Posts Tagged ‘Economics Colloquium’

“Big” Economics Colloquium, March 6

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

Scraping Data and Making “Big” Inferences

Arnold F. Shober
Lawrence University

Abstract: “Big Data” does little to explain the human condition, but it offers unprecedented opportunities to model how people choose.  Professor Shober will describe how Google and Amazon know what you want with uncanny accuracy, and how in his research program he uses similar tools to examine how journalists cover politicians.  He will also discuss some of the practical and statistical difficulties when analyzing billions of data points.

The talk is March 6 at 11:10 a.m. in Steitz Hall 102.


UPDATE:  A very good talk.  Unfortunately, we did not get video for his one.

Next Economics Colloquium, February 20

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

Health Care:  It Took Years to Build Up this Much Duct Tape

Travis Andersen
President, St. Elizabeth Hospital


Mr. Andersen will provide an overview of the U.S. health care system, including a brief history of the emergence of our current system, and where the system stands in terms of the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  He will also discuss the emergent role of integrated-delivery systems, and how these systems shape provider incentives in terms of costs and quality, and the anticipated effects for patient outcomes. 


February 20
4:30 p.m.
Steitz Hall 102

Economics Colloquium, Monday at 4:30

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Jonathan Lhost, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Texas, will visit campus Monday and deliver the next edition of the Economics Colloquium.  The talk will be at 4:30 Monday in Steitz 102.

You can take a look at the paper (see below) and be sure to bring your computer so you can follow along with the interactive appendix.

Credit or Debit? How Surcharging Affects Customers, Merchants, and the Platform

Jonathan Lhost
University of Texas

ABSTRACT:  Payment cards were used to complete over 87 billion transactions in the United States in 2012, worth over $4 trillion. The cost for merchants of these transactions is significant, with merchants paying over $66 billion in fees to payment card networks (e.g., Visa) in 2012, and also varies widely based on the type of payment card used, with credit cards often twice as costly for merchants as debit cards. Historically, with limited exceptions, merchants have been prohibited, both by law and by the contract permitting the acceptance of that network’s cards, from what is known as “surcharging,” that is, charging a customer a higher or lower price depending upon the cost to the merchant of the customer’s payment method. Merchants have raised legal challenges against this prohibition on surcharging, claiming it is anti-competitive, increases their costs, and reduces their profits. Recent concessions made by several major payment networks in response to these legal challenges raises the possibility that this paradigm might change in the future.


I consider a population of customers who have different valuations for a good sold by two competing merchants, as well as varying preferences over the merchant from which to purchase the good and the payment form with which to make the purchase, and examine what the effects might be if merchants were allowed to surcharge. When the merchants have identical marginal costs, both merchants have higher profits when allowed to surcharge. However, if merchants are asymmetric, the merchant with lower costs, typically a larger retailer, benefits from surcharging, whereas the merchant without an ability to reduce costs, typically a smaller retailer, does not.

Economics Colloquium, Tuesday 11:10 a.m.

Friday, January 17th, 2014

Eva Dziadula, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Illinois-Chicago and an instructor at Lake Forest College, will be on campus on Tuesday for a lunchtime Economics Colloquium.  The talk will be at 11:10 Tuesday in Steitz 102.

You can take a look at the paper and bring your questions.


The Determinants of Citizenship by Naturalization in the United States: A Closer Look at Education

Eva Dziadula

University of Illinois-Chicago, Lake Forest College

Abstract:  This paper builds on a model of the naturalization process in which personal characteristics, characteristics of the country of birth and of the destination region in the United States are shown to be important determinants of acquiring citizenship. While the existing literature has examined the role of education in determining naturalization, I introduce the notion of country specific human capital and suggest that higher education acquired in the United States should have a larger impact on naturalization than education acquired elsewhere. Empirically, I show that the impact of education depends strongly on where the education was acquired, suggesting that years of education is a crude proxy for human capital in this context. By contributing to a better understanding of the mechanism through which education impacts naturalization, this paper helps further the literature on immigrant naturalization as well as the study of human capital more generally.

