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Robert Vega, Director FAC 18 / 2304 Whitis Ave. Stop G6200 78712-1508 • 512-471-7900

Faculty Profiles - Economics

Dr. Daniel Hamermesh - Labor Economics
Dr. Gerald Oettinger - Labor Economics, Microeconomics


DR. DANIEL HAMERMESH

Academic Background: Ph.D., Economics, Yale University; A.B., Economics, University of Chicago

Area of Specialization: Labor Economics

What made you decide to go to graduate school?
My father was an academic, so I was familiar from an early age with the academic lifestyle. Also, I started taking economics courses my freshman year. Even before that, though, in my senior year of high school we had an honors social science course in which we read Robert Heilbroner's The Worldly Philosophers. The combination of mathematics and relevance in economics struck me as exactly what I wanted to be involved in.

What makes a good grad student?
A good grad student is one who views economics as very nearly all-consuming. S/he must also love DOING economics--thinking about economic issues and reading economics articles.

What was your dissertation topic as a Ph.D. student?
My dissertation dealt with the determinants of employers' rates of hiring and firing and how these were affected by demand for their products.

What is your current research focus at UT?
I work in various areas of labor economics. My current major topic is how people use their time. I have been publishing in this general area since 1990, have given several endowed lectures and keynote addresses about it, and I taught a curriculum on it to a broad group of European graduate students this summer.

Did you participate in a research project as an undergraduate?
I certainly did--there were summer programs in which we picked our own topic and worked on it under supervision of a faculty member. After my sophomore year I did one of these, worked on a model of the economic demand for children. It later became my undergrad honors thesis.

What are your top three tips for students interested in applying to your program?

  1. Take a lot of math.
  2. Take more math.
  3. Think about behavior in the real world around you, and how that behavior reflects economic incentives.

What are the top five programs in this area in the US?

  1. MIT
  2. Harvard
  3. Princeton
  4. Stanford
  5. Chicago

What careers do alumni generally pursue after graduation from the program? (MA & PhD)
The Ph.D. students typically get jobs as professors, in consulting companies or in government.

Download Dr. Hamermesh's Profile

DR. GERALD OETTINGER

Academic Background: Ph.D., Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; A.B., Economics & Statistics, University of California - Davis

Area of Specialization: Labor Economics, Microeconomics

What made you decide to go to graduate school?
There were several reasons. First, I liked economics. Second, I did well in economics (and statistics, my other major field) as an undergraduate. Third, an academic career seemed appealing.

What makes a successful grad student?
In general: creativity, curiosity, self-motivation, persistence, confidence. In economics in particular: strong mathematical/technical skills and preparation.

What was your dissertation topic as a Ph.D. student?
My dissertation topic does not lend itself to a “short and sweet” description. Instead, it consisted of several essays that focused on two distinct topics: (i) discrimination in the labor market, (ii) non-traditional school enrollment behavior (i.e., interruptions in school enrollment).

What is your current research focus at UT?
Labor economics (i.e., the analysis – primarily empirical – of various aspects of labor markets).

What is the latest national or international research topic in labor economics which you are currently following?
One issue that has been the subject of a large amount of study by labor economists in recent years is the evolution of the wage structure in the U.S. and other developed countries. The one line summary is that wage inequality has increased dramatically (especially in the U.S.) in the last several decades; in other words, the gap (in real terms) between “high wage” and “low wage” workers has widened considerably. In the data, this increase in wage inequality shows up both as an increase in the labor market return to measurable skills (e.g., educational attainment, years of work experience) and an increase in “residual” wage inequality among individuals with the same education and experience levels. In addition, the increase in wage inequality has been particularly pronounced at the top of the wage distribution; that is, in recent years the very highest earners have seen much larger increases in their wages, on average, than everyone else. Several factors probably have caused this increase in wage inequality: changes in technology that have favored highly-skilled workers, increased international trade and decreases in unionization that have put downward pressure on the wages of less-skilled workers, etc.

