Pedro Henriques da Silva ’18

Economics major looked beyond income to measure intangible variables like happiness.

September 1, 2018

Hometown: Alexandria, Virginia

Thesis adviser: Prof. Kim Clausing [economics 1996–]

Thesis: People, Place, and Pulse: How Relational Goods Affect Happiness

What it's about: In studying how to best produce and allocate scarce goods and resources, economics asks a broader, more important question: what makes a good life, and how do we enable it? Economists have explored the effects of income and health on (the dodgy metrics of) happiness. Interestingly, healthy social bonds have been correlated to both income and health, as well as happiness, but little has been done to further explore this correlation—and its magnitude. This thesis asks: how do relationships impact happiness?

What it’s really about: Beyond income, beyond health, how do interpersonal relationships affect our happiness?

The first day of class: I felt like I’d stumbled into a parallel universe.

Cool stuff: I started a business, learned how to box, spent an incredible year at the London School of Economics, and met some of the smartest, most thoughtful people ever.

Obstacles I have overcome: Flashback: High school pre-calc. I got a D—my worst grade ever. I thought I was the worst mathematician of all time. I decided to become a better one. The first class I signed up for at Reed was calculus. I did great, so I took another math class. And the truth is, after years of saying “I’m a communication person, not a math person,” I realized that anything, yes anything, can be learned.

Influential book: Avoiding Politics by Nina Eliasoph is about the ways in which Americans avoid talking about politics in their daily lives and how this contributes to a culture of apathy, underengagement, and power imbalance. Polarization, misinformation, and corruption thrive in environments where people are largely silent about their politics. That’s how democracy fails.

Concept that blew my mind: James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis posits that the earth is actually a sort of superorganism made up of the interactions between living and nonliving things.

Favorite professors: Prof. Kim Clausing embodies all the ideals of a Reed professor—encouraging questions, pushing you to think critically, and inspiring you to aspire to just that much more than you thought you could do. She ties ideas to real-life situations, and always answered my questions with a touch of humor, wit, and relatability.

How Reed changed me: I came to Reed an over-thinker. I’m leaving even more so one.

Financial aid: Thank you. The only reason I was able to stay here was financial aid. (Also, as a former Phonathon caller, as annoying as the calls may be, you are really making or breaking it for a lot of students through your help—so, again, thank you.)

Desired superpower: Breathe underwater.

Actual superpower: Mind-reading.

Pet peeve: People chewing.

What's Next: I’m headed back East to start a two-year corps experience with Teach for America.