In Memoriam: Jorge Agüero

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our colleague, Jorge Agüero. We mourn his loss, and extend our deepest sympathy to his family. Condolences may be shared online, and his obituary may be found here and below.

Jorge M. Agüero, 51, of Mansfield Center, CT passed away on May 7, 2023 due to complications from pancreatic cancer.

Jorge was Associate Professor of Economics and El Instituto at the University of Connecticut, where he has worked since 2013. He was also affiliated with the Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy (InCHIP) at the university as well as the Group of Development Analysis (GRADE) in Peru. Known in his fields for his keen eye towards recognizing quality research, he served as an editor of the Review of Economics of the Household and the South African Journal of Economics. He was a regular participant in National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) meetings.

A true scholar with a curious mind, Jorge was excited to talk about ideas with anyone answering interesting questions with data, but his passion was for research that would improve the lives of the disadvantaged in developing countries. He made incredible contributions in the areas of health, education, discrimination, and gender, focusing on timely topics with policy implications. During the pandemic, when so many turned to sourdough starters and Netflix, Jorge worried about how declines in economic activity would affect intimate partner violence in Peru and immediately went to work on this. He was widely published in top-tier economic journals such as the Journal of Human Resources, the Journal of Development Economics, and the AEA Papers and Proceedings. He received grants for his research from the United Nations Population Fund, the World Bank, and the Inter-American Development Bank in addition to numerous internal grants from the University of Connecticut. He thoroughly enjoyed presenting his work at conferences and seminars around the world, delivering keynote addresses at the 8th International Congress of Education in Colombia, the XI Meeting of Peruvian Students of Economics in Lima, and the VI Meeting of Mexican Students of Economics in Ciudad Juarez.

Jorge was renowned for his wise and caring mentorship of students and colleagues. Born in Lima, Peru, to a family of modest means, he was particularly passionate about mentoring individuals traditionally underrepresented in the field of economics, such as women and minorities. Most of his papers were coauthored with doctoral students and early-career scholars. He had a knack for taking a student’s rough idea, seeing its potential, and then working with the student to make it a solid piece of research. Jorge always asked tough questions in the spirit of trying to understand and make the work better, but was also the first to congratulate colleagues and students on successes big and small.

At the undergraduate level, Jorge taught a variety of courses in development economics and global health. He pushed all of his students to think deeply and critically; this devotion to quality teaching was recognized formally by the University of Connecticut and informally by the number of students calling him the “best professor I have ever had” on social media.

A selection of quotes from students and colleagues demonstrates Jorge’s passion and attention:

Jorge taught me how to love my work. He told me in my second year of Ph.D. — “you should always work on something that makes you get up in the morning and excited to start the day”. I have always had that in my mind as I have progressed through my career. -Pallavi Panda

He taught me panel data econometrics with uncommon humour. -Chijioke Nwosu

He brought wisdom and of fun in equal measure to his collaborations with colleagues at the UKZN School of Development Studies in the early 2000s. -Glen Robbins

Jorge, you have been a great and encouraging senior colleague, down to earth, insightful, and generous. Thank you for making the world, the profession, and the NBER rooms in Boston and beyond better: because of you, they were warmer, brighter, and smarter places. -Alex Eble

In addition to his academic work, Jorge was a passionate soccer fan, traveler, and food lover. He loved the Barcelona Football Club and his antipathy for Real Madrid will persist for all eternity. Jorge had special connections to his home country of Peru; to Spain, where he received his Master’s degree and returned this fall as a Visiting Professor; and to South Africa, where he conducted his dissertation research. His years were normally full of back-to-back travel. He seemed to always be eagerly looking forward to more journeys both personal and professional. He was a considerate and loving husband, a proud father, an esteemed colleague and a beloved friend. He brought laughter and a quick wit to any situation. He will be greatly missed.

Jorge is survived by his wife Michele Back, son Gabriel, and parents Jorge Jesús Marcelo and Gloria León. Jorge was predeceased by his brother, Rafael Antonio.

A celebration of his life will take place in the early fall at a date to be determined by the family.