Category: Event

Economics Colloquium, Thursday at 4:30 p.m.

Hillary Caruthers, a visiting professor at Berry College, will visit campus Thursday and deliver the next edition of the Economics Colloquium.  Professor Caruthers is a recent Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.   Her talk will be at 4:30 Thursday in Steitz 102.

“Household Risk Management and Rural to Urban Migration in Indonesia”

Hillary Caruthers
Berry College

ABSTRACT:  This paper investigates the role of risk in rural to urban migration decisions using Indonesian household-level panel data. Specifically, I use consumption data and measures of household risk aversion to test whether rural to urban migration is a means of managing risk among uninsured households via the diversification of household income flows. Most previous studies of risk and migration do not analyze the migrant’s choice of destination but instead focus on the relationship between risk aversion and the likelihood of migration; however, if migration is motivated, in part, by household risk management, then the level of risk aversion should impact both the propensity to migrate and the destination of migration. In this paper I generate predictions regarding the relationship between household risk aversion and the economic riskiness of receiving regions and test these predictions using a multinomial logit estimation. Empirical results generally affirm the predictions of the model. Households prefer to send migrants to destinations with lower consumption variability and, as predicted, this preference is stronger among households with higher risk aversion. Also, all households prefer destinations where average consumption is less correlated with home consumption.

You can see a draft of the paper here.

Special EconTea: The Nuclear Option

There will be a special Econ Tea on Tuesday, May 20 at 2:30 p.m. in Briggs 217 to discuss this paper:

Joseph Michael Newhard, “The Stock Market Speaks: How Dr. Alchian Learned to Build the Bomb,” Forthcoming in Journal of Corporate Finance.

The paper covers the remarkable story of Armen Alchian’s attempt to figure out the fissile material in nuclear weapons.  Here’s Alchian’s telling of the story:

We knew they were developing this H-bomb, but we wanted to know, what’s in it?  What’s the fissile material? Well there’s thorium, thallium, beryllium, and something else, and we asked Herman Kahn and he said, ‘Can’t tell you’… I said, ‘I’ll find out’, so I went down to the RAND library and had them get for me the US Government’s Dept. of Commerce Yearbook which has items on every industry by product, so I went through and looked up thorium, who makes it, looked up beryllium, who makes it, looked them all up, took me about 10 minutes to do it, and got them. There were about five companies, five of these things, and then I called Dean Witter… they had the names of the companies also making these things, ‘Look up for me the price of these companies… and here were these four or five stocks going like this, and then about, I think it was September, this was now around October, one of them started to go like that, from $2 to around $10, the rest were going like this, so I thought ‘Well, that’s interesting’… I wrote it up and distributed it around the social science group the next day. I got a phone call from the head of RAND calling me in, nice guy, knew him well, he said ‘Armen, we’ve got to suppress this’… I said ‘Yes, sir’, and I took it and put it away, and that was the  first event study. Anyway, it made my reputation among a lot of the engineers at RAND.

You can get an ungated version of the the paper here.

As per usual, the availability of refreshments is subject to estimated demand and prevailing market prices.

A Great Leap Forward, Thursday at 4:30

Alexander J. Field from Santa Clara University will be on campus Thursday to deliver a public lecture based on his book, A Great Leap Forward: 1930s Depression and U.S. Economic Growth  (Amazon link here).

Professor Field argues that despite the bottoming out of aggregate demand, total factor productivity growth increased faster during the Great Depression than any other decade in U.S.  history.   My read of the book makes the assertion almost uncontroversial, yet the notion of rapid productivity growth disrupts conventional views on the role of World War II in terms of “getting the US out of the depression,” and also in terms of setting the stage for the post-WWII economic boom.  Field makes this case quantitatively, walks through some of the implications, and puts it in historical context, including his thoughts on some recent events.  This is very high quality economics and should play very well with economics students and a general audience.

You can read a brief interview with Field on his work in the New York Times.

The talk is Thursday, May 15 at 4:30 p.m. in Wriston Auditorium.

This is the Phi Beta Kappa lecture as part of the Visiting Scholars Series.  We are fortunate that the Senior Experience is providing funding to bring Professor Field to campus. 

Econ Tea Monday — Pre-Registration Advising and Major Consultation… and, Look, the Pie!

We will host an Economics Tea on Monday, April 21 at 4:30 in Briggs 217 to convene for lively discussion and delicious pie.  Faculty will be available to discuss pre-registration and give advice to anyone interested in learning more about the department major.  We will once again be offering various types of pie.

For the Google-impaired amongst you, here is a link to the major and minor requirements.

Key things for potential majors to know:

The core series sequence is Micro Theory (ECON 300), Econometrics (ECON 380), and Macro Theory (ECON 320).  These are generally offered once per year, with ECON 300 in the fall, ECON 380 in the winter, and ECON 320 in the spring.  We believe that taking these back-to-back-to-back is a good strategy.

You need calculus (MATH 140 OR MATH 120 & MATH 130) in order to take Econ 300.

You need calculus in order to take Introduction to Probability and Statistics (MATH 207).  Math 207 is only offered in the fall term each year.

You need MATH 207 and either ECON 300 or ECON 320 in order to take Econometrics (ECON 380).  We recommend that you take MATH 207 in the fall and ECON 380 in the winter.

The full schedule is right here.

“Big” Economics Colloquium, March 6

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

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

Abominable, That Is

Gosh it’s hot

The Greenfire Speaker Series has enlisted me to talk a bit about my work.  So it is with this much fanfare that I announce that I will be giving a talk on U.S. electricity, carbon emissions, and global climate change:

Is it Warm in Here?  The Great World Carbon Belch and Why It Is Probably Going to Get Worse

The talk is 8:30 p.m. in Sabin House and I guess everyone is welcome (Greenfire circulated some pretty cool posters).

