Economics News Boston University

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A Conversation with,Marianne Baxter, When and why did you decide to become a scholar in economics. I was an undergraduate at the University of Rochester majoring in. statistics I loved math and Rochester was one of the first universities. to have an undergraduate statistics major Statistics seemed. great because it combined the rigor of math with a practical goal. Unfortunately the major had been created by taking the Ph D Statistics. courses and adding an undergraduate course number to each one It. took me more than a year to notice that my classmates were all Ph D. students or seniors My GPA was abysmal, To fulfill a requirement I took Economics 101 It met at a better time. than anthropology or sociology classes and I thought all the social. sciences were equally silly I was incredibly fortunate to have Michael. abstract overly mathematical and completely out of touch with the. Mussa as my teacher for that class He is the reason I am an economist. real world Although I wanted to study international economics I was. Mussa was a new professor at the time but he went on to become one. inspired to learn this new way of thinking about macroeconomics. of the brightest stars of his generation reshaping much of international. so I worked with Lucas instead of the international econ professors. trade and finance both theory and policy, Equally important were the members of my first year study group. Mussa was intense funny quick and very smart He had been. There were 85 students in each new Chicago Ph D class at that time. discussing the gains from trade using the examples of fish and. We all knew that the target class size was closer to 20 students and. coconuts One day before class a student placed a coconut on the. that the exams at the end of the first year would determine who could. front table Mussa walked in and without missing a beat picked. stay The 6 of us in our study group spent nearly all our waking time. up the coconut and announced that we would henceforth discuss. together solving problems and challenging each other to be clearer. scotch and sirloins I quickly grew to love the challenge and the fun. more complete more correct more concise We knew we would sink. of attacking economic problems I finished the statistics degree as. or swim together It was no kindness to be too easy on a study group. well It got easier as I learned more math, colleague during study sessions that felt more like pre combat drills. What are you working on now We get together for dinner every January at the ASSA meetings. Right now I m working on writing up a project that was prompted. What do you enjoy the most about being an academic. by discussions with Jonathan Hersh a BU Ph D student during our. Economics 792 course last year Jonathan is interested in application There are two things that are equally important First is the freedom to. of Big Data methods to economic problems We are writing a paper continue to learn as your actual job description Our only obligation. that applies some of these methods to the empirical literature on is to do this learning in a structured and productive way and to share. the gravity equation so called because the form of the equation the results with our peers though personal contact and our writing. resembles Newton s Law of Universal Gravitation In economics Second is the privilege of teaching Students from the undergraduate. gravity refers to a statistical model that explains bilateral trade through the Ph D level bring an energy and intensity that are. through variables including each country s real GDP and the distance contagious Economics has much to offer students as they prepare. between the countries Many other variables are often included to for a future in an uncertain economic environment Ph D students. measure factors that facilitate or restrict trade such as a common make the transition from consumer of economics to producer. currency a common border whether either country is an island of economics When students ask how to find a topic I ask them to. etc The real goal is to be able to predict trade and for this it is consider what preoccupies them what makes them angry Is an. useful to have tools that specifically address model uncertainty the increase in the minimum wage a good idea for America despite the. acknowledgement that we do not know exactly which variables should basic price theory to the contrary Do you think it s crazy that Boston. be in the model Jonathan and I focus on the LASSO and Bayesian doesn t charge for the parking placards that allow residents to park. Model Averaging tools in addition to the more common Extreme on the street A great research topic a great endeavor of any kind. Bounds Analysis to determine which variables should be included perhaps lies at the intersection of your knowledge and your passions. in a model that balances the desire for within sample fit with good It helps a lot to be working on something that you really care about. predictive value Along the way we have found results that contrast I am lucky to have a job that lets me do this. with those in the existing literature For example we are finding that. having a common currency increases trade but by only 1 3 as much What do you do in your free time. as many researchers previously claimed We also find that countries As a teacher senior faculty member and mom to 3 sons and a dog I. that are islands also have higher trade by about as much as having spend so much time being in charge So when I have free time I am. a common currency increases trade It is of course important to drawn to situations in which I can be a student be the one who is not. remember the difference between correlation and causation If we in charge When I moved to Boston I took up metalworking Over the. did not we might summarize this result as saying To increase trade past 15 years I ve studied metalwork and enameling with a group of. either join a currency union or build a moat amazing and generous artists I have a workshop in my basement with. two torches an enameling kiln and a zillion cool tools Metalworking. Who had the most profound impact on the way you think as an provides an opportunity to make an idea tangible within the limits. economist and why of the laws of science and one s own skill At the end you have this. My thesis advisor Robert E Lucas Jr has a deep and contagious object a physical representation of the thought and care that you. passion for economics He combines this with a fearless determination brought to the realization of your idea This is something we do not. to follow a research program that was ridiculed initially for being have in economics. Interview by George Georgiadis,2 ECONOMICS,ECONOMICS NEWS.
