Letter from the Chair

hanming fang

Philadelphia, July 2022


As Chair of the Economics Department at the University of Pennsylvania, I wish to thank you for visiting our website.

We are consistently ranked as one of the top ten U.S. economics department, with faculty and students dedicated to applying vanguard theoretical, computational, and empirical methods to answer questions of general economic research and policy interest. You can access this research through the personal pages of our faculty and the PIER working paper series and the faculty publications page featuring recent work from the American Economic ReviewJournal of Political EconomyEconometricaReview of Economic Studies, and the Quarterly Journal of Economics.

Our diverse and distinguished faculty represents more than a dozen countries from five continents. It includes two Fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and fifteen Fellows of the Econometric Society. Our faculty serves the economics profession diligently, as many have editorial responsibilities at major economic journals. Many faculty members are receiving external research funds from either the National Science Foundation or the National Institute of Health while several others are affiliated with economic think tanks such as the National Bureau of Economic Research and the Centre for Economic and Policy Research.

For the Academic Year 2021/22, we say farewell to Amit Gandhi. Amit joined the Department in 2018 but was lured away to greener pastures, pun intended, at Airbnb. We wish him the best in his new endeavor. At the same time, we are excited to welcome our newest faculty member Xiao Lin who received his PhD in economics from the Pennsylvania State University. Xiao's primary research interest is in economic theory, with secondary interests in information economics and robust learning. His job market paper, Credible Persuasion, brings a fresh perspective to the important topic of credibility in Bayesian persuasion.

Our vibrant Ph.D. program houses about 100 students from across the globe, conducting research in four major areas of inquiry: econometrics, economic theory, empirical microeconomics, and macroeconomics. The academic job market for economics PhDs has yet to recover fully from COVID, but we are proud to report that our Ph.D. student placement record continues to be strong. Congratulations and best wishes to our newly minted PhDs as they embark on their careers! We look forward to watching our students become future leaders in the Economics profession.     

The funding for our PhD program will finally transition from a block system to a package system. While the nomenclatures are probably too complicated for me to explain in this letter, I can say that the transition provides our PhD program the much-needed financial stability and competitiveness, though our PhD program will be somewhat smaller than our historical size. We would like to thank the Dean's office for the generous support that makes the transition possible and our DGS David Dillenberger for working diligently on the transition.

At the undergraduate level, we offer two majors: an economics major as well as a mathematical economics major. The latter is designed for students with a strong interest in both economics and mathematics who will potentially consider pursuing a graduate degree. Combined, our two majors have consistently been the largest undergraduate major in the School of Arts and Sciences, and as a Department, we are committed to impart the insights we have gathered from our own research to our undergraduate students in a scientifically rigorous yet accessible and interesting way. Notably, a talented team of our undergraduates, led by Luca Bossi and Frank Diebold, placed second out of 74 teams in the 18th "Fed Challenge", a national competition held annually by the Federal Reserve Board, in which teams analyze economic and financial conditions and formulate a monetary policy recommendation. On a lighter note, I am pleased to report that the Department will finally be giving our majors much-requested Penn Economics T-shitrs in the coming Fall! 

In Academic Year 2021/22, by and large the Department was able to return almost all teaching and research activities to the pre-pandemic routines, of course with appropriate precautions to address the COVID risks. I am grateful to all our faculty, students, staff and visitors who diligently complied with the University and SAS COVID protocols. The vibrant intellectual energy once again filled our offices, classrooms, lounges, hallways, seminars, and conferences. We are particularly proud to bring back our traditional Annual Economics Day at Penn Museum after two-year hiatus, where we celebrated the accomplishments of our department with teaching and research prizes to our students and faculty; notably, Jere Behrman was recognized for his long-time involvement in undergraduate research advising with the inaugural Irving Kravis Award for Exemplary Performance in Teaching Undergraduate Research. During this year's Annual Economics Day, we also celebrated the anniversary of Robert Summers' 100th Birthday and the installation of Lawrence Klein's Nobel Prize Medal on the second floor of PCPSE.

I would like to conclude with the uplifting news that Sadie T.M. Alexander, who earned her Ph.D. in Economics from Penn in 1921, was named a Distinguished Fellow by the American Economic Association in 2022. She was the first African American to earn a PhD in economics in the United States. This honor is an important recognition of Dr. Alexander as a trailblazer in her pursuit of a PhD in economics; it also underscores the importance of continued efforts to remove all racial and gender barriers in the economics profession and in our society more broadly.

As the world gradually puts COVID in the rearview mirror, I cordially invite you to come visit us in Philadelphia and join in our exciting quest to better understand the complex international economic world and to analyze the efficacy of a wide range of economic policies, one research project at a time. I also wish everyone another  productive academic year. Please stay in touch.

Yours Sincerely,
Hanming Fang
Joseph M. Cohen Term Professor and Chair
Department of Economics