Professor Dick Startz Elected as a Fellow of the International Association for Applied Econometrics

News Date: 

Tuesday, March 15, 2022


By Lena Liu and Haoning Zhu


Policies in health, education or other spheres are developed to make things better, and Econometrics theories help us to examine their effectiveness before we put a lot of effort into passing and executing them, says UC Santa Barbara Economics professor Dick Startz.

Startz was recently elected a fellow of the International Association for Applied Econometrics (IAAE) which only has only187 fellows worldwide. The IAAE aims to advance and support research in Applied Economics and recognize econometricians worldwide for their excellence in research.

In a recent interview, Dick Startz described his work experiences as well as his previous research findings.

Q: Could you briefly introduce your research focus?

A: My research focus is mostly on econometrics, which is empirical work in economics using statistical methods.

A recent piece of research I am working on compares contributions made by teachers in early grades to those made by teachers in later grades. There has been a lot of evidence that by the time kids are older, they have lost most of whatever benefits they got from their earlier teachers, and we have some evidence that it’s actually not true. If a teacher helped a student perform really well in the first grade, by the time the student was in the eighth grade, it is clear that the first-grade teacher had much effect left. The contribution made by early teachers continues to be important.

Thus, when schools are thinking about hiring teachers, they need to know that not just teachers before students graduate, but early elementary teachers, are also quite important. 

Q: Why do you think applied econometrics is important as an academic discipline?

A: When considering policies, we may think they will make things better. But we don’t know if the policies make it a whole lot better or just a tiny amount better. Thus, we want to study econometrics theories to understand that before we put a lot of effort into executing the policy.

Q: What is the one thing that you are most proud of in your research?

A: About three years ago, my wife, Shelly Lundberg, the Leonard Broom Professor of Demography and Distinguished Professor of Economics at UCSB, and I wrote a paper which first explained that racial and gender discrimination was not only inequitable but actually inefficient. Economists and others had generally thought that although discrimination is unfair, if we try to prevent discrimination, it would make the whole pie smaller. We showed that it was not necessarily true.

Another thing is the theoretical work on statistical methods called instrumental variables. My colleague Charles Nelson, the Ford and Louisa Van Voorhis Professor Emeritus at University of Washington, and I discovered important circumstances where the variables did not work. So now, pretty much everybody who uses that technique checks for the problem.

Q: What are your future working plans in general?

A: I expect to continue researching applied econometrics using empirical methods. I have some work that just getting started on how monetary policy is coordinated across different countries. I am working with some former graduate students, one tenuring in Beijing and one in Virginia.

I am also hoping to present a paper in the next conference of IAAE. I know quite a few of the people there, and they also published very good journals. IAAE is a convenient way to get together with people with similar interests.

Lena Liu is a second-year UC Santa Barbara Communication major student. Haoning Zhu is a third-year UC Santa Barbara Communication major student.

They co-wrote this article for their Writing Program class, Digital Journalism.