I actually work on a variety of topics currently. One area of research in which I am becoming more active is the intergenerational persistence of economic and social privilege, and the determinant of intergenerational mobility in economic outcomes. This is partly related to education policies, costs of education, and how education is financed. I often use equilibrium models of earnings growth and human capital accumulation, in a multigenerational environment, where parents make forward looking transfers to their kids to finance their education, and the kids also have access to government loans and subsidies. I try to figure out what are the basic implications of prevailing economic circumstances (within families and in the overall economy) and how they impact intergenerational mobility, taxation, efficiency as well as welfare of people with different levels of wealth and skills. I am also working on several projects linking skills and labor market outcomes, mostly notably earnings over the life cycle of agents, depending on their employment histories and the jobs they do.
The main motive linking my research is a curiosity for the determinants of economic inequality, and of how to reconcile economic efficiency with reasonably fair opportunities for people from poorer backgrounds. I got interested in a lot of these topics while doing my PhD. I was taking a lot of different courses; some I found more interesting than others, and I tried to work on those topics I enjoyed. It’s an incremental process, and you figure it out over time.
I think it’s a lot of fun, in that you can pick the topics you want to, so you have a lot of freedom, which is great! You get to meet a lot of really good students, both undergraduates and graduates, so it’s a very pleasant life. You can also sometimes write stuff that is relevant for public policy, and especially during times such as elections, you can advance the debate by clarifying things that may not be clear to voters.
I decided to pursue economics during my undergraduate studies, and went on to do my master’s. I then worked at an investment bank for a very short time, which was fun, but I wanted to try different things, just because I was curious. So I entered a PhD program, and I had this back and forth with the banks every year, where they would make me an offer to come back. At the end of my 3rd year, I finally told them no, I would not be coming back at all!
But I am glad that I tried out banking, I met interesting people and learnt a few things I might not necessarily use now (but probably would have been more profitable!), but I am happy I tried out different things, and I always say this to people who come to me as well.
I always had the idea that I would become an economist of some kind, whether that’s in the for-profit sector, not for profit sector, government or academia. I knew that I would like to do research, but of course, you can start with one thing and you might end up in another.
The good thing about an economics degree is that opens a lot of doors, a lot of possibilities. You can go into sectors like the ones I mentioned before, or you can do things like market research, statistics, marketing, policy or economic consulting, work at a bank, or even start your own business.
I think it’s a good mixture of applied and theoretical work. You need to have a good grasp of theory, math, and models, but you also work with real life data. I like that it is a good mixture of theoretical aspects and very practical aspects.
Besides the freedom to work on what you like, and the opportunity to interact with students, I like the policy relevance. I like the fact that what I do is not just an abstract exercise, but can actually be applied to many problems. For example, I’ve written papers on crime, on whether it is good to incarcerate people or further their education, and other papers on the dynamics of inequality by occupation and what lies beneath our empirical observations. All of these questions can be approached in a rigorous manner, while also using real life data. All this can turn out to be quite relevant, especially during periods such as elections.
I like spending time with my family, going out with them , watching TV or playing football (soccer). I also like skiing, when I get the time!