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.


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?

Microeconomic Theory:

Pedro Dal Bó:  Game Theory and 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

  • Why do so many deals occur just before the deadline? What’s to be gainined by waiting until the 11th hour?
  • Why do people haggle in negotiations? Why not save time and increase efficiency by immediately offering a price at the buyer’s lowest valuation of the good?

Glenn Loury: Economic Theory, Applied Theory, and 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?

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?

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?
  • When does the ability of groups to write binding agreements lead to efficiency?

Applied Microeconomics:

Anna Aizer: Health Economics and 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?

Lint Barrage: Environmental Economics

  • Do environmental disasters affect growth?
  • How should carbon be taxed as a part of fiscal policy?
  • How does regulatory rule-making respond to industry conditions and economic fluctuations?

Daniel Bjorkegren: Development Economics, and Industrial Organization

  • How should societies encourage the adoption of network goods? Should developing countries earn revenue by taxing mobile phones?
  • In developing countries, where most lack traditional credit histories and therefore access to bank loans, can new data sources--like mobile phone usage--help banks identify and extend credit to good borrowers?
  • How do standard economic models break down when goods have many dimensions of quality?

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, and 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, and Public Economics

  • How do consumers respond to biased media?
  • How politically segregated are online social networks?

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

  • Are Republicans and Democrats talking past each other?
  • Why do people pay a premium for brand-name goods?

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?


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

  • Was the New Deal contractionary?
  • Is Increased Price Flexibility Stabilizing?

Oded Galor: Comparative Development, Evolutionary Economics, and 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?

Neil Mehrotra: Financial Economics, Macroeconomics, and Monetary Economics

  • In a global secular stagnation, what are the relative gains of expansionary fiscal policy vs. monetary policy?
  • What share of the decline in US employment during the Great Recession is due to disruptions in firms’ access to credit?
  • Can people’s attempts to deleverage after a big increase in private debt lead to a sustained recession?  

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 and Economic Growth

  • What are the economic origins and consequences of ethnic-group formation and ethnic diversity?
  • What are the historical roots of African development?
  • What are the economic origins and consequences of Islam?

Louis Putterman: Development Economics, Experimental Economics

  • Why do we want to punish free-riders? Is it strategic? How much are we willing to pay to punish?
  • How important is a “capable state” to economic development and growth?
  • Can the threat of expulsion or ostracism be used to encourage some groups to provide public goods?

David Weil: Macroeconomics, Economic Growth

  • What is the effect of health on economic growth?
  • What does the post war baby boom have to do with housing prices?
  • Can we measure economic growth from outer space?  Evidence from satellite images