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Economics Seminars

For Economists:

Weekly formal seminars in the Economics department, during each quarter, represent our main opportunity to bring outside researchers to campus. These visitors typically spend a full day visiting with interested faculty and graduate students during individual and group appointments and over shared meals. These opportunities give us a chance to get to know these visitors better, and give visitors a chance to learn more about us and our work.

Junior faculty especially are encouraged to invite experts in their fields to visit campus as featured seminar speakers. This is one way the department helps its junior faculty gain visibility in the profession.  The wide variety of seminar topics reflects the varied interests of our own faculty and graduate students. Given that seminar invitations lean towards the interests of our junior faculty, these topics also reveal the interests of our recent hires and therefore also suggest the current direction of the department’s emphasis in scholarly research.

We invite you to explore our roster of department seminars and read the detailed abstracts of these talks using the links in the sidebar menu.

For Non-economists:

Non-economists (or pre-economists) are welcome to sample on our departmental seminars. However, it will be helpful if visitors have a prior understanding of how these seminars work.  Our seminars typically last 90 minutes.These are “technical” seminars pitched for faculty and Ph.D. students, rather than accessible talks intended for the general public. Most speakers spend the first ten minutes explaining the research question that they have sought to answer, and why the question is important. But then they get into the more-technical details. Many seminars rely heavily on advanced statistical methods that are intuitively similar to multiple regression analysis. Other research is primarily theoretical or relies on simulation methods.

Visitors should also be aware that despite the controversial policy issues that motivate much of the research in economics, our seminars focus on questions that can be answered, one way or another, by an appeal to data. These are questions about “the way things are.”

In our data-based inquiries, we are often trying to figure out what are the relationships between “causes” and “effects.” For example, if there is scope for changing some “cause” in order to affect a desired outcome, this gives us clues about the likely effectiveness of some types of policies that might improve people’s lives.

Compared to some other fields, there is relatively little room in economics for debating matters of opinion, or arguing about “the way things should be.”  Much of economic research has to take a societal goal as given (such as a social objective that is defined/chosen by elected decision-makers in a democracy).  Given such a goal, we try to uncover ways in which it might be achieved. We rarely advocate for one social goal over another.

If you browse through the archive of our previous seminar speakers, including the titles and abstracts of their talks, you will get a good idea about the kinds of topics that capture the interest of social science economists.

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