Letter from the Chair

hanming fang

Philadelphia, July 2021


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, including Econometrica. 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. Our faculty has received many prizes and recognitions from the profession in the 2020/2021 academic year. A sample from the News section in our website includes:

  • Wayne Gao won the 2020 Arnold Zellner Thesis Award in Econometrics and Statistics.
  • Rakesh Vohra won the 2020 SIGecom Test of Time Award for his paper “Calibrated Learning and Correlated Equilibrium.”
  • Guillermo Ordonez was awarded the Elsevier Sponsored Award for the Best Paper on Financial Institutions at WFA.
  • Francis X. Diebold won the 2020 Richard Stone Prize in Applied Econometrics.
  • Jesús Fernández-Villaverde and Dirk Krueger were elected Fellows of the Econometric Society.
  • Aislinn Bohren won the 2020 Exeter Prize for her paper "The Dynamics of Discrimination: Theory and Evidence."
  • Jere Behrman was included in “Highly Cited Researchers according to their Google Scholar Citations Public Profiles”, one of only 45 economists worldwide on the list.
  • Professor Emeritus Kenneth Wolpin received the 2021 Jacob Mincer Award for lifetime contributions to the field of labor economics.

Our vibrant Ph.D. program houses slightly more than 100 students from across the globe, conducting research in four major areas of inquiry: econometrics, economic theory, empirical microeconomics, and macroeconomics. By all measures the academic job market this year for economics PhDs was difficult, 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 and proudly accept the challenge to guide future cohorts of Ph.D. students to similarly successful outcomes. On this front, we are proud to report that our former PhD student Naoki Aizawa, who is currently an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, received the Prize for Best Paper in Quantitative Economics.

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. In the past year, the Department applied for and received designation of the ECON major as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).

Since March 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the operations of our Department and, of course, the University at large. Our faculty and graduate students demonstrated enormous dedication as we shifted from classroom instruction to online instruction. As the University works toward a return to in-person learning and instructions in the Fall of 2021, I look forward to the vibrant intellectual energy that will once again fill our offices, classrooms, lounges, hallways, seminars, and conferences. The in-person interactions that all of us dearly miss will once again be a major part of our daily life, though likely many of the online teaching innovations developed during the pandemic will stay with us for decades to come.

As the new chair, I would like to thank my predecessor Frank Schorfheide for an amazing job as our chair in the past three years, particularly for his leadership through the self-study and the external review (AY 2018/2019) and during the pandemic times. I would also like to thank Jesús Fernández-Villaverde, our Director of Graduate Studies in the last six years, for guiding our PhD program. I look forward to working with Frank Diebold (DUS), David Dillenberger (our new DGS), and José Víctor Ríos-Rull (PIER Director) to serve the department in the next three years.

As it becomes gradually safe to travel again, 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. Please stay in touch.

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