However, there is anecdotal evidence that the current recession may have caused a significant decline in the wages of top earners. In the coming years, when the appropriate data become available, it will be interesting to see how the current recession affected wage inequality. It will also be interesting to see whether the effects of this recession on wage inequality are just a temporary “blip” or whether the effects of the recession (perhaps in concert with other factors such as increased government regulation of certain markets) on wage inequality are more lasting.

Did you participate in a research project as an undergraduate?
I did. I worked as a research assistant for an economics professor whose specialty was international economics. If I remember correctly, the project tried to measure the extent to which changes in foreign exchange rates got passed through into the domestic prices of foreign imports. I would heartily recommend that undergraduates contemplating graduate school in economics work as a research assistant (even if unpaid) in economics if the opportunity presents itself. First, taking such a job provides the student with a taste of the research process. You get to find out whether this is something you like or not. In addition, taking such a job allows you to get to know the professor quite well (and vice versa), which can be tremendously valuable when you are looking for letters of recommendation for graduate school.

What are your top three tips for students interested in applying to your program?

  1. Take (and do well in) a lot of math courses. A full year of calculus plus linear algebra/matrix algebra is the BARE MINIMUM preparation for admission to a decent Ph.D. program in economics. Good math preparation would also include courses in advanced calculus, probability theory and statistics, and real analysis.
  2. If possible, take courses from and get letters of recommendation from faculty members who have strong reputations in their fields.
  3. Try to take graduate level economics courses, obtain internships/research assistantships, and/or undertake any other activities that will give you a clearer picture about what graduate school in economics is like and what your post-Ph.D. career will be like.

What are the top five programs in this area in the US?
In no particular order, the top 5 probably are: MIT, Harvard, Princeton, Chicago, and Stanford.

Could you please provide a snapshot description of the ECO graduate program?
Here are some statistics about the economics graduate program. Enrollment: approximately 125 students. Average size of entering class: approximately 25 students. Average number of Ph.D. recipients per year: approximately 12-15. Information about the number of faculty, their ranks, and where they obtained their Ph.D.’s is available from the department web page. The program is focused on training students for the Ph.D. degree and equipping these students with the skills needed to perform frontier-level economic research. We seek to place our students in top positions, both inside and outside academia.

What is one thing this department does particularly well that makes it better than other similar programs?
In recent years our department has restructured the Ph.D. program in ways that (i) allow our students to begin doing research earlier in their graduate careers and (ii) give our students more frequent and more in-depth feedback on this research. Ultimately, we hope this will allow our students to have more and more polished research when they begin the job search process. Our program also allows top students to work closely with faculty, with the possibility of coauthoring with professors.

What careers do alumni generally pursue after graduation from the program?
Ph.D.’s: Academic jobs (i.e., professors); research economist jobs at government/quasi-government institutions like the IMF, World Bank, Department of Justice, Bureau of Labor Statistics, etc.; research economist jobs at private consulting firms. M.A.’s: most go into private sector jobs. These jobs may have “research economist” titles, but the research is much less scholarly in nature.

DR. GERALD OETTINGER

Academic Background: Ph.D., Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; A.B., Economics & Statistics, University of California - Davis

Area of Specialization: Labor Economics, Microeconomics

What made you decide to go to graduate school?
There were several reasons. First, I liked economics. Second, I did well in economics (and statistics, my other major field) as an undergraduate. Third, an academic career seemed appealing.

What makes a successful grad student?
In general: creativity, curiosity, self-motivation, persistence, confidence. In economics in particular: strong mathematical/technical skills and preparation.

What was your dissertation topic as a Ph.D. student?
My dissertation topic does not lend itself to a “short and sweet” description. Instead, it consisted of several essays that focused on two distinct topics: (i) discrimination in the labor market, (ii) non-traditional school enrollment behavior (i.e., interruptions in school enrollment).

What is your current research focus at UT?
Labor economics (i.e., the analysis – primarily empirical – of various aspects of labor markets).