Economics Colloquium: Juvenile Justice

Friday, January 10th, 2014

Jeffrey Shook from the University of Pittsburgh will be on campus next week to talk about his work on juveniles in the criminal justice system.  The talk, co-sponsored with Lawrence Scholars in Law program, will be Thursday, January 16 at 7 p.m. in the Warch Campus Cinema.  The talk title is “From Roper to Miller: Legal and Policy Implications of Recent Supreme Court Decisions on the Punishment of Juveniles.”

Professor Shook is an outstanding scholar and also committed to service, having won the Chancellor’s Distinguished Public Service Award from the University of Pittsburgh in 2013. 

He is a man of many talents, after received his degree in economics (!) from Grinnell College, he went on to earn a law degree from American University and a Ph.D. in social work and sociology from the University of Michigan. Acording to his bio:

His research examines the intersection of law, policy, and practice in the lives of children and youth, focusing on the transfer of juveniles to the adult criminal justice system, the administration of juvenile justice, the movement of youth across child and youth serving systems, and the experiences of youth “aging out” of the child welfare system. Jeff also is involved in efforts to end the sentencing of juveniles to life sentences without the opportunity for parole both in Pennsylvania and nationally.

He is a very busy guy that works on some fascinating issues, as this selection of his publications attests:

Visser, Joanna and Jeffrey J. Shook. 2013. The Supreme Court’s emerging jurisprudence on the punishment of juvenilesCourt Review Journal, 49(24-39).

Shook, Jeffrey J., Sara Goodkind, Ryan Pohlig, Lisa Schelbe, David Herring, and Kevin Kim. 2011. Patterns of mental health, substance abuse, and justice system involvement among youth aging out of the child welfare systemAmerican Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 81(420-432).  

Shook, Jeffrey J., Michael G. Vaughn, Sara Goodkind, and Heath Johnson. 2011.  An empirical portrait of youthful offenders who sell drugs.  Journal of Criminal Justice,33(224-231).

Shook, Jeffrey J. 2011.  Prosecutorial decisions to treat juveniles as adults: Intersections of individual and contextual characteristics. Criminal Law Bulletin,47(341-387).

Shook, Jeffrey J. and Sara Goodkind. 2009. Racial disproportionality in juvenile justice: The interaction of race and geography in pretrial detention for violent and serious offenders. Race and Social Problems, 1(257-66).

Shook, Jeffrey J. and Rosemary C. Sarri. 2008. Trends in the commitment of juvenile offenders to adult prisons: Toward an increased willingness to treat juveniles as adults? Wayne Law Review, 54(1725-65).

 See you Thursday.

The Economics Colloquium Series in 2014

Monday, December 9th, 2013

Our schedule of economics and policy talks coming over the next two terms is coming together nicely.   We have these three events in the books, and have a couple of other speakers in the works.

Jeffrey J. Shook, Associate Professor at the University of Pittsburgh,  January 16, 2014 (Time TBA) “From Roper to Miller: Legal and Policy Implications of Recent Supreme Court Decisions on the Punishment of Juveniles.”  This is co-sponsored by Lawrence Scholars in Law.

Travis Andersen, President of St. Elizabeth Hospital, February 20, 4:30 p.m.  Mr. Andersen will address how hospitals and doctors get paid.

Alexander Field, Professor at Santa Clara University, will give the Phi Beta Kappa Lecture on his book, A Great Leap Forward: 1930s Depression and US Economic GrowthMay 15, 2014.   This is part of the Senior Experience for many economics majors.  More on Field’s work here

Arnold Shober in Government has also agreed in principle to give a talk on his current project and the data “scraping” methods he’s been employing.

And for those of you who missed it, or who just can’t get enough, Paul Fischbeck’s talk, “Quantitative Policy Analysis: Risk Analysis and Risk Communications from Cape Cod to Nairobi,” is now available.   Click here to see his excellent presentation.

Economics Colloquium, Monday at 4:30

Friday, November 8th, 2013

Quantitative Policy Analysis: 
Risk Analysis and Risk Communications from Cape Cod to Nairobi

Monday, November 11
Steitz 102
4:30 p.m. 

The next Economics Colloquium will feature Paul Fischbeck, Professor of Engineering & Public Policy and Social & Decision Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University. His talk focuses on several of his current research projects. The first topic relates to his work chairing a National Academy of Sciences examining risks of oil spills in Buzzards Bay and the Cape Cod Canal.  A second addresses the ability of buildings in Nairobi to withstand extreme events.

