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Last Sunday’s Harford Courant featured a full page article by Prof. Carstensen. As a director of the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis (CCEA), he is frequently asked to testify in Hartford or speak in the media, and this article summarizes his take of the state of the State of Connecticut.

He opines that Connecticut has an economy with a shrinking working age population with declining skills that is typically slow to recover from a recession. From a policy perspective, he argues that the State needs to push the life science sector and address the unusually high energy costs and the inadequate transportation infrastructure. The aging population will also require more services than before. Finally, the State needs to provide a stable business environment with respect to taxes.


Zinnia Mukherjee defended her dissertation in December 2009, and is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of Economics at Connecticut College, New London, CT. Her dissertation, titled “Three Essays on Conservation of Endangered Species”, analyzes the effectiveness of policies involving regulatory threats in controlling stochastic externalities. In addition, the dissertation analyzes the welfare effects of unilateral conservation policies in an open economy under alternative market structures and resource management regimes. Zinnia’s advisor is Prof. Segerson.

Currently, Zinnia is working on two new research projects. The first is funded by the UConn Center for Environmental Sciences and Engineering through a Multidisciplinary Research Award that Zinnia received in 2009. The project develops a bio-economic discrete choice model to analyze how fishers decide to allocate their fishing effort among various fish species and fishing zones, given that species vary in terms of their sensitivity to marine hypoxia. The impact of marine hypoxia on fish landings is estimated for several Long Island Sound fisheries located in different areas along the coast of Connecticut. The second project looks at the impact of differences in U.S. state laws on the incidence of crime against women (sexual crimes) and the potential migration of repeat offenders across states to target preys more easily and escape harsher penalty sentences.

At UConn, Zinnia has taught a wide variety of undergraduate courses. She had been actively involved with the Association of Graduate Economic Students (AGES) throughout her grad school years and presided over the organization in 2007-2008. She is currently enjoying her work experience at Connecticut College.

Here is the program of the various events to happen on April 1 and 2, 2010.

Thursday, April 1, 4:00 pm – Philip. E. Austin Forum on Economics and Public Policy, Robert Stavins (Harvard University), “Climate Change Policy After Copenhagen,” Student Union Ballroom.

Thursday, April 1, 7:00 pm – Economics Department Annual Awards Banquet, Bishop Center.

Friday, April 2, 8:30 am to 4:00 pm – Graduate Reunion and Forum, alumni research papers, professional experience panel, and graduate research, Bishop Center.

8:30amContinental Breakfast (Room 7 lobby, downstairs)


Welcome: William Lott, department head
Program Overview: Dennis Heffley, Professor of Economics


Session 1: Alumni Research Papers and Presentations
Moderator: Leshui He, Past President, Association of Graduate Economics Students (AGES)
Dipasis Bhadra (PhD, UConn), Senior Economist, Federal Aviation Administration, US Department of Transportation
“Air travel in the US: How do we travel, where do we travel, and why do we travel?”
William Place (PhD, UConn), Medical Economist, Aetna Informatics, Hartford CT
“Behavioral and health care outcomes of wellness program participants”
Philip Shaw (PhD, UConn), Assistant Professor of Economics, Fairfield University
“Nonparametric Instrumental Variable Estimation in Practice”
Alice Zawacki (PhD, UConn), Senior Economist, Center for Economic Studies, US Bureau of the Census
“Searching for data? Using the Census Bureau Research Data Centers?”


Coffee Break: Lobby


Session 2: Alumni Professional Experience Panel
Moderator: Steven Lanza (PhD, UConn), Executive Editor, The Connecticut Economy
Laura Bhadra (MA, UConn; PhD, American University) Assistant Professor of Economics and Program Head, Northern Virginia Community College, Manassas VA
“Economics and Movies: a hybrid course”
Natalya Shelkova (PhD, UConn) Assistant Professor, Guilford College, Greensboro NC
“From job market to new job”
Hemanta Shrestha (PhD, UConn) Senior Analytics Manager, Sprint Nextel Corporation, Warren, NJ
“Building propensity models for customer targeting”
Monica Tedeschi Cantor (MA, UConn) Financial Strategist and VP, New York City Economic Development Corporation 2005-2007
“Pursuing a career in economic development: a New York City example”


Lunch: Bishop Center


AGES: Matthiew Burnside, President AGES
Introduction of officers
A word about AGES


Session 3: Graduate Research
Moderator: Rasha Ahmed(PhD, UConn), Assistant Professor, Trinity College, Hartford
Lei Chen (ABD, UConn)
“A study of the production technology of the US dental care industry”
Paramita Dhar (ABD, UConn)
“School quality and property values”
Patrick Flaherty (ABD, UConn), Economist, Office of Research and Information, Connecticut Department of Labor
“Tracking the recession in Connecticut: a view from the Department of Labor”
Monika Lopez-Anuarbe (PhD, UConn), Visiting Instructor, Connecticut College, New London CT
“Intergenerational transfers in the long term care market”
Michael Stone (ABD, UConn)
“Three essays on the economics of tort law”

Special thanks to Andreas Karapatakis (PhD, 1992) for his generous support of the Department of Economics 2010 Graduate Reunion and Forum and Annual Awards Banquet.

