Econ PhD Alumnus is Chief Economist for Macro Policy at the CEA

Aaron Cooke, a 2018 PhD graduate of the UConn Department of Economics, recently became the Chief Economist for Macroeconomic Policy at the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA).

The CEA, an agency within the Executive Office of the President, is charged with offering the President objective economic advice on the formulation of both domestic and international economic policy.

Aaron earned his PhD degree from the Department of Economics in 2018, specializing in macroeconomics and public policy. His PhD dissertation, “Three Essays on Wealth and Income Inequality”, studied the causes of U.S. wealth and income inequality, and was completed under the supervision of Professor Kai Zhao.

Prior to joining the CEA, Aaron was an economist at the Office of Management and Budget.

Stamford Team Competes in the College Fed Challenge 2020

This year, the College Fed Challenge competition was virtual. It was a challenging transition to understand the intricacies of new rules and regulations and to pivot in September to be ready by October 9. But the UConn-Stamford team was well-organized, enthusiastic, and well-prepared to put forward the arguments that the current economic situation warrants keeping the target federal funds rate unchanged.

The 2020 team consisted of five Stamford students: Cullen Murphy (ACES, sophomore), You Kim (Financial Management and Economics, senior), Shayla Siljkovic (Linguistics and Philosophy, sophomore), Eileen Zhu (Economics, junior), and Rashana Weerasinghe (Business Data Analytics, sophomore). They worked virtually; very diligently, creatively, and collaboratively. They describe the challenges of this new environment as the loss of a camaraderie of in-person interactions, technical difficulties, and physical isolation. However, the presentation that they put forward combines the intellectual rigor of each member, deep research of economic indicators, and a collective vision of what the forecast of current economic conditions looks like.

You can watch their presentation here.

Our team did not make the next round of the competition this year, which is, of course, disappointing. However, the learning that has occurred was a worthwhile experience. First, each student has developed an expertise in a selected economic indicator or industry: each team member researched, constructed graphs, and made connections with overall economic development as well as with monetary policy implications. Furthermore, students gained highly valuable skills such as critical thinking and teamwork. These are the skills that are transferable to other professional environments such as a graduate school or a workplace.

You can read the students’ reflections here:

Cullen Murphy – Stamford Fed Challenge 2020

You Kim – Stamford Fed Challenge 2020

Shayla Siljkovic – Stamford Fed Challenge 2020

Rashana Weerasinghe – Stamford Fed Challenge 2020

Eileen Zhu – Stamford Fed Challenge 2020

The course that will be used to prepare a team for the next year’s competition is ECON 3492 – Practicum. It is offered every semester. Stamford students who are interested in joining the team should contact Dr. Smirnova. The student’s major does not matter – all majors are welcome! What matters is the desire to learn about the economy and monetary policy, and to be open-minded to work well in a team.


Professor Naknoi shares her Research in the NY Times

Professor Kanda Naknoi has been interviewed by the New York Times about her latest work on the Thai military as a business group, for the article, “Almost Like Clockwork, Talk of a Military Coup Follows Thai Protests”

The article may be found online at:


In Memory of Professor Imanuel Wexler (1931 – 2020)

The Department lost a long-time friend, former and emeritus professor Professor Imanuel Wexler, on October 10, 2020.

Steve Miller, former professor and Department Head, asked a number of Imanuel’s friends for their fondest memories of Imanuel, and I want to share them with you as a way to celebrate Imanuel’s life. Please enjoy!

– Francis Ahking


Imanuel Wexler Tribute [pdf]

Early College Experience Economics Workshop

Every year, the Economics Department hosts the professional development workshop for high school teachers of economics who are part of the UConn Early College Experience (ECE) Program. This program provides opportunities for high school students to take a UCONN course for credit at their high school. The teachers who offer such a course attend the annual workshop and are certified by the Department. Dr. Smirnova is a new coordinator for the ECE Economics program.

On Wednesday, October 28, 2020, 29 teachers from all over the State of Connecticut attended a virtual professional development workshop organized by Dr. Smirnova, the Department of Economics, and the Office of Early College Programs. The agenda was packed with useful and up-to-date information that could be used in the classroom right away.

Dr. Diego Mendez-Carbajo, Senior Economic Education Specialist at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis presented a talk “Remote Active Learning with FRED Interactives”, which demonstrated new approaches of using the FRED database for teaching various topics.

Dr. Scott A. Wolla, Economic Education Coordinator at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis talked about “Teaching New Tools of Monetary Policy”, which presented the up-to-date information about monetary policy tools that have changed substantially in the past couple of years and especially since August 20202. Dr. Wolla showed various resources that could be used in teaching and studying Macroeconomics and Money and Banking.

Dr. Carlos J. Asarta, Professor of Economics and Director of the Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship at the University of Delaware presented his new research “Teaching Digitally-Minded Students during the Pandemic and Beyond”. The data collected by Dr. Asarta indicates that the profession has not yet successfully pivoted to using engaging strategies in teaching and, therefore, there are challenges in recruiting and retaining economics majors. Dr. Asarta suggested several ways of making economics more interesting, more applied, and more fun for contemporary students.

