Letter from the Chair

hanming fang

Philadelphia, July 2023


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 departments, 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 Review, Journal of Political Economy, Econometrica, Review of Economic Studies, and the Quarterly Journal of Economics.

Our diverse and distinguished faculty represents more than a dozen countries from five continents. This year Petra Todd joins George Mailath and Andrew Postlewaite as members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS), bringing the total number of AAAS Fellows from our standing faculty to three.  Also, fifteen standing faculty members are 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.  

On the personnel front, Xu Cheng was promoted to the rank of Professor, and Alessandro Dovis was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure! Congratulations to both Xu and Alessandro! We are also excited to announce that Lukas Nord will join the Department as an assistant professor in July 2024. Lukas received his PhD in economics from the European University Institute (Florence), and will be spending AY 2023-24 as a Junior Scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Lukas’s primary research is in the area of quantitative macroeconomics, with a focus on the interaction between micro decisions and macro outcomes. In his job market paper, Shopping, Demand Composition, and Equilibrium Prices, Lukas develops an equilibrium theory of expenditure inequality and price dispersion with a key insight that consumers with different income levels consume different baskets of goods and they have differential incentives to search for cheaper prices. I am pleased to report there were no departures or retirements of our standing faculty in AY 2022-23, but we were all saddened by the passing our former colleagues Edward C. Prescott and Michael L. Wachter.

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. We are proud to report that we had another year of strong placements for our Ph.D. students. Notably, Cuimin Ba was selected to participate in the prestigious 2023 Review of Economic Studies tour. Cuimin is a microeconomic theorist working on mis-specified learning and paradigm shift, and her committee consists of Aislinn Bohren (co-chair), George Mailath (co-chair) and Kevin He. I would like to congratulate all of our graduating PhD students and their advisors for jobs well done, and best wishes to all of our newly minted PhDs as they embark on their careers! We look forward to watching our students become future leaders in the Economics profession. We also welcome our second cohort of fifteen PhD students admitted under the new package system. As mentioned in my letter last year, we transitioned to the new package system in AY 2021-22. While our PhD program will enjoy the much-needed financial stability and our financial packages will be more competitive relative to our peers, the incoming classes are somewhat smaller than our historical size. We would like to thank the Dean’s office for continued support for our PhD program and would like to thank Petra Todd for an excellent job running the graduate admissions committee.

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. Many of our undergraduate students were recognized by external research honors. Notably, Mira Potter-Schwartz won the 18th annual International Atlantic Economic Society Best Undergraduate Paper Competition, sponsored by EconSources.com; Ashmit Vyas was named the US & Canada's regional winner in the Economics category in the 2022 Global Undergraduate Awards Program.

As we finally put Covid-19 in the rearview mirror, we welcomed numerous seminar speakers, visiting professors, and visiting PhD students from around the world; the vibrant intellectual energy once again filled our offices, classrooms, lounges, hallways, seminars, and conferences. 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