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As you may have noticed, we've quite a collection of PhD students here at ADRI, and every so often we like to shine the spotlight on them! Meet Marc Curran:
Can you tell us a bit about your Ph.D research?
My PhD research explores how we measure 'well-being' in developing countries. For most of the 20th Century, income has been the main indicator used to measure well-being. It was believed that, if a countries national income increased each year, then the people in that country are better off now than they were last year. Many policy makers therefore believed that increasing production of goods and services would lead to an increase in well-being in that country as gross national income increases.
Over the last 30 years, there has been a change in this way of thinking. Influential studies have shown that in developed countries such as the USA, although GDP has been steadily increasing, its citizens are not as happy as their income suggests they should be. Vice Versa, in countries with low levels of GDP growth, its citizens are shown to be happier than would be expected. It is now widely accepted that income alone cannot measure well-being. The United Nations created an index called the Human Development Index which is comprised of three indicators: Income, Education and Health. Scores for these three variables are computed and combined to give us a single aggregate score for a country. These scores are compared with other countries to determine which countries are better off. Despite its popularity, the Human Development Index has its shortcomings. The focus of my thesis is to analyse alternative methods of measuring well-being.
How did you get into this field?
It was my secondary school economics teacher who first got me interested in economics. When I studied economics in college, it was then I realised just how broad a subject economics is. One of the modules I took was called 'Development Economics', which looked at the different factors behind why some countries grow faster than other countries. We also learnt about the effects foreign aid has on a country, with some studies suggesting negative effects. Before I started my PhD, I was working as a Research Assistant for Professor Mark McGillivray (who is now my thesis supervisor). Mark has done a lot of research discussing well-being indices, so it was after reading his work that made me went to learn more about this subject.
You’ve come from studying and teaching at the University College Dublin, how does that experience compare to working within a solely research-based organisation (ADRI)?
I really enjoyed teaching economics as I felt it gave me a greater understanding of the subject. It is one thing to study a topic, but when you have to give a lecture (or even a presentation) you have to make sure that you are prepared for every possible question that a student might ask. As much as I enjoyed teaching, it is very time consuming. Being with a solely research-based organisation allows me more time to concentrate on my research without the distraction of teaching.
ADRI currently has upwards of 120 HDR students working with ADRI-based supervisors - you could be one of them!