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rosslarge[1]Professor Stephen L. Ross‘s essay with Jason Fletcher on “Understanding the Mechanisms underlying Peer Group Effects: The Role of Friendships in Determining Adolescent Outcomes” was published on Sunday (Nov 3) in Vox: Research-based policy analysis and commentary from leading economists.  In this essay, Professor Ross describes the potential importance of social interactions between children as an underlying mechanism behind peer effects, and discusses Professor Fletcher and his work that shows how smoking and drinking of friends can affect substance abuse and how having friends with more educated parents can contribute to positive attitudes leading to higher grades among girls.

Professor Stephen Ross attended the advisory council meeting for the 2010 Housing Discrimination Study at the Urban Institute on Nov 16th.  The 2010 Housing Discrimination Study is a nationwide effort to measure the level of racial and ethnic discrimination in U.S. metropolitan areas using pairs of testers sent to the same real estate or rental agency.  Professor Ross was the research director for the 2000 Housing Discrimination Study and has been a key advisor on the new study since its inception.  For more details on the 2010 study, see http://www.huduser.org/portal/about/trans_init.html.

Xiaofang Dong, who visited our department for a year and a half to work with Professor Stephen Ross on agglomeration economies, recently accepted a faculty position at Xiamen University in China.  Xiamen University was ranked 6th this year among research institutions in China.  Xiaofang recently completed her dissertation on Entreprenuership, Firm life cycle and Agglomeration Economics at the Southwest University of Finance and Economics, China.

Prof. Steve Ross is travelling to London for spring break.  He will present “Workplace Agglomeration and Social Network Segregation: Labor Market Returns by Race” at the London School of Economics and “Estimating the effects of friendship networks on health behaviors of adolescents” at the University College London.  He will also take a quick side trip to the Netherlands to present at the CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economics Policy Analysis.

Professor Ross receives NIH funding to study the effect of friendship networks on the health behavior of adolescents.  Professor Ross with Professors Fletcher at Yale University and Cohen-Cole at the University of Maryland were awarded a major R21 grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.  Under this award, they will develop and implement new approaches to identify the causal effect of the friendships that a student forms in school on key health related behaviors, such as smoking, drinking, weight gain and sexual relations.  In the proposed research, the authors will attempt to isolate the causal effect of friends from confounding factors, such as students sorting into specific friendships based on their unobservables or choosing friends who exhibit similar behaviors by exploiting across grade differences in the environment experienced by students whose families selected into the same school, but who happened to have children of slightly different ages.  One aim of their study will be to compare students who made very similar friendships as other students in the same school, but due to their grade were exposed to friends who exhibited different levels of smoking or drinking. In another aim, their study will the examine differences in friendship network structure between adjacent grades and the impact of those differences on health behaviors.

The panel discussion held on Wednesday, November 16, 2011 was featured in articles on UConn Today and in the Daily Campus.  Professors Carstensen, Lanza, Minkler, Ross, and Wright led a discussion (moderated by Department Head Metin Cosgel) about the state of the U.S. economy and possible improvements.

Two faculty in the department of economics, Kenneth Couch and Stephen Ross, serve as Associate Editors of journals ranked in the top 30 among the combined pool of economics, public policy and finance outlets according to rankings based on this past year’s Social Science Citation Index.  Professor Couch is an Associate Editor of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management (JPAM) which is the association journal for the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM).   JPAM is considered the top journal in the field of public policy and was ranked 29th this past year.  Stephen Ross is Associate Editor of the Journal of Urban Economics.  The Journal of Urban Economics is the top journal for its topical area and was ranked 18th this past year among the combined group of journals.

In the spring issue of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Professor Ross takes issue with the conventional wisdom that the foreclosure crisis has been driven by weak underwriting standards and risky mortgage products in the subprime market.  Professor Ross argues that the primary cause of the foreclosure crisis was the significant erosion of housing equity among U.S. homeowners in the period leading up to the crisis, which exposed large numbers of homeowners to significant risk of negative equity from even small to moderate declines in housing prices.  For example, he notes that in early 2007 well before the financial crisis stuck foreclosure began to rise in all segments of the mortgage market, not just in the subprime sector.  The timing of this increase immediately follows declines in housing prices that began in the fourth quarter of 2006 and those foreclosures were overwhelming among households that had little equity in the home prior to those declines, regardless of their particular lender or mortgage product.  In light of this evidence, Professor Ross and his coauthors argue the most important policy response for preventing a future foreclosure crisis is to monitor and develop tools for managing aggregate homeowner leverage in the U.S. housing market.  This issue has been notably absent from the debate during and following the passage of the recent financial regulatory reform law. Professor Couch edits the Point/Counterpoint series.

For more information, please see the following website: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/pam.v30.2/issuetoc

Xiaoming Li defended his PhD dissertation under the supervision of Prof. Ross on Monday, April 25, 2011.

Theoretical models and empirical analyses argue that mortgage underwriting is a dynamic process in which previous mortgage and housing market conditions affect current mortgage approvals. Neighborhoods likely differ in important ways and over important events or shocks that influence both housing prices and mortgage underwriting decisions. This potential endogeneity complicates the causal analyses and failure to control for neighborhood heterogeneity risks confounding spurious and true state dependence. Xiaoming’s dissertation attempts to examine the housing dynamics and distinguish between sources of time persistence on neighborhood mortgage underwriting. Specifically, Xiaoming extends traditional and recently developed dynamic panel data techniques for use of repeated, clustered cross-sectional individual mortgage applications linearly and nonlinearly, respectively.

Xiaoming now heads to Freddie Mac as a Credit & Prepayment Modeling, Senior. We wish him the best of luck!

Stephen Ross is part of a team that combines researchers from Indiana University, New York University and Northwestern University that was recently awarded an $800,000 grant for their proposal “The Effects of Housing Instability on Children’s Education Outcomes.” This study will examine the effects of foreclosures in New York City plus three large school districts in California and Florida on the educational outcomes of children. The proposed research employs data sets that geographically links the foreclosure of specific buildings or housing units to longitudinal student administrative data in the following K-12 public school districts: New York City; San Diego, California; Fresno, California; and Pinellas (St. Petersburg/Clearwater), Florida. These districts are particularly appropriate for this study because each experienced widespread foreclosures recently, and New York City experienced other forms of housing upheavals, providing a rich context for linking housing instability to student outcomes. Longitudinal student level data will be available for all three sites for 2003 through 2008 allowing us to examine whether exposure to foreclosures or to neighborhoods with high foreclosure rates can explain changes in students test scores over time.

For details, see the MacArthur Foundation.

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