In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.
Recent Wesleyan News
- The Washington Post: “Have Parents Made Their Kids Too Fragile for the Rough-and-Tumble Life?”
President Michael Roth reviews The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure. While the authors make some important points, Roth is skeptical of their argument, writing, “Are students today disempowered because they’ve been convinced they are fragile, or do they feel vulnerable because they are facing problems like climate change and massive, nasty inequality?”
2. WNYC’s “The Takeaway”: “Will Trump’s Take on the Economy Resonate with Voters?”
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Gillian Brunet, assistant professor of economics, was awarded the Allan Nevins Prize in American Economic History by the Economic History Association Sept. 8 in Montreal, Canada.
The prize is awarded annually on behalf of Columbia University Press for the best dissertation in U.S. or Canadian economic history completed during the previous year.
Brunet, who joined the faculty at Wesleyan this fall, completed her dissertation at the University of California at Berkeley. Her dissertation focused on the state-level effects of World War II spending in the United States.
Titled, Understanding the Effects of Fiscal Policy: Measurement, Mechanisms, and Lessons from History, Brunet explored the government’s ability to stimulate economic activity through expansionary fiscal policy by asking “How much economic activity results when the government increases spending by one dollar, and how does the economic and institutional context affect the answer to that question?”
Brunet’s dissertation uses a variety of empirical techniques to explore aspects of this question using historical data on U.S. military spending. Chapter one uses state-level variation in war production spending to measure the fiscal multiplier during World War II, and examine how features of the wartime economy influenced the size of the fiscal multiplier. In chapter two, Brunet focuses on how the measurement of government spending influences the estimated size of the multiplier and she introduces a new time series measure of aggregate defense spending. In chapter three, she returns to World War II, but this time examines the effects of wartime military spending on the postwar economy, establishing causal evidence for its role in driving the immediate postwar boom.
This fall, Brunet is teaching Economics of Alexander Hamilton’s America and Macroeconomic Analysis.
David Kuenzel, assistant professor of economics, is the coauthor of a new paper published in the September 2018 Journal of Macroeconomics titled, “Constitutional Rules as Determinants of Social Infrastructure.”
In the paper, Kuenzel and his coauthors, Theo Eicher from the University of Washington and Cecilia García-Peñalosa from Aix-Marseille University, investigate the link between constitutional rules and economic institutions, which are a key driver of economic development and economic growth.
Kuenzel and his coauthors find that the determinants of economic institutions (or social infrastructure) are much more fundamental than previously thought. In addition to constitutional rules that constrain the executive, highly detailed aspects of electoral systems such as limits on campaign contributions and the freedom to form parties are crucial factors for improving the quality of countries’ economic institutions. Moreover, Kuenzel and his colleagues show that basic human rights have profound effects on economic institutions, a dimension that previously had not been explored in the literature.
Associate Professor of Economics Abigail Hornstein, together with Minyuan Zhao of The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, has coauthored an article on corporate philanthropy published in Strategic Management Journal.
Corporate philanthropy has long been recognized as an important part of multinational strategy, but little is known about how it is allocated across different countries. Using data from a sample of more than 200 U.S.-based corporate foundations from 1993 to 2008, Hornstein and Zhao examined how foundation giving is associated with the funding firm’s need to navigate the local business environments.
They found that foundations give more in countries characterized by weak rule of law and high levels of corruption, as well as when funding firms have newly-established subsidiaries or a stronger need to connect with local stakeholders. Donations to countries with weak institutions are more likely to go through international intermediaries to avoid potential liabilities. The results are consistent with the view that corporate foundations support corporate diplomacy and help obtain the social license to operate in the host countries.
Melanie Khamis, assistant professor of economics and of Latin American studies, was named a fellow of the Women and Public Policy Program (WAPPP) at Harvard Kennedy School for the 2018–2019 academic year.
In this fellowship, she hopes to continue and expand her research on “Gender in the Labor Market,” with a particular focus on the gender wage gap and occupational choices of women.
“I am excited to have this opportunity to join and work with a community of leading researchers in this field,” said Khamis.
According to its website, WAPPP is dedicated to closing “gender gaps in economic opportunity, political participation, health and education by creating knowledge, training leaders and informing public policy and organizational practices.” The fellowship program brings in exceptional scholars to conduct gender-related research in one of these areas and to engage with faculty and students at Harvard Kennedy School, enriching the intellectual life of the center.
Basil John Moore, professor emeritus of economics, passed away on March 8 at the age of 84.
