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PhD Studentship - Understanding Inequality Aversion for Use in Public Health Decision Making using Multi-criteria Decision Making

University of Sheffield - School of Health & Related Research (ScHARR)

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Sheffield
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount: Fee and stipend at the standard UKRI rate for 3.5 years. RTSG - £750
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 23rd November 2022
Closes: 13th January 2023
 

Background

This PhD studentship is offered as part of the SIPHER (Systems science in Public Health and Health Economics Research) consortium, Work Stream 6. This Work Stream concerns social valuations across multidimensional wellbeing outcomes and efficiency-equality trade-offs. For further details of SIPHER, see sipher.ac.uk

Introduction

Public policies need to be evaluated across multiple domains (or dimensions) of wellbeing, such as income, health, housing, and personal relationships, and the levels of wellbeing need to be aggregated across the individuals affected by the policy to determine social overall wellbeing achieved by different policies. In engineering, this is often called a many-objective optimisation problem.

While there are different ways of aggregating multi-domain wellbeing across individuals, of interest is whether to account for inequality and if so, how. Inequality aversion is a concept that takes the total level of wellbeing across individuals and penalises it for the dispersion (or inequality) around the mean level of wellbeing. Decision makers who are more inequality averse prefer less unequal outcomes to more unequal outcomes, even if it meant lower average wellbeing. It is similar to the idea of risk aversion, where a total level of expected outcome is penalised for the uncertainty (or dispersion) surrounding the expected outcome - decision makers who are more risk averse prefer less risky prospects to more risky prospects, even if it meant lower returns.

Decision makers in this context could be members of the public asked to think about what makes a good society, or policy actors who input into actual policy making at local and national governments.

Multi-Criteria Decision Making (MCDM) is a technique that allows decision makers to approach many-objective optimisation problems in a structured manner that facilitates the elicitation and formation of preferences and values held by the decision marker.  This PhD will use progressive pairwise comparisons between solution options generated during an optimisation process to explore how decision makers trade-off between increasing average wellbeing and reducing inequalities in wellbeing.

Research Questions

The proposed PhD will explore the following core questions:

  1. How do decision makers understand their own levels of inequality aversion?
  2. Do decision makers have different inequality aversion for overall wellbeing and the domains of wellbeing, and for what reason(s)?

We are also open to considering alternative proposals which fall within the scope of the SIPHER consortium. sipher.ac.uk/sipher-research

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