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Rossin-Slater wins AEA prize for women economists

The prize recognizes Rossin-Slater’s research examining the impacts of public policies and other factors on families and children.

Maya Rossin-Slater, a senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR) and an associate professor of health policy, is this year’s recipient of the Elaine Bennett Research Prize from the American Economic Association.

The prize recognizes Rossin-Slater’s research examining the impacts of public policies and other factors on families and children.

Rossin-Slater, who is also a core faculty member of Stanford Health Policy and a professor, by courtesy, of economics in the School of Humanities and Sciences, focuses much of her research on factors that can improve the outcomes of disadvantaged populations and reduce socioeconomic inequalities and health disparities. 

"I feel incredibly honored and grateful to receive the Elaine Bennett Prize," Rossin-Slater said. "I greatly admire all of the past winners and feel totally stunned to find myself in this remarkable company. The prize, of course, is also a testament to all of the work of my many co-authors, students, and predoctoral research fellows, and I am deeply indebted to my mentors and colleagues who nominated me and have supported me for many years."

Maya Rossin-Slater wins the 2023 Elaine Bennett Research Prize awarded by the AEA.

In announcing the annual award that recognizes outstanding research in any field of economics by a woman within a decade of earning her PhD, the AEA called out Rossin-Slater's analysis of social safety net programs, family leave policies, environmental factors, stress, and gun violence. 

"Her research addresses questions of critical policy importance with clever research designs and novel identification strategies, careful econometric work using high-quality administrative data, and analysis grounded in economic theory,” the AEA wrote. 

In her research, Rossin-Slater has analyzed the effects of various U.S. social safety net programs — including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, WIC, and Medicaid — on early childhood and later life health and economic success. She is also a leading expert on paid family leave policies, with multiple studies documenting their benefits for workers and their families and the limited burdens they impose on employers.

“I’m thrilled that Maya has been recognized with the Elaine Bennett Research Prize," said Mark Duggan, the Trione Director of SIEPR and the Wayne and Jodi Cooperman Professor of Economics. "She’s done hugely important, influential, and policy-relevant research on many of the issues that matter most to families with children. She’s also an outstanding collaborator, teacher, and mentor, and is very much deserving of this recognition.”

Rossin-Slater has examined the long-term effects of early-life exposure to environmental factors including air pollution and extreme heat, as well as the impacts of school shootings on youth well-being.

“Her work on school shootings has shown the lasting adverse impacts of these events on the mental health, educational, and later economic outcomes of surviving students, emphasizing the persistent cost that gun violence imposes on the hundreds of thousands of American children who have experienced it at their schools,” read the AEA news release.

Rossin-Slater was one of the authors of a landmark study featured in The New York Times in February 2023, which documented substantial disparities in infant and maternal health by income and race, and found that the wealthiest Black mothers and their babies have worse outcomes than their poorer white counterparts. In other work, she found that exposure to assault during pregnancy adversely affects infant health, pointing to an important intergenerational harm caused by domestic violence.

Her study on the long-term consequences of the Clean Air Act of 1970 demonstrated that fetal exposure to air pollution adversely affects adult earnings 30 years later. In another study, she used administrative data from Sweden to determine that maternal stress stemming from a death of a family member can affect the later-life mental health of children who experience these shocks while in utero.

“The award is well-deserved recognition for the extraordinary work that Maya has done,” said Douglas K. Owens, chair of the Department of Health Policy in the Stanford School of Medicine.

Maya Rossin-Slater, center, leads a mentoring workshop for PhD students.

Rossin-Slater also organizes an annual mentoring workshop for women and non-binary PhD students, in which hundreds of students from around the world have participated over the last five years. This workshop has been supported by Rossin-Slater’s National Science Foundation CAREER award, the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR), the AEA’s Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession, and the American Society of Health Economists.

“Economics is about a lot of different aspects of human behavior in society, and you cannot think about all kinds of questions unless you have a diverse set of people doing the research,” Rossin-Slater told a group of women graduate students who had convened at Stanford for a day of mentorship. “You, here, are part of the next generation of female economists who can help change the profession.”

The AEA Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession began awarding the annual prize in 1988 in memory of Elaine Bennett, who made significant contributions to economic theory and experimental economics and mentored many women economists at the start of their careers. The award will be presented to Rossin-Slater at the ceremony of the American Economic Association on Jan. 6, 2024.

Last year's prize winner was Rebecca Diamond, who is also a SIEPR senior fellow and the Class of 1988 Professor of Economics at Stanford Graduate School of Business.

A version of this story was originally published by Stanford Health Policy.