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Economics students, what can you do to protect yourselves against jokes such as the classic, “You could lay all the economists in the U.S. end to end and they still wouldn’t reach a conclusion?” or, “How many economists does it take to fail to change a light bulb?–Just three.  One to detect a faint glow in the bulb and forecast a stronger glow in the next quarter; one to advise the President that the bulb is too hot to touch at the present time and will remain so in the forseeable future; and one to write a grant proposal for a study of the effect of darkness on productivity.”

How can you answer such scurrilous slanders?  By arming yourselves with examples of economic theory’s successes, from the well-designed and profitable government auctions of the air waves to the lesser-known empirical study by Mark Walker and John Wooders showing that, in the serve and return game, pro tennis players play mixed strategy equilibria.  Dozens of examples available in Storrs (in your classes)–don’t leave home without them.

Best of Luck!

Vicki Knoblauch
Professor of Economics

PS  Faculty, Students and Members of the UConn economics community:  please send news you would like to share on our blog to Kasey.Kniffin@uconn.edu .

Economics undergraduate student Yuriy Loukachev has been selected to receive a 2012 SHARE (Social Science, Humanities, and Arts Research Experience) Award for undergraduate research. Yuriy will be studying the economic theory of auctions with Professor Mike Shor in the Spring of 2012. He will receive a stipend from the Office of Undergraduate Research, and will present the results of his research at a poster exhibition to be held in the Spring of 2012.

Congratulations Yuriy!

On 17th June, 2011, Paramita Dhar defended her dissertation entitled “Essays on the Economics of Housing” under the supervision of Prof. Stephen L. Ross.  Paramita’s dissertation examined two different questions about housing and location choice. In her first essay, she analyzed the impact of school quality on property values using a differences-in-differences strategy. In the other two essays of her dissertation, she focused on the issue of discrimination against minority homebuyers that might lead to the segregation of neighborhoods. In both of these essays she used fair housing audit data from the 2000 Housing Discrimination Study on three large minority groups in Los Angeles to examine the causes of spatial variation of the nature of discrimination.

This fall, Paramita will be heading to Central Connecticut State University as a tenure-track Assistant Professor of Economics.

On June 21, 2011, Catalina Granda-Carvajal defended her dissertation, “Essays on the Macroeconomic Effects of the Unofficial Sector.”  Under the valuable supervision and support of her advisor, Prof. Christian Zimmermann, Catalina’s thesis focuses on how the unofficial sector and its intrinsic characteristics are related to aggregate fluctuations.  At an empirical level, she determines how business cycle stylized facts vary across countries with the extent of the shadow economy and compares the resulting patterns with predictions from existing models featuring underground activities.  Also, she incorporates an irregular sector into a real business cycle model to challenge the notion that fluctuations in the official and unofficial sectors are negatively correlated.  Using a similar theoretical framework, she finally addresses how informal firms’ limited access to credit affects macroeconomic and firm volatility.

Pieces of Catalina’s dissertation have been presented in a couple of international conferences and a section was selected for publication at the International Economic Journal last December.  In addition to her thesis, she has taken part in an interdisciplinary project on options for brownfields revitalization in Connecticut under the supervision of Prof. Kathleen Segerson.  She currently holds a tenure-track position at Universidad de Antioquia in Medellín (Colombia).

Annually the Defense Acquisition University (DAU) holds a research paper competition. This year first-prize (making it a “Hirsh Prize Recipient”) was awarded to the paper “Calculating Return on Investment for US Department of Defense Modeling and Simulation,” authored by, among others, William E. Waite, a UConn 2nd year PhD student. The paper will be presented during the DAU Acquisition Community Symposium on Tuesday 12 April 2011, and published in April’s edition of Defense Acquisition Research Journal.

Within any complex organization there exists a need to measure and monitor the effectiveness of expenditures; that is, there is a ubiquitous necessity to monitor how well agents allocate limited resources between the many potential projects they are presented, within a specific institutional context. Such measurement is particularly challenging for institutions (or, in situations) where a market mechanism for pricing different outcomes is not available. The United States Department of Defense (US-DoD) is one such institution.

Each year, the US-DoD allocates billions of dollars to external contractors, as well as internal departments, to pursue modeling-and-simulation (M&S) projects. The benefits of these initiatives are generally not monetary – or easily convertible to a specific monetary value. Rather, the desired results are seen in measures of increased readiness of the country’s armed forces, better trained individuals, improvements in procedures or approaches that result in fewer human casualties during combat missions, and the like. Given the nature of these benefits, it is not surprising that measuring the “return-on-investment” (ROI) of a US-DoD M&S project presents government officials with a formidable challenge.