Moore, who received his BA from the University of Toronto and his PhD from Johns Hopkins University, came to Wesleyan in 1958. He retired in 2003 after 45 years of scholarship that took him to Cambridge, Stanford, Morocco, Vancouver, Malaysia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Korea, India, and Stellenbosch, South Africa.
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In Andy Szegedy-Maszak’s Calderwood seminar, Classical Studies Today, nine juniors and seniors learn to translate weekly academic readings into writing that can be understood and appreciated by various audiences.
When President Michael Roth speaks about the purpose of college, he frequently boils it down to three key things: students should find what they love to do, get better at it, and learn to share what they love with others. This semester, Wesleyan is adding to its curriculum to help students develop this third critical skill.
Wesleyan recently received a 3-1/2 year grant for over $600,000 to pilot on campus the Calderwood Seminars, which train students in translating complex arguments and professional jargon from their academic disciplines into writing that can be understood and appreciated by the general public. The seminars, developed by Professor David Lindauer at Wellesley College in 2013, have proven valuable for students in life beyond college. The program’s pedagogical approach has been successfully adapted across many different disciplines.
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Melanie Khamis, assistant professor of economics and assistant professor of Latin American studies, has co-authored a new paper published in the December 2017 issue of Labour Economics. The paper, titled “Women make houses, women make homes,” examines the effects of historical labor market institutions and policies on women’s labor market outcomes.
To conduct the research, Khamis and her colleagues studied the “rubble women” of post–World War II Germany, who were subject to a 1946 Allied Control Council command that required women between the ages of 15 and 50 to register with a labor office and to participate in postwar cleanup and reconstruction.
The study showed that this mandatory employment had persistent longstanding adverse effects on German women’s overall participation in the labor market. Possible reasons for this include physical and mental exhaustion associated with the demanding manual labor involved in removing war debris; an increase in postwar marriage and fertility rates; and a reversion to traditional gender roles as men returned from war.
The findings highlight how important it is for countries—especially those recovering from conflict—to develop labor market institutions and policies that support women’s participation in the workforce. In addition, the paper concludes, “Our results also provide suggestive evidence that work-contingent income support programs may have limited positive effects on female future labor market outcomes and welfare dependency unless such policies are further backed up by the provision of quality child care and labor market institutions at large.”
Gary Yohe spoke about climate change at the Glastonbury Riverfront Community Center on Nov. 15.
On Nov. 15, Gary Yohe, the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, delivered a talk on climate change at the Glastonbury (Conn.) Riverfront Community Center. It was sponsored by the Land Heritage Coalition of Glastonbury, Inc.— a non-profit corporation whose mission is to support farming, open space preservation, and water and wetlands protection—as its annual educational initiative.
“As part of our mission, we feel it important to help folks in Connecticut understand the issue of climate change, what the local impacts are, and what we can do in this state,” explained David Ahlgren, LHC co-president. “There’s a lot of hype, spin, misunderstanding, and politics around this very important issue. We’re planning a series of events on this topic, and are starting off with Dr. Yohe, who is eminently equipped to help us understand the science and sift out the spin.”
In the talk, which was free and open to the public, Yohe brought his expertise to address climate change from a scientific perspective, and took questions from the audience.
Gary Yohe, the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, writes in The Conversation about the recently published Climate Science Special Report. While he, like many others, had feared that the Trump White House would reject the report, instead, he writes, “last week’s release was like trick-or-treating on Halloween and coming to a house with a bowl of candy at the door but no one home.”
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Joyce Jacobsen, third from left, with other economists at the Center for American Progress event. (Photo courtesy of the Center for American Progress)
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Joyce Jacobsen spoke at an event on Sept. 29 at the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C. The event was on the topic, The Economics of Misogyny. Jacobsen spoke on the topic of feminist economics in conversation with Judith Warner, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. A video recording of the event can be seen here.
Jacobsen also is the Andrews Professor of Economics.
Associate Professor of Economics Abigail Hornstein’s article, “Words vs. actions: International variation in the propensity to fulfill investment pledges in China,” was published in the journal China Economic Review in July 2017.
Hornstein studied whether companies from certain countries were more likely than others to fulfill investment pledges. On average, she found that firms fulfilled about 59 percent of their pledges within two years. This number was lower for firms in countries with greater uncertainty avoidance, power distance, and egalitarianism; and higher for those in countries that are more traditional. She also found that popular attitudes toward China did not affect the likelihood of fulfilling investment pledges.