The feedback from teachers was overwhelmingly positive. Everyone learned a lot and took away many resources to be used in the classroom.

By Natalia V. Smirnova

Professor Agüero Publishes in World Development

Professor Jorge Agüero has published his paper “COVID-19 and The Rise of Intimate Partner Violence” in World Development

The paper may be found online at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.worlddev.2020.105217

The abstract is below:

Title: COVID-19 and The Rise of Intimate Partner Violence

Abstract: Stay-at-home policies have been implemented worldwide to reduce the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. However, there is a growing concern that such policies could increase violence against women. We find evidence in support of this critical concern. We focus on Peru, a country that imposed a strict nationwide lockdown starting in mid-March and where nearly 60% of women already experienced violence before COVID-19. Using administrative data on phone calls to the helpline for domestic violence (Línea 100), we find that the incidence rate of the calls increased by 48 percent between April and July 2020, with effects increasing over time. The rise in calls is found across all states and it is not driven by baseline characteristics, including previous prevalence of violence against women. These findings create the need to identify policies to mitigate the negative impact of stay-at-home orders on women’s safety.

Professor Ross on Panel on the Economic Recovery of CT from the Pandemic

Professor Stephen Ross recently took part in a panel discussion about the economic recovery from the pandemic in Connecticut:

Bouncing Forward from the Pandemic: Economic Disparities, School, Childcare, and Residential Integration

Thursday, October 15, 2020, 2:30 pm to 4:00 pm

Moderator: Beth Bye, Commissioner, Office of Early Childhood

State of the State on Economic Disparities: Dr. Stephen Ross, UConn Departments of Economics and Public Policy

Residential Zoning Reform: Dr. Saud Anwar, State Senator

Addressing Challenges Faced by the Working Poor : Dr. Lauren Ruth, Research & Policy Director, ConnecticutVoices for Children

High Potential Programs to Boost High School Students to a Family Living Wage: Dr. Lyle Wray, ExecutiveDirector, CRCOG

The panel was recorded and is available to view online at:


Professor Prakash publishes in Journal of Economics Behavior & Organization

Professor Prakash publishes his paper on “Impact of Affirmative Action in Public Sector Employment on Lives of Disadvantaged Minorities in India” in Journal of Economics Behavior & Organization.

Title: The Impact of Employment Quotas on the Economic Lives of Disadvantaged Minorities in India

Abstract: India has the world’s biggest and arguably most aggressive employment-based affirmative action policy for minorities. This paper exploits the institutional features of a federally mandated employment quota policy to examine its causal impact on the economic lives of the two distinct minority groups (Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes).

My main finding is that a 1-percentage point increase in the employment quota for Scheduled Castes increases the likelihood of obtaining a salaried job by 0.6-percentage points for male Scheduled Caste members residing in the rural sector. The employment quota policy has no impact for Scheduled Tribes. Contrary to popular notion, I do not find evidence of “elite-capture” among the Scheduled Castes — the impact is concentrated among members who have completed less than secondary education.

Consistent with the employment results, I find that the policy improved the well-being of Scheduled Castes members in rural areas who have completed less than secondary education. Finally, the impact of the employment quota policy varies by state characteristics.

Professor Ross Chairs UEA Student Prize Committee

Professor Ross chaired the Student Prize Committee for the 2020 Virtual Urban Economics Association Meetings.  To see the prize winners and the full prize committee, go to:


For the actual papers, see the conference program at:


Professor Hwang to publish “A Doubly Corrected Robust Variance Estimator for Linear GMM” in the Journal of Econometrics

Professor Jungbin Hwang has had his article A Doubly Corrected Robust Variance Estimator for Linear GMM accepted for publication in the Journal of Econometrics, one of the top scholarly journals in theoretical econometrics.

The paper proposes a new finite sample corrected variance estimator for the linear generalized method of moments (GMM) including the one-step, two-step, and iterated estimators. The formula additionally corrects for the over-identification bias in variance estimation on top of the commonly used finite sample correction of Windmeijer (2005) which corrects for the bias from estimating the efficient weight matrix, so is doubly corrected. An important feature of the proposed double correction is that it automatically provides robustness to misspecification of the moment condition. In contrast, the conventional variance estimator and the Windmeijer correction are inconsistent under misspecification. That is, the proposed double correction formula provides a convenient way to obtain improved inference under correct specification and robustness against misspecification at the same time.

This article, authored with with Seojeong Lee (UNSW) and Byunghoon Kang (Lancaster Univ), is one of two that Professor Hwang has recently had accepted for publication. Details of the other article may be found at:

Professor Jungbin Hwang publishes “Simple and Trustworthy Cluster-Robust GMM Inference” in the Journal of Econometrics