Economics, human biology and inequality: A review of “puzzles” and recent contributions from a Deatonian perspective

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The Nobel laureate Angus Deaton concentrated his work on puzzling developments and phenomena in economics. Puzzles are exciting elements in economics, because readers feel challenged by the question of how they can be solved. Among the puzzles analyzed by Deaton are: (1) Mortality increase of white, U.S. non-Hispanic men (2000 to today); (2) Why are height and income sometimes closely correlated, but not always?; (3) Height inequality among males and females; and (4) The Indian puzzle of declining consumption of calories during overall expenditure growth.

This article reviews these “puzzles” and the main insights that Deaton derived from their discussion insofar as they pertain to the biological aspects of human development. I will focus on the field of this journal, Economics and Human Biology, in which Deaton has been very active over the last two decades. I will also document some of the responses by other scholars and their contributions to these puzzles, as they relate to the field of economics and human biology.

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