UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies


Seminar: Mary Morgan (LSE/U.Penn) - 'Observing Poverty, Measuring the Good Life'

Start: Jan 24, 2018 04:00 PM

Location: UCL Chadwick building, room 2.18


24th January 2018, starting at 16:30, with tea and coffee available from 16:00.


UCL Chadwick building, room 2.18, starting at 16:30, with tea and coffee available from 16:00.


Socio-economic measurements good for scientific purposes are not necessarily good for policy purposes, political action, or popular usage.  And there are trade-offs or tensions between different forms of measurements created for such different purposes in these different communities. These differences are evident in the recent history of measuring ‘development’, and in the switch from earlier forms of aggregate measurements to the dis-aggregated array of indicators found in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. These latter look very strange as a contemporary scientific measuring project, but have parallels in one of the earliest social scientific attempts to observe poverty, namely Charles Booth’s survey and maps of poverty in late 19th century London.  This comparison illuminates more exactly how and why different measurements of poverty are good for different things - some for figuring out causes and so designing interventions, and others for mobilizing action via their rhetorical power.  Significantly, some, but not all, measuring strategies and kinds of numbers offer possibilities to create 'voice' for those measured and so, potentially, a bottom-up route for achieving ‘the good life for all’.  

About the speaker

Mary Susanna Morgan (FBA FRDAAS), is Professor of the History of Economics in the London School of Economics since 1999, of which she had earlier obtained a BSc in Economics (1978), and her Ph.D. (1984). From 1992–2002 she also worked part-time as Professor of the History and Methodology of Economics in the University of Amsterdam. Since 2002 she is a foreign member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Morgan has made important contributions to the history of economic thought, especially with regard to the history of econometrics, the historical development of measurement in economics, and the evolution and methodological implications of the use of economic models.

STS research seminars

The purpose of this series is to provide colleagues with an opportunity to present their latest research results and discuss them within a collegial atmosphere. 

STS research seminars are open to scholars from any academic field. These normally are research intensive, specialised events, of interest specifically to scholars in the discipline. More upcoming talks in the STS research seminar series are listed in the STS calendar.