Julius Silver Professor, Faculty of Arts and Science, and
Professor of Economics, New York University

Co-Editor, American Economic Review
Research Associate, NBER
Part-Time Professor, University of Warwick

Department of EconomicsNYU, 19 West 4th Street
New York, NY 10012, U.S.A.

debraj.ray@nyu.edu, +1 (212)-998-8906.

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THREE RANDOMLY SELECTED PAPERS:
Three more randomly selected papers. Or click here for RECENT RESEARCH, or use navbar and search icon at top of page to look for specific research areas and papers.

Linking Conflict to Inequality and Polarization

(with Joan Esteban), American Economic Review 101, 1345–1374, 2011.

Summary. In this paper we study a behavioral model of conflict that provides a basis for choosing certain indices of dispersion as indicators for conflict. We show that a suitable monotone transform of the equilibrium level of conflict can be proxied by a linear function of the Gini coefficient, the Herfindahl-Hirschman fractionalization index, and a specific measure of polarization due to Esteban and Ray.

Evolving Aspirations and Cooperation

(with Rajeeva Karandikar,  Dilip Mookherjee, and Fernando Vega-Redondo), Journal of Economic Theory 80, 292-331, 1998.

Summary. A 2×2 game is played repeatedly by two satisficing players. The game considered includes the Prisoner’s Dilemma, as well as games of coordination and common interest. Each player has an aspiration at each date, and takes an action. The action is switched at the subsequent period only if the achieved payoff falls below aspirations; the switching probability depends on the shortfall. Aspirations are periodically updated according to payoff experience, but are occasionally subject to trembles. For sufficiently slow updating of aspirations and small tremble probability, it is shown that both players must ultimately cooperate most of the time.

Aspirations And The Development Treadmill

Journal of Human Development and Capabilities 17, 309–323, 2016.

Summary. I describe a positive theory of socially determined aspirations, and some implications of that theory for the study of economic inequality and social conflict. The main contribution of the theory is that it attempts to describe, in the same explanatory arc, how a change in aspirations can be inspirational in some circumstances, or a source of frustration and resentment in others. These different reactions arise from the aspirational gap: the difference between socially generated aspirations and the current socio-economic standard that the individual enjoys. Ever-accelerating economic development can cut both ways in terms of inspiration and frustration.