the Nobel Prize for designing economic policy that promotes welfare and reduces poverty. Furthermore, in order to understand the linkages, it is better to appreciate the consumption choices individuals make. According to the Nobel Prize Committee, “By linking detailed individual choices and aggregate outcomes, his research has helped transform the fields of microeconomics, macroeconomics and development economics.”

Apart from late Sir Arthur Lewis, a black man and Nobel Prize laureate, who based his work on unlimited supply of labour and who lived in Ghana, advising the legendary President Kwame Nkrumah, it is Deaton’s work on poverty that comes close to the realities of Africa and, indeed, Nigeria. The concept of poverty and its measurement remain contentious in economics and other social sciences. Its measurement is often based on income levels derived from surveys…

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