Denni Tommasi

The math and the mindset to change lives

Why are some people worse off than others and what can we do about it? Guided by solid economic theories, microeconomist and researcher Dr Denni Tommasi finds credible explanations and solutions within statistical results.

Long before COVID-19, Dr Denni Tommasi was working on a project in India to understand the problem of informal street food vendors selling possibly contaminated food.

“In a poor, complicated, urban environment as a low skill worker, often-times your only option to make a living is to sell items on the street, such as food,” he explains.

Is training for vendors and awareness of the public health consequences sufficient to improve their food safety behaviour? If not, what else can we do?

With approval to collect data on the street, Dr Tommasi’s next experiment will explore the conditions in which food safety can be improved.

This and other research projects have earned Dr Tommasi a Monash Business School 2020 Dean's Award for Excellence in Research by an Early Career Researcher.

As a junior member of the Department of Econometrics and Business Statistics, his research has already been published in the Review of Economics and Statistics and includes five research papers in the past three years.

He has designed trials to explore ways to induce people to adopt behaviors or technologies that are likely to increase their welfare; developed techniques to evaluate the effects of welfare policies; and studied the dynamics of the family and the functioning of the labour market.

Collaborating with public policy institutions such as the World Food Programme motivates him to “work on applied problems that interest all people”.  He attributes his success to “the versatility of the research methods used and a strong network of coders in Australia, Europe and the US.”