Professor Fischbeck will be on campus to assist in curricular developments quantitative decision making.  He has been recognized as an outstanding educator, and in particular his “expertise in leading team project-oriented courses that teach students problem-solving skills.”  In 2010 he picked up the Ryan Award for Meritorious Teaching, a university-wide award at Carnegie Mellon. 

Professor Fischbeck has a Ph.D. in industrial engineering from Stanford University, an M.S. in Operations Research from the Naval Postgraduate School, and a B.A. in architecture from the University of Virginia.  He is a retired Captain in the U.S. Navy.

UPDATE:  Here is a link to the talk.

Economics Colloquium, Friday at 4:30

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Menna Bizuneh from The College of St. Benedict and St. Johns University will be on campus Friday for the second Economics Colloquium of the year.

The talk, “Are We Floating Yet?” will be at 4:30 in Steitz 102.

Here are the particulars: (more…)

Economics Colloquium in STEITZ 102 and Econ Tea, October 3 at 4:30

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

UPDATE: The talk is in Steitz 102.

The first Economics Colloquium of the year is our own Professor Marty Finkler talking about some of his recent work on the U.S. employment situation.     He will give a 30-40 minute talk, after which we will adjourn for Econ Tea in Briggs 217 at 5:15.

Please join us for Professor Finkler’s talk, and to meet our visiting faculty, Satis Devkota and M. Taylor Rhodes.

The abstract is below:


Employment and Monetary Policy: The Role of Relative Price Distortions

Merton D. Finkler
Professor of Economics
Lawrence University

The economic recovery from the recession of December 2007 to June 2009 featured real GDP returning to its pre-recession level while employment continues to lag behind to its pre-recession level.  One possible reason is that employment patterns contain both cyclical and structural components.  In this paper, changes in the price of labor, unit labor costs, and the cost of equipment and software are studied as key structural components. Separate regressions with changes in employment as the dependent variable are performed for goods producing, service producing, and manufacturing sectors.  In each case, explanatory power is increased with the inclusion of a representation of the cost of labor; thus, macroeconomic policy that seeks to stimulate employment growth should consider the effects of the chosen policy on the relative cost of labor and not just on aggregate demand.

Economics Colloquium, Tuesday at 4:30

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

On the Desirability of Unemployment Accounts

Christian Zimmerman

Assistant Vice President

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Unemployment insurance programs are often criticized because they encourage various forms of shirking: the unemployed may not try hard enough to look for a new job or may turn down reasonable job offers. Also, the taxes that finance such programs are thought to decrease the labor supply.  This talk will look at an alternative way of insuring against unemployment events through personalized unemployment accounts. We will discuss their advantages but also warn against potential pitfalls. The discussion will be backed up by simulations performed on the labor markets of Oregon, Austria and France.

Tuesday May 14

Steitz Hall 102

4:30 p.m.

Economics Colloquium

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

Mark Montgomery and Irene “Tinker” Powell will be on campus this week to deliver the next Economics Colloquium address, “Baby Markets: Thinking the Unthinkable in International Adoption.” The talk is Thursday at 4:30 in Steitz 102.  This is quite a topic, where the rules of the game have pretty significant distributional consequences, and it will be interesting to see how this sorts out.

Montgomery and Powell are professors at Grinnell College, and are well known for lighter work, including “Should Economists Marry Economists?” and their economics murder mystery, Theoretically Dead.*


Baby Markets: Thinking the Unthinkable in International Adoption

Mark Montgomery and Irene Powell

Grinnell College

Adoption laws, national and international, outlaw payments to families for relinquishing their children. This does not stop “baby selling,” but rather moves it into the hands of criminals. History suggests that restricting mutually beneficial exchanges can make worse the problems it is supposed to solve. Is it time to think the unthinkable in international adoption?

The talk examines how current adoption laws create incentives for fraud and other forms of abuse, identifies “moral hazards” abuse created by the legal structure of adoption, and explores how relaxing restrictions on compensating birth mothers would change incentives and behavior of birth parents, adoptive parents and adoption facilitators.



