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Letter from the Director

September 25, 2018

Dear Friends:

I hope you’ve all had a relaxing and enjoyable summer. With all that’s happening in the realm of U.S. economic policy — from trade and taxes to job growth and the prospect of rising interest rates — we have plenty to dig into with the start of this academic year!

And we’re already off to a strong start. SIEPR — along with our Stanford Center on Global Poverty and Development — recently hosted the Stanford China Economic Forum in Beijing, which brought together scholars and business leaders for a day of discussion on education, finance and investment, technology and artificial intelligence, and U.S.-China relations.

I’m proud that SIEPR is at the forefront of better understanding the implications of these and so many other issues facing the economy. Thanks to the work underway by our faculty and the generous support from so many, we are expanding our contributions to economic policy research. I’m looking forward to a great year of collaborations!

The visitors who come to SIEPR as scholars and speakers are a vital part of our institute, and I’m thrilled that Maya MacGuineas recently spoke at our first Associates Meeting of the academic year. Maya is the president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, and shared great insights about the federal deficit and fiscal policy. She was also able to spend some time meeting with Stanford students during her visit.

Also right on the horizon is our daylong Policy Forum. On Nov. 2, just four days before Election Day, the Forum will focus on the challenges facing the next governor of California.

And on Nov. 14, I’m really looking forward to hosting Steve Nelson, the CEO of UnitedHealthcare, as an Associates Meeting speaker. You’ll all be receiving invitations to these events and many others — including our 2019 Economic Summit slated for March 8 — in the weeks and months ahead.

Additionally, we are delighted to welcome as a SIEPR Senior Fellow Hongbin Li, whose China-focused research spans the fields of political economy, environmental economics, and the economics of education. Hongbin was previously a Professor of Economics at Tsinghua University and is now the James Liang Director of the China Program at the Stanford Center for International Development. I’m very much looking forward to Hongbin’s continued contributions to the China-related research we are doing at SIEPR and across the entire university.

I’m also very happy to welcome the visiting scholars in residence at SIEPR this year. Our Young Scholars program, which supports the world’s top early-career academic economists, includes three postdoctoral fellows who will be with us until next June. And they all fit in perfectly with SIEPR’s mission of supporting and disseminating research that’s incredibly relevant to economic policymaking.

Matthew Grant, who received his PhD from Yale, is focusing on international trade and political economy. Molly Schnell, who just earned her PhD from Princeton and will join the faculty at Northwestern University next year, has been focusing much of her research toward the opioid epidemic. And Meredith Startz, who also has a PhD from Yale, will be focusing on international development and trade before assuming her role as an assistant professor here at Stanford in the Fall of 2019.

Our other Young Scholars are assistant professors who will be integrating into the SIEPR and Stanford community: Marika Cabral, from the University of Texas, Austin; Hannes Schwandt, from Northwestern University; and Benjamin Schoefer and Danny Yagan, both from the University of California, Berkeley. They’re digging into policy issues that connect with our faculty’s research agendas centered on taxes, health care, labor markets and economic mobility.

We also have two Trione Visiting Associate Professors with us for the academic year. Heidi Williams from MIT is an expert on health care, technology policy and intellectual property; and Daniel Fetter from Wellesley College is a labor economist and economic historian with recent work on Social Security. This is actually the second time Heidi and Dan have been with us at SIEPR — both were here as Young Scholars in the 2014 academic year. I’m thrilled to have them back!

And I’m happy that we’ll be welcoming Ramin Toloui back to SIEPR as an Institute Policy Fellow. Ramin served as an assistant secretary at the Department of Treasury from 2014 through 2017 and spent last year with us piloting this new position aimed at strengthening connections between academia and the world of policymaking. 

I’m also very proud of the work we’re doing to strengthen SIEPR’s relationship with students and our ties to the student-led Stanford in Government (SiG) and Stanford Economic Association (SEA).

I’m hoping to replicate the success of last year’s inaugural Policy Hackathon with a similar event this year, where we invite undergrads to present their prescriptions for fixing specific economic problems to a panel of scholars and policymakers. Last year’s Policy Hackathon, which we organized with tremendous help from SiG, took on California’s housing crisis. We envision working with that group again on our next event.

We are also doing more to put students and recent Stanford graduates on the front lines of policy. We are piloting a SIEPR Postgraduate Fellowship to support Mehraan Keval, ’18. Mehraan will be working in Stockton during the next year helping to analyze data on the city’s Universal Basic Income program. Mehraan will be working closely with Mayor Michael Tubbs while maintaining close ties to SIEPR faculty who will continue to mentor and train him on how to assess and contextualize the data. 

Expect to see plenty of undergraduate and graduate students in our orbit this coming year. We placed 80 undergraduate research assistants with SIEPR faculty members last year. As researchers, we rely on these RAs to collect and analyze data. We also benefit by having the opportunity to train and mentor some of the brightest and most promising students here at Stanford. 

I’m pleased to see how much interest there’s been in our Predoctoral Research Fellows Program. We’ve expanded this group from an initial group of 16 fellows last year to 20 fellows this year, and the demand for this program from both applicants and faculty shows we’re meeting an important need in bridging the gap between undergraduate and doctoral programs.

We also have 20 graduate student fellows with us this year, three of whom are filling new positions funded by Dixon and Carol Doll, Patricia McKenna and Mark Israel. 

To them and all our generous supporters who make these programs possible, I’m grateful. 

And to our faculty who take the time to mentor and train these aspiring and early career economists while maintaining ambitious and important research agendas, I thank you for being a part of what makes SIEPR such a unique and special place at Stanford. Our staff at SIEPR also plays such an integral role in making all of this programming and support possible. I’m grateful for their hard work!

I’m looking forward to seeing you all at SIEPR soon. And I’m inspired for a fantastic year ahead!


Mark G. Duggan

The Trione Director of SIEPR
The Wayne and Jodi Cooperman Professor of Economics