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Senior Economist and Research Advisor,
Economic Research

  1. Where are you from? Billings, Montana
  2. What is your educational background? I received a B.A. in Economics from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota and a Ph.D. in Economics from Princeton University.
  3. When did you start at the Bank?1998
  4. What do you do at the Bank?

    I am an economist in Economic Research, which means that I have two big areas of responsibility. The first is in helping brief President Charlie Evans and other senior leaders at the Bank on topics related to labor markets and labor’s contribution to economic growth. This is part of the process of setting monetary policy. The second is writing research and policy papers on education topics with the goal of getting them published in peer-reviewed economics journals. People are often surprised to hear that an economist at the Chicago Fed is working on education issues. The Fed is interested in hiring economists who like to think about education because investments in human capital, such as education, are fundamentally important for driving growth through improvements in productivity. Fortunately for me, the Chicago Fed research department provides me the opportunity to pursue my research on education topics in addition to my policy work.

    Policy work generally follows the rhythm of the FOMC cycle with forecast models estimated, memos written, and Charlie briefed in the week before the meeting in Washington, D.C. I work with a team of two other Ph.D. economists and a research assistant on the Labor Markets memo. Every cycle, we generate forecasts of the growth of gross domestic product (GDP) in the current quarter and longer-run forecasts of payroll employment growth and the unemployment rate. Periodically, we try to answer questions such as: Why is wage growth so low? Or how fast do we think GDP could grow without generating an increase in inflation (i.e. what is potential GDP growth)?

    Passion in my research is directed more to the microeconomic or individual-level than to the larger macroeconomic perspectives of labor and education. Increasing educational attainment has been shown to increase individual earnings, improve health outcomes, and have positive effects on children of the individuals who get more education. Policies and programs aimed at increasing educational attainment are costly to implement, but not all work as intended or provide enough benefit to justify their costs. High-quality research is important for identifying what works, what doesn’t, and helping inform policy-makers on which programs to adopt.

    Much of my research has focused on policies and programs that have the potential to improve outcomes for low-income and otherwise disadvantaged individuals. For example, in a recent project co-authors and I were interested in the ability of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) selective enrollment high schools to help close educational achievement gaps between high and low-income students by increasing access to high-quality high schools for students from low-socioeconomic status neighborhoods. Other work has analyzed whether performance-based scholarships (supplementary financial aid with payments tied to meeting benchmarks such as attendance and grades) can increase the probability of staying in school and earning more credits among low-income community college students and whether these types of incentives can induce traditional-aged students from low-income families to spend more time and effort on their studies.

  5. Why do you like working here?The best part about working at the Bank is the people I get to work with every day. I count many colleagues among my friends and even met my husband here. I am also proud to work at an institution that has high standards in terms of integrity and a commitment to improving the public good.
  6. What do you do in your free time?My favorite hobbies are golf, reading, and puzzles of all kinds.
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