On a picture perfect Spring evening, several doctoral students participated in the University’s Commencement exercises. Major advisors hooded their students while friends and family members watched either in person from the Jorgenson or online from thousands of miles away at very inconvenient times given different time zones.
The joyous occasion was at times quite somber given the recent passing of Professor Jorge Agüero. As Professor Agüero’s student, Miranda Mendiola Valdez, crossed the stage, special recognition was given to honor the moment. The entire Jorgensen clapped as Professor Delia Furtado hooded Miranda. Miranda will begin a tenure track position at North Central College in the fall.
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.
Professor Jorge Agüero’s article “(Incorrect) Perceived Returns and Strategic Behavior among Talented Low-Income College Graduates” has been accepted for publication in the AEA Papers and Proceedings.
(Incorrect) Perceived Returns and Strategic Behavior among Talented Low-Income College Graduates
Jorge M. Agüero, Francisco Galarza, and Gustavo Yamada
Job applicants use resumes to send signals to potential employers. Applicants are free to select the items that go in their resumes and are expected to include signals they perceive will help them achieve their goals and avoid those that they anticipate could hurt them. We show that 92% of beneficiaries of a highly selective scholarship for poor and talented students avoid listing this award when applying for jobs. This is consistent with beneficiaries perceiving a negative labor market return from sending that signal. A correspondence study shows instead that listing the scholarship increases call back rates by 20%.
Third-year PhD student Anastassiya Karaban has received funding in support of her research. Her project, done in collaboration with Professor Jorge Agüero, is entitled “Female Education, Empowerment and Bargaining over Babies in Sub-Saharan Africa”.
The funding is through the Collaborative to Advance Equity through Research on Women and Girls of Color through Africana Studies at UConn:
“In November 2015, the White House Council on Women and Girls announced a new initiative on women and girls of color – the Collaborative to Advance Equity through Research on Women and Girls of Color—during a summit co-hosted by the Anna Julia Cooper Center at Wake Forest University. The Collaborative to Advance Equity through Research on Women and Girls of Color, which the University of Connecticut joined in 2015, consists of more than fifty colleges, universities and non-profit organizations committed to studying and addressing the educational, health and social services disparities faced by women and girls of color. Housed within the Africana Studies Institute, UConn’s Collaborative aligns with Africana’s goals to prioritize research and collaboration that target health disparities and injustice and the health and well-being of populations both racialized and gendered.”
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.
Professors Jorge Agüero and Mike Shor have been awarded a grant from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences for Research Funding in Academic Themes.
Funding is awarded to “individuals who are conducting research at a novel intersection of disciplines or to groups of faculty members working together to advance research stemming from a unique junction of their individual programs of scholarship.”
The project, titled “ ‘Résumé Overload’ and Heuristic Racism,” will use field experiments to examine whether job recruiters are more likely to employ implicit biases when selecting among an overwhelming number of job applicants than when facing a small, manageable number of applicants.
Professor Agüero and Professor Zhao have received CLAS Summer Funding for their research projects, respectively. Professor Agüero’s project will conduct an experimental intervention providing information about college scholarships to disadvantaged high school students in Peru to motivate their study efforts during the Covid-19 pandemic. The project has also received the approval of the Ministry of Education.
Professor Zhao received funding for his project titled “Health Inequality over the Life Cycle and Its Implications for Economic Well-Being”. In this project, Professor Zhao and his coauthors examine the relationship between health inequality and lifetime earnings inequality, paying close attention to the role of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) in facilitating the tradeoff between health and economic well-being.
REHO “publishes empirical and theoretical research on the economic behavior and decision-making processes of single and multi-person households. The journal emphasizes economic analyses on the effects of policy instruments on household decisions, macroeconomic applications, and research on economic development. Not wedded to particular models nor methods, the journal fosters high quality research using a variety of approaches.”
Professor Agüero will start his editorial tenure in June 2021.
The paper is coauthored with Carlos Felipe Balcázar, Stanislao Maldonado and Hugo Ñopo.
Abstract: We exploit time and spatial variation generated by the commodities boom to measure the effect of natural resources on human capital formation in Peru, a country with low governance indicators. Combining test scores from over two million students and district-level administrative data of mining taxes redistributed to local governments, we find sizable effects on student learning from the redistribution. However, and consistent with recent political economy models, the relationship is non-monotonic. Based on these models, we identify improvements in school expenditure and infrastructure, together with increases in health outcomes of adults and children, as key mechanisms explaining the effect we find for redistribution. Policy implications for the avoidance of the natural resource curse are discussed.