Welcome to new faculty Amanda Agan and Yuan Liao and new department chair Tom Prusa! Read more . . .

The department happily welcomes Amanda Agan, who received her PhD in economics from the University of Chicago in 2013. She has been working as a post-doctoral researcher in the economics department and the Industrial Relations Section at Princeton University and is excited to be joining the economics faculty at Rutgers University.  

She studies the economics of crime and labor economics. Her research has focused on analyzing the unintended consequences of policies such as sex offender registration and ban-the-box laws. She has published studies in the Journal of Law and Economics and the Journal of Empirical and Legal Studies. Amanda Agan's recent research on ban-the-box policies has been featured on NPR's Morning Edition and in the Chicago Tribune. Ban-the-box policies prevent employers for asking about criminal histories on job applications or in the first interview.  These policies are meant to help people with records get their foot in the door with employers, and advocates also hoped they could decrease racial inequality in employment because minorities are more likely to have criminal records. However, the economic theory of statistical discrimination suggests that when you take away information about criminal history, hiring managers may use other observable characteristics like race to infer whether someone has a record. Therefore, minority applicants without records could actually be harmed by the policy.

In this research, Agan and her co-author, Sonja Starr, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School, tested these competing potential consequences of ban-the-box policies via a field a experiment. They sent thousands of online job applications on behalf of fictitious applicants both before and after ban-the-box laws went into effect in NJ and NYC. On these applications they randomly varied whether the applicant was black or white and and whether the applicant had a felony conviction, but kept everything else about the applicant extremely similar. They find that after ban-the-box goes into effect, the race gap in employer callbacks to applicants increases - before ban-the-box, white applicants to ban-the-box-affected employers received about 7% more callbacks than similar black applicants, but ban-the-box increases this gap to 45%.  This suggests that these policies have the unintended consequence of increasing racial discrimination.

 The department is delighted to welcome Yuan Liao as an associate professor. Dr. Liao received his Ph.D. in Statistics from Northwestern University in 2010. Before joining Rutgers, Dr. Liao held a position as assistant professor of statistics at University of Maryland (2012-2016), and worked at Princeton University as a postdoctoral associate (2010-2012).

Dr. Liao works at the intersection of financial econometrics and statistics.  His research bridges a number of important areas of study: big data theory, and sophisticated computer algorithms.  The starting point for his research is the fact that financial studies often face data-rich environments.  A typical financial data set contains several thousand assets, which brings great challenges to data analysis. Analyzing portfolios of smaller size in the conventional way can no longer capture the movement of the entire market. Dr. Liao has introduced a new data-driven technique that can help detect the mis-priced assets. Using this technique, researchers on financial markets can identify the mis-priced stocks out of a large number of assets. In addition, he developed new quantitative tools to assess the risks from investigating financial portfolios of very large sizes.

Dr. Liao has also developed new econometric models for forecasting the risk premia of U.S. government bonds. Economists have long realized that the risk premia of U.S. government bonds can be forecasted using several macroeconomic characteristics. In a forthcoming paper titled “Robust factor models with explanatory proxies”, Dr. Liao finds that these macroeconomic characteristics have strong explanatory power of the “diffusion index”, the latter represents a few economic factors that are known to have predictive power on the U.S. government bonds. By incorporating the explanatory power of the macroeconomic characteristics, Dr. Liao shows that one can achieve a more accurate estimate of the diffusion index, resulting in a significant improvement on the forecast accuracy.

Yuan’s research has appeared in numerous journals and books including Econometrica, Journal of Econometrics, Annals of Statistics, and The Oxford Handbook of Panel Data. He has given talks in conferences and seminars to the Research Section of the British Royal Statistical Association, Mathematisches Forschungsinstitut Obserwolfach, the Stevanovich Center at University of Chicago, Boston University, MIT, Georgetown, and many others. 

The department welcomes the election of Thomas Prusa as chair of the economics department in the spring of 2016. Prior to moving to Rutgers University in 1995, he was a professor at the State University of New York, Stony Brook. He is a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, Massachusetts. He received his PhD from Stanford University in 1988.

He has published numerous articles in leading journals and books and has received “best article of the year” by Economic Inquiry and Review of International Economics. He has lectured in conferences and seminars to the World Trade Organization, European Union, the World Bank, the Federal Reserve, the World Trade Institute, the CATO Institute, the American Enterprise Institute, United Nations Stanford University, Princeton University, New York University and many others.  His research has been featured in The New York Times, The Economist, and Investor's Business Daily.

He received the Rutgers University FAS Award for Distinguished Contributions to Undergraduate Education in 2001 and the Rutgers University Warren I. Susman Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2016.  In Fall 2015 he was recognized by the Rutgers University Academic Athletics Oversight Committee for his contributions to the university.  While at Stony Brook he was recognized for outstanding contributions to undergraduate education in 1993 and awarded mentor of the year in 1992. He has provided expert testimony before the U.S. International Trade Commission on many occasions.

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