Research

The Brown Department of Economics is home to some of the most relevant and engaging research being done in the field, with its scholars contributing to the public debate about economic policy, including taxation and government expenditure, trade and globalization, the development and growth of the economy, health and welfare.

Below are the topics of research arranged by field and faculty member.  If you are interested in any of these faculty research questions, you might considering taking a course offered by the faculty member.  You can also contact the faculty member regarding RA opportunities.

Econometrics

Andriy Norets: Econometrics

  • Can Bayesian methods lead to improved analysis of economic data?
  • How should we model dynamic economic decisions?

Susanne Schennach: Econometric Theory

  • How can we measure the factors that contribute to human capital development?
  • How can we deal with the errors in measurement that pervade social science data?
  • How can we confidently estimate models when there are some assumptions we aren’t sure of?

Experimental and Economics Theory

Pedro Dal Bó:  Game Theory, Experimental Economics

  • Why do voters vote against their best interests?
  • Under what circumstances do globalization and trade increase conflict?
  • What determines the quality of public officials?

Geoffroy de Clippel: Game Theory, Behavioral Economics, Experimental Economics

  • How can choice models incorporate psychological biases?
  • How to design modes of interaction to guarantee good outcomes?
  • What does fairness mean?

Jack Fanning: Game Theory, Bargaining

  • What are the effects of private information on bargaining outsomes?
  • How can third parties help to improve bargaining outcomes?
  • What are the effects of reputation in different market settings?

Glenn Loury: Economic Theory, Applied Theory, Labor Economics

  • Under what circumstances does egalitarian redistribution efforts make all current members of a society better off?
  • Why are so many Americans in prison?
  • What is the combined effect of segregation in social networks, peer effects, and the relative size of a historically disadvantaged group on the incentives to invest in human capital?

Teddy Mekonnen: Economics Theory, Game Theory

  • How does having access to more informative signals affect strategic interactions in a game theoretic setting?
  • How should we disclose information in a market in which consumers have to search for the products they wish to consume?
  • What are the dynamics of employer-employee contracts when they are able to learn from past actions and outcomes?

Bobby Pakzad-Hurson: Economic Theory

  • How does knowing the wages of your peers affect the way you bargin with your employer?
  • How do we design economic markets when individuals don't have access to all the information they need to make informed decisions?
  • What is the role of the on-demand economy and internet labor markets in closing the gender wage gap?

Louis Putterman: Comparative Development, Experimental Economics, Political Economy

  • What can account for cooperation and trust?
  • How important are they to effective institutions and development?
  • How does the unfolding of world history since the first transitions to agriculture contribute to an explanation of cross-country differences in comparative economic development?

Kareen Rozen: Game Theory, Behavioral Economics

  • What are the market consequences when consumers have limited ability to find the best deals?
  • How do past experiences change one’s risk tolerance?
  • What do people consider fair for others?

Roberto Serrano: Economic Theory, Game Theory

  • How do you measure the riskiness of an investment?
  • How does the bargaining process change when you move from two players to more than two?
  • What is the fair distribution of the surplus generated by the team when there are externalities across members of the team?

Rajiv Vohra: Economic Theory, Game Theory

  • Under what circumstances do coalitions (cartels, lobbies, unions) form?
  • How does the farsightedness of players affect the stability of cooperative outcomes?
  • What are the welfare implications of non-paternalistic externalities?

Applied Microeconomics

Anna Aizer: Health Economics, Economics of the Family

  • When women’s wages rise, does domestic violence fall?
  • What are the true costs of teen motherhood?
  • Is cash welfare like insurance?

Daniel Bjorkegren: Development Economics, Machine Learning, Industrial Organization

  • How can we make machine intelligence work for humanity?
  • How should societies manage dominant networks?
  • 2 billion people lack bank accounts. Can mobile phones allow them to access credit?

Ken Chay: Health and Labor Economics, Empirical Methods

  • Can hospital desegregation in the American South during the 1960s explain the narrowing of the black-white test score gap in the 1980s; the racial convergence in college enrollment rates in the early 1990s; and the fall in the black-white earnings gap from the late 1990s to the early 2000s?
  • What effects did Medicare’s rollout after 1965 have on older-age health and life expectancy? How large were the associated costs? How did provider behavior and costs change after the Prospective Payment System (PPS) was instituted in 1983? What is the evidence on the relative costs and benefits of single-payer versus private insurance systems?
  • How did black Americans in the South fare during and after Reconstruction? Did former slaves form networks after the Civil War, and what role did the black church play? Did networks play a role in the size and destinations of the Great Migration of African-Americans to the North? 

