As the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed lives around the world, people all over have invested themselves in fighting the virus and trying to find ways to speed our recovery from it. For many Booth faculty members (and academics across the globe), this has meant bringing their expertise to bear on the unprecedented problems we face in public health, economics, and society more broadly. As a student, it has been inspiring to see so many of my professors invest their time and energy so eagerly into these efforts, and I thought I would share a few examples here. It’s impossible to highlight all of the contributions made by our faculty in a single blog post, so I’ve selected a few that have stuck out to me over the past several weeks and highlighted work done by professors whose classes I have taken during my time at Booth.
Sendhil Mullainathan (and Richard Thaler)
I took Sendhil Mullainathan’s “Artificial Intelligence” course this past Winter Quarter, and though he now focuses much of his energy on topics in technology, his career has spanned several academic disciplines. Foremost among these is behavioral economics, where his research has become among the most cited in the field, winning him awards including a MacArthur “Genius” grant in the process. It is in this capacity as a behavioral economist that he recently co-authored—with his Booth faculty colleague Richard Thaler—an op-ed in the New York Times, outlining five key policy interventions that could speed our response to this health crisis. Focusing primarily on steps we could take to improve the healthcare response to COVID-19, rather than the economic fallout that has followed, many of the suggestions they recommended back in March have since been adopted by governments around the country, fortifying our collective response. Read the article: “To Fight the Coronavirus, Cut the Red Tape”
Austan Goolsbee has one of the more active media schedules of any professor at Booth. As the former chair of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, hardly a week goes by without him being interviewed on CNN, or publishing an op-ed in the New York Times. When he isn’t weighing in on the economic issues of the day, he teaches a highly sought-after course on “Platform Economics” at Booth, which I was able to take this past winter. Though his prolific media schedule makes it hard to pick just one point of commentary, I found his discussion with Ari Shapiro on All Things Considered last month especially interesting. In this interview, Goolsbee talks specifically about the economic rescue package that was at the time moving its way through Congress. At more than 10 percent of U.S. GDP, the package is the biggest in history, and it was fascinating to hear Goolsbee’s thoughts on the bill, and what more we can expect, given his firsthand experience working with President Obama on the last economic recovery. Read the article: “Former Federal Economist Looks At Economic Rescue Package Moving Through Congress”
This past Fall, I took Chang-Tai Hsieh’s class “The Wealth of Nations,” which takes a data-driven approach to understanding why certain economies and industries prosper where others falter. At the time, this was one of many topics I was interested in that I had the flexibility to study, but now that we face an unprecedented global development crisis in the aftermath of the pandemic, I am especially grateful to have taken this course. From the very beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in China, Professor Hsieh (pictured at top) has been weighing the economic impact of the virus on communities around the world, including on the UChicago “Big Brains” podcast, where I heard him discuss the economic impact on China back in February. More recently, he co-authored an article with Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas of UC-Berkeley and Princeton examining how the global economic crisis will disproportionately harm some of the most vulnerable developing countries. The piece gets a little more into the weeds than the others cited here, but it offers a vision for how the international community can come together to support emerging economies in this critical moment. Read the article: “The COVID-19 Default Time Bomb”
Hear more from Booth professors in the news as they weigh in on the most important matters of the times.