A behavioral economist explores poverty and development
Doctoral student Pierre-Luc Vautrey investigates how incorrect beliefs shape economic decision-making.
“You have to design questions that are qualitative, that are verbal, but are going to generate numerical outcomes that you can analyze. It’s a back-and-forth between sociological-style research, when you talk to people and try to understand what they think, and how you go from there to build quantitative measures."
— Pierre-Luc Vautrey, doctoral student in Economics
On a sunny May day, Pierre-Luc Vautrey sits in 1369 Coffeehouse in Cambridge, talking enthusiastically about his work — five research projects to be exact. He speaks quickly, and the coffee gives him an extra boost. He has a lot of ground to cover, and at times he has to re-explain certain areas of his research. Luckily, he’s patient and wants to ensure that people understand his work.
Vautrey is a third-year doctoral student in MIT’s Department of Economics. While he spent his undergraduate years studying applied math and physics in his home country of France, he was always drawn to the humanities and social sciences.
“I still had this itch to go back to social science at some point. It just seemed like a really nice way to bridge science and quantitative approach with social science and humans in general. That’s how I got into economics,” he says.
As a behavioral economist, Vautrey aims to extend our understanding of economic decisions using psychology. This approach questions traditional assumptions, ever so slightly, in order to make outcomes more realistic regarding human behavior.