Andrew Foster: Development Economics, Environmental Economics

  • How effective are policies of voluntary compliance in environmental regulation?
  • Why does female education in developing countries increase growth?
  • Does technological progress increase the returns to schooling in a developing economy?

John Friedman: Public Economics, Political Economy

  • How can we improve economic opportunity for children from poor backgrounds?
  • How do taxes affect individuals and the economy?
  • Which policies can improve the quality of education, and how can we allow access to high quality education for all students?

Justine Hastings: Industrial Organization, Public Economics

  • Are some degrees worth more than others?
  • Can firms undo competition with advertising?
  • How effective are policy “nudges” when fettered consumers face sophisticated firms?

Brian Knight: Political Economy, Public Economics

  • How do votes respond to government propaganda and censorship?
  • How has the Common Application changed college admissions in the United States?

Emily Oster: Health Economics, Development Economics

  • Why is infant mortality higher in the US than Europe?
  • Does disease cause vaccination?
  • Do IT centers foster school enrollment in developing countries?
  • Does life expectancy affect human capital investments?

Jesse Shapiro: Industrial Organization, Political Economy

  • What is driving rising political polarization?
  • How does competition for advertising affect media content?
  • How does SNAP affect household behavior?

Bryce Steinberg: Development Economics, Labor Economics

  • Could access to modern contraceptives help Zambian women graduate from college?
  • Is India's flagship anti-poverty program causing kids to drop out of school?
  • How do water outages affect health and economic activity in urban Africa?

Neil Thakral: Public Economics, Labor Economics, Behavioral Economics

  • How can we improve the design of social programs, such as public housing, to increase welfare?
  • What factors influence individuals' decisions about how much to work and where to work, especially given the rise of alternative/flexible work arrangements?
  • How do decision makers' behavioral biases evolve over time?

Matthew Turner: Environmental Economics, Urban Economics

  • Do denser cities mean less driving?
  • Does public transit increase economic activity? Does it relieve congestion?
  • What factors have shaped urban growth in China?

Macroeconomics

Joaquin Blaum: International Economics, Macroeconomics, Economic Growth

  • How does international trade in intermediate inputs of production affect the aggregate productivity of the economy?
  • How does a currency devaluation affect consumer prices? 
  • What is the effect of wealth inequality on the productivity of the economy?

Gauti Eggertsson: Macroeconomics, Monetary Economics

  • What was the source of the Great Depression and the Great Recession?
  • How should governments respond to financial panics?
  • What is the effect of conventional and unconventional monetary policy?
  • How should fiscal policy be used to stabilize the business cycle?

Oded Galor: Comparative Development, Evolutionary Economics, Economic Growth

  • How does income inequality affect investment in human capital and growth? 
  • What explains the historical transition from stagnation to growth? What roles did educational, institutional, geographical and cultural factors play in the transition?
  • What role did declining fertility and population growth play in promoting economic growth?

Pascal Michaillat: Macroeconomics, Public Economics

  • What causes fluctuations in unemployment?
  • Should unemployment insurance be more generous in recessions?
  • How should government spending respond to economic fluctuations?
  • How should monetary policy respond to fluctuations in unemployment?

Stelios Michalopoulos: Political Economy, Development, Economic Growth

  • What are the economic origins and consequences of group formation and ethnic diversity?
  • What are the historical roots of African development?
  • What can we learn from the nation's oral traditions?

David Weil: Macroeconomics, Economic Growth

  • What is the effect of health on economic growth?
  • What is the role of geography in explaining relative economic development?
  • Can we measure economic growth from outer space?  Evidence from satellite images

Finance

Rafael La Porta: Behavioral Finance, Corporate Finance, Development

  • What are the consequences of legal origins for the legal and regulatory framework of the society, as well as for economic outcomes?
  • What is the role of institutions and human capital in development?
  • What is the role of errors in expectations in asset pricing?