*As far as I know, they are both economics professors, though the Publisher’s blurb says one is a philosophy professor.  I suppose teaching labor economics long enough can turn anyone somewhat philosophical.

Mark (and Tinker) Your Calendars

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

Our next Economics Colloquium is April 18 and will feature Mark Montgomery and Irene “Tinker” Powell, Professors of Economics at Grinnell College.   We had originally scheduled this one for May 30, but we just can’t wait.


Baby Markets: Thinking the Unthinkable in International Adoption

Mark Montgomery and Irene Powell

Grinnell College 

Adoption laws, national and international, outlaw payments to families for relinquishing their children. This does not stop “baby selling,” but rather moves it into the hands of criminals. History suggests that restricting mutually beneficial exchanges can make worse the problems it is supposed to solve. Is it time to think the unthinkable in international adoption?

The talk examines how current adoption laws create incentives for fraud and other forms of abuse, identifies “moral hazards” abuse created by the legal structure of adoption, and explores how relaxing restrictions on compensating birth mothers would change incentives and behavior of birth parents, adoptive parents and adoption facilitators.


Economics Colloquium, February 5 at 11:15

Thursday, January 31st, 2013


Waiting for Godot, and for Corporate Social Responsibility?

David Gerard

Lawrence University

Milton Friedman famously wrote ‘The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits,’ and ever since (and probably even before) the economics profession has been scratching its collective head wondering whether this is indeed our professional consensus.  In this talk, I put on the ‘mainstream economist’ hat and give an overview of some of the central issues in organizational economics, and the implications of this literature on the balancing of corporate profits and other (potentially) desirable social objectives. 

The target length for the talk is 40 minutes.

Tuesday, February 5

Steitz Hall 102

11:15a.m. – 12 p.m.

Update:  Looks like we made the front page.

A Revolutionary Experience

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Doug Allen from Simon Fraser University will be on campus on February 14 as part of the Senior Experience in economics.  In addition to The Experience, Professor Allen will also deliver a public lecture on his recent book, The Institutional Revolution: Measurement and the Economic Emergence of the Modern World.  The book is a collection of work that principally examines the ‘peculiar’ institutions surrounding the British aristocracy and other pre-modern European curiosities , including the sale of public offices and military commands to the practice of dueling to “settle” disputes.

Professor Allen’s talk will focus on dueling!

Here are a couple of the papers that serve as the foundation for The Institutional Revolution, available via the genius of Google Scholar.

Douglas W.  Allen and Clyde G. Reed (2006) “The Duel of Honor: Screening for Unobservable Social Capital,” American Law and Economics Review: 1–35.

Douglas W Allen (2002) “The British Navy Rules: Monitoring and Incompatible Incentives in the Age of Fighting Sail,” Explorations in Economic History, 39(2):113-232.

Douglas W. Allen (2009) “A Theory of the Pre-Modern British Aristocracy,” Explorations in Economic History, 46:299–313.

Douglas W. Allen and Yoram Barzel (2011) “The Evolution of Criminal Law and Police During the Pre-Modern Era” Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, 27(3):540–567.


Regulating Wall Street: Did We Go Too Far?

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

Lawrence alum Elijah Brewer will address the above question in the next Economics Colloquium.  It will take place next Monday, October 8th, in Steitz Hall 102 at 4:30.  We encourage all to attend.

Brewer characterizes what he will argue as follows:

The causes of the financial crisis of 2007-09 are many and varied. Indeed, the crisis may be viewed as the product of a perfect storm. This address will discuss many of the popular causes of the U.S. crisis and enumerate their more important sins. It then presents the traditional way we like to think about commercial banks, and how that had changed leading up to the financial crisis. Indicators of stress in the financial system, and commercial banks in particular, are presented. What you will see is that many of these indicators were flashing red well before regulators got their hands around the problem. I will argue that it was not the lack of regulation, but a lack of will by regulators to enforce the rules that were already on the books.  Thus, the government’s and Congress’s desire to regulate Wall Street is mis-placed. The banking industry does not need more regulation for the regulators to ignore when it’s convenient for them to do so, but we need a greater will by regulators to enforce the regulations that they do have. I will conclude by offering an assessment of the Dodd-Frank Act.