Parking: If you are traveling to campus by car, parking permits for the lot adjacent to the Bishop Center (just south) will be available at the continental breakfast. Just park, come inside to the lower level and pick up a permit to place in your car. You should be able to park in the lot the entire day if the permit is displayed in the vehicle

PS: Some pictures of the event are available.

Roger Ballentine, 1985 Honors Economics BA, will be recognized on April 30 by the UConn Honors program as one of the 2010 Honors Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients. Mr. Ballentine is President of Green Strategies Inc., an environmental consulting firm based in Washinction, D.C., working with clients in the energy and environmental arena on public policy matters, investment guidance in the “clean tech” marketplace, marketing and business development strategies, sustainability, and capital formation. Mr. Ballentine was a senior member of the White House staff in the Clinton Administration as Chairman of the White House Climate Change Task Force and Deputy Assistant to the President for Environmental Initiatives. Previous to these duties, he was Special Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs, where he focused on energy and environmental issues. He is a frequent radio and television commentator.

Mr. Ballentine graduated magna cum laude from UConn, then cum laude from the Harvard Law School. He is a member of the bar in Connecticut, the District of Columbia and the US Supreme Court. He serves on many boards, in particular as founding board member of the American Council on Renewable Energy and on the International Advisory Council of the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory. He is also a Lecturer at the Harvard Law School, teaching in the area of energy and climate policy, and a Senior Fellow at the Progessive Policy Institute.

Monika Lopez-Anuarbe defended her thesis on Friday, February 19, 2010, under the supervision of Prof. Dennis Heffley. Her dissertation examines the time and money transfers between elderly parents and their offspring, particularly inter vivos monetary gifts by parents and time assistance by children. Using a unique panel database containing detailed information on thousands of families over a 10-year period (1993-2002), Monika was able to uncover some interesting links that earlier cross-sectional studies have missed. The analysis suggests that intergenerational transfers between parents and their children are planned processes that unfold over time and are affected by the characteristics of the parents and the offspring. The study also helps to identify specific state policies that have been most effective in encouraging family-based health care for the elderly. As a graduate student, Monika taught courses at the Storrs, Hartford, and Avery Point campuses, as well at Trinity College and Wesleyan University. Since 2006, she has taught principles courses in microeconomics and macroeconomics, intermediate microeconomics, health economics and industrial organization as a Visiting Instructor at Connecticut College. For the past several years, Monika also has published various elements of her research (Long-Term Care Interface Journal, 2007), co-authored papers based on earlier team studies (Journal of the American Dental Association, 2005), and has presented her findings at several professional conferences and academic seminars.

With jobs disappearing, unemployment growing and Connecticut facing an ongoing budget nightmare—in an election year no less—the Spring 2010 issue of The Connecticut Economy: A University of Connecticut Quarterly Review analyzes the state’s grim budget prospects, and examines the economic consequences of local policies—including zoning controls, taxes, spending and regional cooperation—that affect property values and the housing mix.

The latest issue examines the state’s economy and finds plenty to still raise concerns: high unemployment, slow job growth, and red-ink budgets at all levels of government. With education claiming a large portion of public spending, especially at the town level, “A Forward Look” by John Yrchik, Executive Director of the Connecticut Education Association (CEA), argues that Governor M. Jodi Rell’s use of federal stimulus money will disadvantage K-12 education when the extra funding runs out. Yrchik spoke and responded to media questions when editors of The Connecticut Economy presented their findings at a March 10th press release event at the Hartford offices of the CEA.

Connecticut has resorted to borrowing, one-shot fixes, and tinkering to balance its budgets; but those days will end in July 2011, contends Quarterly co-editor Arthur Wright in an analysis of the state’s enduring budget saga. That’s when Connecticut’s budget for the next biennium, FY2012-FY2013, begins. Whether the state’s political leaders cut the deficit via higher taxes or reduced spending, the challenge will be to choose the best combination, says Wright, adding: “Better as a state, and as individual voters, we begin facing such issues this year, with so many elections for State offices going on.”

