From: Matt Berkley@aol.com
Sent: 10 May 2001
Subject: Re: Life
Thanks very much for these
and your time yesterday - it was good to talk to you.
wondered whether commercial (pensions and insurance) actuaries may have
information that is relevant as regards differential mortality and income in
industrialised countries. More generally, it seems that to tackle
these questions I need a synthesis of at least:
- "micro" - level observations
theories of utility
- population studies.
I am attempting overall is to examine rigorously the process by which
conclusions are drawn as to increases or decreases in welfare, from data
collected on people living at different times, in any population where survival
rates are highly variable. This includes looking at non-linear
relationships between income/consumption and welfare (taking into account
changes in mortality risk), changes in ratios of earners to non-earners, choice
of weightings, choice of average, and estimates of probability for inferences.
Some of the questions I have relate to the way that progress is
measured on the international development goals, particularly poverty reduction,
and to possible causal relationships between rates of progress on the different
My own background, by the way, is in classics and experimental
psychology, and my instincts on micro-level trends in poor countries come partly
from living with ordinary people in Bangladesh in the 1980s. I
believe that it is possible for social science to come to more reliable
conclusions about aggregate trends in welfare in poor countries, and to narrow
the gap between statistical methods and observational methods; I
also believe that this cannot be done without rethinking some aspects of
methodology from first principles.