Here’s a taste here, and the talk will draw heavily on these sources:

Paul S. Fischbeck, David Gerard, and Sean T. McCoy (2012), Sensitivity analysis of the build decision for carbon capture and sequestration projects. Greenhouse Gas Sci Technol, 2: 36–45. Available at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ghg.1270/full

M. Granger Morgan et al., (2012) Carbon Capture and Sequestration: Removing the Legal and Regulatory Barriers, Reources for the Future Press. (I have a copy!)

William Nordhaus (2013) The Climate Casino: Risk, Uncertainty, and Economics for a Warming World.  Yale University Press.

Severin Borenstein, (2012) “The Private and Public Economics of Renewable Electricity Generation,” Journal of Economic Perspectives, 26(1):67-92. Available at: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.26.1.67

Michael Greenstone and Adam Looney. “Paying Too Much for Energy? The True Costs of Our Energy Choices.” Daedalus 141.2 (2012): 10-30.  Available at: http://web.mit.edu/ceepr/www/publications/workingpapers/2012-002.pdf

BBC News, “At a Glance, The Stern Review,” Available here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/6098362.stm

Click on the picture for six minutes of relatively carbon-free awesomeness.

Economics Colloquium, Monday at 4:30

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.


Learn about financial services from Lawrentians

The next Lawrence Scholars in Business event is coming up this Saturday, February 1st. The topic is financial services, and the panelists will be

  • U.S. Bank – Michelle Bauer ‘87
  • Morgan Stanley – Michael Martino ‘80
  • Kepos Capital, L.P. – Andrew Miller ‘96
  • Heartland Advisors – Dave Ribbens ‘83

This is a great opportunity to interact with alumni who know a lot about the financial services industry from experience, and who are  coming to campus to share that knowledge and insight with you. Whether you are interested in financial services or just not sure what those careers exactly involve, take advantage of the opportunity to learn more from Lawrentians.

Economics Colloquium, Tuesday 11:10 a.m.

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.

Juvenile Justice Talk Thursday at 7 p.m.; Career Services at 12:30 Friday

Jeff Shook from the University of Pittsburgh will be in the campus Cinema to give a talk on juvenile justice issues tonight at 7 p.m.    Professor Shook will also be available at lunch Friday, January 17 at 12:30 in the Parrish Dining Room at Warch Campus Center.

For a little more background, back in November, the Appleton Post-Crescent ran a story and editorial on proposed policies to change the way Wisconsin deals with juvenile defenders.  In addition to his scholarly output, our Economics Colloquium speaker, Jeff Shook, weighs in on the subject in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.  He also has some space in a piece, “Just Kids,” from In These Times.




Economics Colloquium: Juvenile Justice

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.

Sitting with Strangers, Down the Drain, Stiff, Tick-Tock

Those are the titles of the four 10-minute plays that members of Lawrence’s Greyfell Theatre Company wrote and will perform tonight, tomorrow, and Saturday at Björklunden. Watch the teaser on Youtube, and also be sure to check out the rest of their fun videos! Learn more about Greyfell, and check Facebook for updates!

The Economics Colloquium Series in 2014

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.

Start-Up Theatre is happening!

Twenty-two Lawrence students and three faculty members (Tim Troy, Gary Vaughan, Adam Galambos) are in day 4 of the two-week Björklunden immersion experience we are calling Start-Up Theatre. Within these two weeks, our students are writing, directing, designing, rehearsing, and performing four ten-minute plays, AND doing the marketing, outreach, grant-writing—everything.

They have now launched and named this new venture. Greyfell Theatre Company is Lawrence University’s newborn student-run theatre company. Its inaugural production is Thresholds — A Celebration of Ten-Minute Plays, to be performed December 12-14 at Björklunden.

Here is the mission statement and the official description:

Mission Statement:

Greyfell Theatre Company crafts performances that transport our audiences to radiant worlds both old and new in the restorative woods of Björklunden. Fearlessly collaborating in a swift production process, we illuminate fresh voices and invigorate the winter with vibrant new works.


Greyfell Theatre Company is a partnership between the Lawrence University Department of Theatre Arts and the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Program, initiated in the winter of 2013. Each year, a group of committed students arrive at Björklunden vid Sjön, the university’s northern campus in Door County. Greyfell aims to create new works of theatre in an accelerated start-up environment. The theatre derives its name from Greyfell, the swift shining horse of the Norse hero Sigurd whose image is immortalized in Björklunden’s Great Hall. Just as Greyfell was a symbol of vitality, Greyfell Theatre Company strives to invigorate the Door County community and illuminate new voices by building on the theatre-making tradition that the Department of Theatre Arts has cherished since 1930.

We are on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/greyfelltheatreco; on Twitter: https://twitter.com/GreyfellTheatre/ (with Vine snippets), and check out the blog:  http://www.greyfell.org/blog/. Like us, follow us, talk to us, and come see the shows!

Economics Colloquium, Monday at 4:30

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.

Fall Festival, October 5

The purple balls make their first appearance at Fall Fest this Saturday morning:

“I Like Your Chances: Quantifying Mortality Risks”

David Gerard, Associate Professor of Economics
Briggs Hall 119

Two things are certain in life – death and taxes. As Professor Gerard is a bit tired of talking about taxes, he will discuss work on quantifying mortality risks for use in regulatory policies. He describes these risks in terms of ‘micromorts’ (a one-in-a-million chance of dying) and characterizes mortality risks for demographic groups across the U.S. and Europe.

Given the subject matter, we might change that to Careful so that you don’t Fall Fest.