What is the latest national or international research topic in labor economics which you are currently following?
One issue that has been the subject of a large amount of study by labor economists in recent years is the evolution of the wage structure in the U.S. and other developed countries. The one line summary is that wage inequality has increased dramatically (especially in the U.S.) in the last several decades; in other words, the gap (in real terms) between “high wage” and “low wage” workers has widened considerably. In the data, this increase in wage inequality shows up both as an increase in the labor market return to measurable skills (e.g., educational attainment, years of work experience) and an increase in “residual” wage inequality among individuals with the same education and experience levels. In addition, the increase in wage inequality has been particularly pronounced at the top of the wage distribution; that is, in recent years the very highest earners have seen much larger increases in their wages, on average, than everyone else. Several factors probably have caused this increase in wage inequality: changes in technology that have favored highly-skilled workers, increased international trade and decreases in unionization that have put downward pressure on the wages of less-skilled workers, etc.

However, there is anecdotal evidence that the current recession may have caused a significant decline in the wages of top earners. In the coming years, when the appropriate data become available, it will be interesting to see how the current recession affected wage inequality. It will also be interesting to see whether the effects of this recession on wage inequality are just a temporary “blip” or whether the effects of the recession (perhaps in concert with other factors such as increased government regulation of certain markets) on wage inequality are more lasting.

Did you participate in a research project as an undergraduate?
I did. I worked as a research assistant for an economics professor whose specialty was international economics. If I remember correctly, the project tried to measure the extent to which changes in foreign exchange rates got passed through into the domestic prices of foreign imports. I would heartily recommend that undergraduates contemplating graduate school in economics work as a research assistant (even if unpaid) in economics if the opportunity presents itself. First, taking such a job provides the student with a taste of the research process. You get to find out whether this is something you like or not. In addition, taking such a job allows you to get to know the professor quite well (and vice versa), which can be tremendously valuable when you are looking for letters of recommendation for graduate school.

What are your top three tips for students interested in applying to your program?

  1. Take (and do well in) a lot of math courses. A full year of calculus plus linear algebra/matrix algebra is the BARE MINIMUM preparation for admission to a decent Ph.D. program in economics. Good math preparation would also include courses in advanced calculus, probability theory and statistics, and real analysis.
  2. If possible, take courses from and get letters of recommendation from faculty members who have strong reputations in their fields.
  3. Try to take graduate level economics courses, obtain internships/research assistantships, and/or undertake any other activities that will give you a clearer picture about what graduate school in economics is like and what your post-Ph.D. career will be like.

What are the top five programs in this area in the US?
In no particular order, the top 5 probably are: MIT, Harvard, Princeton, Chicago, and Stanford.

Could you please provide a snapshot description of the ECO graduate program?
Here are some statistics about the economics graduate program. Enrollment: approximately 125 students. Average size of entering class: approximately 25 students. Average number of Ph.D. recipients per year: approximately 12-15. Information about the number of faculty, their ranks, and where they obtained their Ph.D.’s is available from the department web page. The program is focused on training students for the Ph.D. degree and equipping these students with the skills needed to perform frontier-level economic research. We seek to place our students in top positions, both inside and outside academia.

What is one thing this department does particularly well that makes it better than other similar programs?
In recent years our department has restructured the Ph.D. program in ways that (i) allow our students to begin doing research earlier in their graduate careers and (ii) give our students more frequent and more in-depth feedback on this research. Ultimately, we hope this will allow our students to have more and more polished research when they begin the job search process. Our program also allows top students to work closely with faculty, with the possibility of coauthoring with professors.

What careers do alumni generally pursue after graduation from the program?
Ph.D.’s: Academic jobs (i.e., professors); research economist jobs at government/quasi-government institutions like the IMF, World Bank, Department of Justice, Bureau of Labor Statistics, etc.; research economist jobs at private consulting firms. M.A.’s: most go into private sector jobs. These jobs may have “research economist” titles, but the research is much less scholarly in nature.



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