There is little question that Connecticut is an old state and growing older. The 39.4 median age of the state’s population ranks it the 7th oldest state in the nation. So, if Connecticut hopes to replace its aging, retirement-bound baby-boomers with a cadre of younger workers, it has to import them with a mix of challenging jobs, good pay and affordable housing, notes Quarterly Executive Editor Steven Lanza. Yet, like towns all across America, Connecticut communities have long used zoning controls to regulate the pace, mix and location of development. Lanza examines whether zoning works at cross-purposes with broader public policy objectives such as attracting young professionals to a rapidly graying state.

To shed light on how local policies affect real property values, recent UConn PhD Ekaterina Gnedenko (Agricultural & Resource Economics) and co-editor Dennis Heffley apply an “open-city” model to examine how local public policies—including municipal taxes, spending, zoning and regional cooperation—affect property values. The model’s underlying assumption—that town officials seek to maximize local property values—is a controversial one. But they note that “…if property values reflect not just a town’s site and socioeconomic conditions, but also ‘how the town is run’—then public officials who seek to enhance property values may be serving the interests of their constituents well.”

The editors and Quarterly contributors also:

  • Map the change in percent of available land used for development purposes between 1985 and 2006 across Connecticut’s 169 towns, based on satellite images.
  • Provide a region-by-region look at Connecticut’s economic performance, analyzing jobs, unemployment, housing prices and permits for the state’s four largest market areas.
  • Use tables, charts and commentary to report labor market data for Connecticut, showing higher unemployment rates across the board.
  • Forecast deeper job losses than previously estimated, but the start of recovery during 2010 and 2011.

For free access to this and other issues of The Connecticut Economy, visit:

Professors Metin Coşgel and Thomas Miceli have recently published an article titled “State and Religion.” The paper develops a theoretical and empirical analysis of the historical relationship between government and religion. The authors argue that an important function of religion throughout history has been to help legitimize the state, thereby reducing both its cost of tax collection and its susceptibility to being overthrown by popular revolt. In this sense, the model is an effort to formalize Marx’s famous dictum that religion serves as “an opiate of the masses.” The model also tries to explain why some regimes, notably communist, have tried to suppress religion. If the actions of the state are contrary to religious doctrine, for example, the state may find it necessary to suppress practice of that religion in order to maintain power. The paper uses a rich set of cross-country data on the relationship between religion and state, as well as examples drawn from history, to evaluate the predictions of the model.

This article, which was published in the September 2009 issue of the Journal of Comparative Economics (UConn working paper version), is part of a larger research agenda that Professors Cosgel and Miceli have recently embarked upon that seeks to examine the interaction of religious, political, and legal institutions from an economic perspective.

Dr. Natalia V Smirnova is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Business and Economics at the College of Mount Saint Vincent, Riverdale, NY. Her areas of expertise include Russian economic transformation, issues of women in the labor force and pedagogical matters related to active learning techniques. She holds BA in Economics and Ph.D. in Statistics from St. Petersburg State University of Economics and Finance, Russia; MA in Economics from Queens College/CUNY, and Ph. D. in Economics from the University of Connecticut, the latter under the supervision of Prof. Alpert.

Dr. Smirnova participated in the Teaching Innovations Program (TIP) sponsored by the Committee on Economic Education of the American Economic Association and funded by the National Science Foundation, and completed “Experiments” and “Cooperative Learning Exercises” modules. For outstanding teaching practices and overall command with students she received Wal-Mart Teaching Excellence Award presented by the Association of Collegiate Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP), Region 1, in 2007.

She was selected in late May for the US Embassy Policy Specialist (EPS) program, which is coordinated through the International Research & Exchanges Board (IREX). This program supports US embassies and consulates overseas by providing policy specialists-in-residence. Dr. Smirnova will be in the U.S. Consulate in Vladivostok, Russia, during March-April 2010 researching the current and future states of economic development in the Russian Far East and the opportunities for improvement of labor market participation of Russian women.

The Russian Far East is an important regional power, both within Russia and within the Pacific Rim. The infrastructure, economic diversification, competitiveness, entrepreneurship, environment and energy efficiency of the region are among the priorities cited by different sources. During this assignment, Dr. Smirnova intends to conduct economic analysis of policies and projects in these priority areas. The focus is to find ways to attract U.S. businesses and investors to the Russian Far East.

The second part of the project is planned to study women’s labor force participation with the aim of identifying policies that could increase the employment opportunities for American companies doing business in Russia. Dr. Smirnova would like to gain a better understanding of factors affecting women’s labor market outcomes, especially in foreign firms.