A Conversation with,Adam Guren,What drew you to economics. In high school I read Robert Heilbroner s The Worldly Philosophers and in housing listings data and then I quantitatively analyze its impact. Paul Krugman s The Accidental Theorist Both are riveting books that using a model In doing so I use the housing market to provide new. portray economists as big thinkers who tackle the most consequential evidence on a similar mechanism that has been discussed as a source. questions for society and whose ideas have a profound effect on of aggregate price stickiness but for which there is little direct evidence. people s lives At the time I wanted to work with computers but thinking I also show that momentum helps explain several key features of the. about issues that matter for people instead of working with machines short run dynamics of housing markets. resonated with me I ended up taking economics in high school and. again in college A class taught by Ed Glaeser in particular showed My second housing paper which is joint work with Tim McQuade at. me how we could use mathematical tools to think about real world Stanford examines the role of foreclosures in the recent housing bust. problems I got involved in research as a research assistant while in Most research on foreclosures compares houses with a foreclosure next. college decided to do an economics Ph D and now here I am door with a foreclosure a few blocks away That picks up the effect of. having a neighbor with boarded up windows and weeds in their yard. You graduated last year How is your first year as an Assistant but cannot pick up more macro equilibrium effects that operate through. Professor How does it compare to your life as a graduate student changes the stock of homes for sale and the number of buyers at the. It s busy but very fun The first year is a whirlwind of submitting papers neighborhood or city level We argue that these effects are quite large. forging relationships with potential co authors getting new projects using a model matched to the cross section of booms and busts across. off the ground preparing courses and teaching I m enjoying Boston metro areas Our model does good job of explaining the downturn. University and my new colleagues immensely It s fun to be exposed on a number of dimensions and indicates that foreclosures reduced. to new people ideas and influences and everyone at BU has been prices of non foreclosure homes by an additional 24 percent both. friendly and welcoming It is a very happy place to be an economist The because they push down prices and because the decline in prices. one thing I m still not used to though is being called professor I causes more foreclosures which pushes down prices further and. keep looking over my shoulder thinking that my students are referring leads to more foreclosures et cetera We also use our model to think. to someone else about anti foreclosure policies and come to the perhaps surprising. conclusion that slowing down foreclosures can have perverse effects. Your dissertation work was on housing markets Can you describe on the housing market. your main findings,How did you become interested in this topic. Broadly my work so far has used micro data to think about macro. questions in the labor and housing markets I have two papers on If you had told me before graduate school that I would write a. housing markets dissertation in part on housing markets I would not have believed you. Housing was not a topic that seemed relevant to the big questions in. My first housing paper is about house price momentum which refers economics But Lehman failed during my first week of Ph D course. to the fact that if prices are rising this year chances are they will rise work and it turned out that the culprit was the housing market I am. next year and the year after that This was first pointed out by Case broadly interested in using micro data to study macro questions and. and Shiller and it is puzzling because arbitrage both by investors and the housing market has great data and suddenly in the wake of the. traditional buyers and sellers re timing their purchase and sale should Great Recession a lot of interesting macro housing questions cropped. eliminate price predictability My paper empirically and theoretically up It seemed like a natural place to turn to do interesting policy. analyzes an amplification mechanism that can generate substantial relevant macro research. momentum from small known frictions The basic idea is that listing. at a high price drives away buyers but listing at a low price does not What do you do in your free time. attract many more buyers than listing at an average price Because What free time Just kidding I like spending time with family travelling. of this sellers do not want to list their house at a unilaterally high the world and spending time with my fianc by the time this is in print. or low price so sellers gradually adjust their price to stay close to wife Kate We go to the Boston Symphony and theatre reasonably. the average I first provide direct micro evidence on this mechanism regularly and I like to bike and play golf if I have time in the summer. Interview by George Georgiadis,ECONOMICS NEWS 3,A Conversation with. John Harris, Your paper Migration unemployment and development a two sector. analysis with Michael Todaro has been identified as one of the most. influential papers ever published in the American Economic Review. Can you tell us more about it and why it has been so impactful. In my 4th year as an Assistant Prof at MIT I was offered an opportunity. by the Rockefeller Foundation to spend 18 months in Kenya in their. University Development Program My colleagues in Nairobi included. Mike Todaro Peter Diamond Joe Stiglitz and Jim Tobin We were. staffing the Institute for Development Studies IDS while mentoring. African students who would come to the US for PhD training and then. return to the University The role of the IDS was to do policy relevant This is your 40th year at Boston University Has the Economics. research on major current issues gor the Ministry of Economic Planning Department changed a lot over these years What do you see as the. the Treasury and the Central Bank The most pressing problem facing biggest challenges for the department going forward. the newly independent Government of Kenya was the rapid influx of A number of us came here with the vision of creating a Department. young people into the urban areas who couldn t find jobs in the growing that would do high quality research for policy I came as Director of the. formal sectors of the economy Observers were puzzled by why people African Studies Center Paul Rosenstein Rodan created a Center for. would keep migrating in the face of unemployment They attrib. of the brightest stars of his generation reshaping much of international trade and finance both theory and policy Mussa was intense funny quick and very smart He had been discussing the gains from trade using the examples of fish and coconuts One day before class a student placed a coconut on the front table Mussa walked in and

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