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Duncan Thomas, Norb F. Schaefer Professor of International Studies and Professor of Public Policy Studies and Research Professor of Duke Global Health Institute and Faculty Research Scholar of DuPRI's Population Research Center and Faculty Research Scholar of DuPRI's Center for Population Health & Aging and Associate of the Duke Initiative for Science & Society  

Office Location: 314 Social Sciences Bldg, Box 90097, Durham, NC 27708
Duke Box: 90097
Email Address: d.thomas@duke.edu
Web Page: http://ipl.econ.duke.edu/dthomas

Areas of Expertise

  • Health Policy, Global Health

Ph.D., Princeton University, 1986
B.S., University of Bristol, 1981

Research Categories: Develolpment, Population and Family Economics; Global Health

Research Description:
Duncan Thomas joined Duke in 2007 with appointments in Economics and in Global Health. His previous appointments include Yale, RAND and UCLA. His work primarily focuses on the behavior of individuals, households and families in very low income settings with particular emphasis on the dynamics underlying decision-making within families, the motivations for those decisions and their consequences. Much of his work is concerned with health and human capital of the population. Recent work has paid special attention to the impact of shocks and disasters on population well-being.

Recent Publications   (More Publications)

  1. Thomas, D; Seeman, T; Potter, A; Hu, P; Crimmins, E; Herningtyas, EH; Sumantri, C; Frankenberg, E. "HPLC-based Measurement of Glycated Hemoglobin using Dried Blood Spots Collected under Adverse Field Conditions.." Biodemography and Social Biology 64.1 (January, 2018): 43-62. [doi]  [abs]
  2. Ho, JY; Frankenberg, E; Sumantri, C; Thomas, D. "Adult Mortality Five Years after a Natural Disaster.." Population and Development Review 43.3 (September, 2017): 467-490. [doi]  [abs]
  3. LaFave, D; Thomas, D. "Height and cognition at work: Labor market productivity in a low income setting.." Economics and Human Biology 25 (May, 2017): 52-64. [doi]  [abs]
  4. Frankenberg, E; Thomas, D. "Human Capital and Shocks: Evidence on Education, Health and Nutrition." Nber (April, 2017).
  5. Frankenberg, E; Friedman, J; Ingwersen, N; Thomas, D. "Linear child growth after a natural disaster: a longitudinal study of the effects of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami."  ELSEVIER SCIENCE INC, April, 2017: 21-21.

Thomas' research interests focus on population health and development. His work delves inside the black box of the family to provide empirical evidence on how resources are allocated within families in very low resource environments and highlights the role of female empowerment in improving the well-being of the next generation. Understanding the mechanisms that explain why healthier people are richer is a theme that runs through much of his research. He implemented a large-scale randomized intervention in Indonesia and established the causal impact of poor nutrition on economic prosperity among adults. Related research examines the impact of unanticipated financial shocks in Indonesia, Russia and the United States on health and well-being. The immediate and longer-term impact of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami on a broad array of indicators of well-being are explored to identify the behaviors and coping mechanisms that are most effective in the aftermath of a devastating disaster.

Thomas has invested heavily in the design and implementation of large-scale population-based longitudinal surveys that contribute to the information infrastructure for scientific research. This includes co-directing waves of the Indonesia Family Life Survey (IFLS) and Mexican Family Life Survey (MxFLS). His work has emphasized measurement of health using biomarkers, innovative measurement of economic status and preferences and the importance of minimizing attrition in longitudinal surveys. This includes following migrants who were interviewed in Mexico and have subsequently been interviewed in both the U.S. and Mexico to better understand the causes and consequences of international migration.

Thomas' research has been supported by the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, MacArthur Foundation and the World Bank. His work has been published in such journals as the American Economic Review, Journal of Political Economy, Economic Journal, Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, Demography, Population Studies and the American Journal of Public Health. He was elected Vice President of the Population Association of America and has served on its Board of Directors. He is an elected Fellow of the Bureau for Research on the Economic Analysis of Development (BREAD) and has served as its President. He directs the Development Program at the National Bureau of Economic Research. He has served on the Board of Scientific Counselors at the National Center for Health Statistics and on the Committee on Population at the National Academy of Sciences. He has been a co-editor of the Journal of Development Economics, the Journal of Human Resources and Economic Development and Cultural Change. He is on the editorial board of the American Economic Journal-Applied Economics and the Economics of Human Biology.

Duncan Thomas