In “Calculating Return on Investment for US Department of Defense Modeling and Simulation,” the authors provide a systematic methodology to approach address this particular challenge. By utilizing a decision analysis framework based on the economic principle of utility maximization, the authors create a framework in which the US-DoD can obtain ROI-like results for ranking and evaluating projects, which can then be used in resource allocation decisions and analysis.

UConn Welcome Mat is a local blog run by the Lodewick Visitors Center where undergraduate report about their life at the University of Connecticut. One of them is Ryan Safner, who has recently reported why he chose to major in Economics. Ryan has ambitions for graduate school and also writes his own blog

Current PhD student Catalina Granda-Carvajal (advisor Prof. Zimmermann) has recently published an article in the International Economic Journal. The last issue of this journal features a selection of the papers presented at the conference ‘Shadow Economy, Tax Policy and the Labor Markets in an International Comparison: Options for Economic Policy.’ This conference was held in Germany at the University of Potsdam last April, where Granda-Carvajal participated with the paper entitled ‘The Unofficial Economy and the Business Cycle: A Test for Theories.’ In this paper, she attempts to establish how the features of the business cycle vary across countries with the size of the unofficial sector. Granda-Carvajal confirms that countries with a large shadow economy exhibit higher volatility in major macroeconomic variables such as output, consumption and investment. Also, she shows that unemployment tends to be more countercyclical, while employment and hours behave as more procyclical the smaller is the unofficial economy. She concludes that much more needs to be done in order to understand the implications of shadow activities on macroeconomic performance, as standard models of the shadow economy do not imply such behavior for aggregate variables.

Margaret McCarthy, a double Honors major in Economics and Political Science (plus a minor in Human Rights) has recently been featured on the university-wide blog, UConn Today. While on a Summer internship at the US Department of State, she was quickly promoted to fill on an interim basis the country desk for Nicaragua.

She is also a stellar citizen while on campus. In 2009, she received an Oaklawn Foundation Scholarship for academic excellence, honors involvement, and leadership; she is also a member of several honors societies, including Phi Beta Kappa. This year, she was a finalist for a Marshall Scholarship. She is UConn’s administrative director for the Model United Nations. She is also a member of the Global Leadership Commission, a small group of honors students that invites global leaders on campus to speak.

More at UConn Today.

Tao Chen: (Advisor: Tripathi)
My research on econometrics is both theoretical and applied. The theoretical part focuses mainly on microeconometrics and functional data analysis. The applied work is within the fields of labor and urban economics.

Paramita Dhar (Advisor: Ross)
My dissertation examines two different questions about housing and location choice. In the first essay, I apply a difference-in-difference model to capture the causal effect of school quality on house prices by looking at houses located on school district boundaries in Connecticut. The rest of the dissertation deals with detailed spatial analysis of the nature of housing discrimination in the context of multiple minority groups in Los-Angeles using Housing Discrimination Study (2000).

Leshui He (Advisor: Langlois)
My dissertation departs from the standard property rights theory of the firm of Grossman, Hart and Moore and develops the interaction between the ownership of the firm and the ownership of the alienable assets. By defining the ownership of the firm following Alchian and Demsetz (1972), I create a theoretical framework allowing for independent allocations of the two ownership rights. Then I move on and utilize the multi-tasking agent model under this framework to run a level horse race among four alternative organizational forms. The model sheds lights on conditions under which human-capital owned firms can be optimal, and offers tentative explanations to the fact that firms usually collectively own alienable assets.

Nicoleta Iliescu (Advisor: Matschke)
In my job market paper (“US Lobby Activity and Antidumping Outcomes”), I investigate the impact of lobbying on the antidumping practices in the US. Currently, antidumping is the most heavily used temporary tariff measure both worldwide and in the US. Thus, it becomes an appropriate avenue of studying how political pressure shapes the level of protection some domestic industries receive. The empirical results I derive in the paper reinforce the hypothesis that the political clout plays an important role in granting trade protection through antidumping duties.

Nick Jolly (Advisor: Couch)
My dissertation focuses on the consequences of job displacement.  The first paper from my dissertation, which was published in Research on Aging, shows that displaced workers experience larger earnings losses if they are older at the time of job loss.  The second paper examines how earnings losses vary over different phases of the business cycle; the final paper examines how this type of involuntary job loss influences the inter-temporal movement of workers throughout the earnings and income distributions.

Steve Kuchta (Advisor: Miceli)
My dissertation examines the role patent term restoration plays in incentivizing pharmaceutical development and clinical trials behavior. The unique position of pharmaceuticals, who must spend portions of their patent term achieving regulatory approval, forces the effective patent life to balance more interests relative to the standard patenting story. A law and economics approach is utilized to expose the competing dynamics and thereby to provide theoretical foundations for the 1984 Hatch-Waxman Act. The modeling also informs current policy discussion regarding adding exclusivity protection to patent protection in the emergent biopharmaceutical industry.

Xiaoming Li (Advisor: Ross)
My dissertation examines the dynamics in the housing and mortgage markets. Specifically I attempt to identify the “true state dependence” from the “spurious state dependence”. In the first essay, I specify a linear probability model to test the neighborhood information externalities in mortgage underwriting. In the second essay, I propose an analytically bias-corrected fixed effects estimator that is robust to the incidental parameters bias for panel fractional response models. In the third essay, I apply the proposed bias-corrected estimator to empirically examine the impact of local housing markets on neighborhood mortgage underwriting.

Shalini Mitra (Advisor: Zimmermann)
My dissertation examines the channels through which volatility of key variables like output, employment, investment and consumption is affected – both at the firm and the aggregate level and their implications. I specifically consider degree of financial development of a nation, research and development expenditure of firms, and the presence of an informal sector.

Zinnia Mukherjee (Advisor: Segerson)
My research is in applied microeconomics. My dissertation essays deal with the design and evaluation of conservation policies, with a specific focus on protection of endangered species. In particular, the three essays analyze (i) the effectiveness of voluntary approaches and the role of background regulatory threat in mitigating stochastic bycatch, (ii) the welfare effects of unilateral bycatch policies in an open economy, and, (iii) the economic impact of the TED regulation (a major U.S. bycatch regulation) on the U.S. shrimp industry. Post dissertation, my research projects include (i) studying the spatial and temporal effects of marine hypoxia on Long Island Sound harvest and fishers’ behavioral responses to the phenomenon, (ii) analyzing the effect of political ideology on state level income inequality for U.S. states, and, (iii) examining the role of U.S. state laws on sexual crime and crime location choice of repeat offenders.

Michael Stone (Advisor: Miceli)
I present a theory which extends the traditional economic model of punitive damages by incorporating litigation costs. Incorporating litigation costs into the model provides a possible justification for punitive damage caps. At the optimum, caps balance deterrence against the cost of litigation. Empirical testing of the model is performed via Cox proportional and parametric hazard analyses, using a panel dataset from 1981 to 2007. The empirical results reveal a positive relationship between judicial and legal expenditures (a proxy for legal costs) and cap enactment, and a negative relationship between state GSP (a proxy for damages) and cap enactment. Cap enactment is also influenced by political ideology.

Parag Waknis (Advisor: Zimmermann)
In my dissertation, I explore the nature of optimal monetary policy under a Leviathan monetary authority. Such a monetary authority is a reality wherever governments rely heavily on seigniorage. In a model based on Lagos and Wright (2005), I characterize a Markov perfect equilibrium as well as equilibrium under reputational concerns for such monetary authority. While, there are multiple equilibriums in general, under certain conditions we can narrow down the set of equilibriums to one and show that it is characterized by higher inflation. I then add one more Leviathan central bank to the model to see if adding a competitive element implies a lower rate of inflation in equilibrium. I plan to use the insights from these models to analyze sub-national spending in developing countries like India. Understanding the policies of such central banks or governments is critical given today’s interdependent global policy environment.

On Saturday May 8, 2010, a new class of students will walk in the commencement ceremonies and get well-deserved degrees. As there are no December ceremonies any more, the walking class in larger than usual. 212 students will be receiving the BA in Economics, of which 40 are double majors. Seven students will be graduating with Honors in Economics: Joseph Antelmi, Michael Bokoff, Taylor Brown, Charles Johnson, Bryan Murphy, Eric Roy, and William Watson. The Economics major is very popular on campus, in previous years it has been the third most sought after. Note also that among all Economics degree granting institutions in the United States, the University of Connecticut ranks 26th by the number of degrees conferred last year.

We also have a graduating class in our graduate programs. Are graduating with a MA: Jay Adams, Demet Cimen, Amy Druckenmiller, Elnara Eynullayeva, Elizabeth Kaletski, Xingkang Liu, Xiaoyin Shen, Rijesh Shrestha, Li Wang, Menxi Ying and He Zang. And with a PhD: Lei Chen, Onur Burak Celik, Marina-Selini Katsaiti, Monica Lopez-Anuarbe, Zinnia Mukherjee and Natalya Shelkova.

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