Meet the new faculty in economics and learn why teaching excites them

Since fall 2016, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences has welcomed 51 new colleagues to the ladder faculty. The incoming cohort comprises 17 new hires each for the divisions of the humanities, the social sciences, and the sciences, inclusive of engineering. During this period, 34 members of the FAS ladder faculty departed, through retirement or for other positions, producing a net growth of 17 for the year.

Of the new faculty in the social sciences, five have joined the Department of Economics. Here is a look at their research and great enthusiasm for teaching.

Mira Frick

Photo of Mira Frick
Mira Frick

Frick is a microeconomic theorist interested in game theory, decision theory, information economics, and behavioral economics, who joins the department as an assistant professor. Her recent research has probed the effect of an economy’s potential for social learning on the adoption of innovations of uncertain quality; the robustness of refinements of rationality in incomplete-information games; and decision-theoretic characterizations of “choice overload.”

Of teaching economics to Yale students, Frick said: “To me, one of the most exciting things about economics is the incredibly broad applicability of its methodological framework. To many people — including many Yale econ majors! — the first thing that comes to mind when they think about economics is probably stock markets, taxes, or inflation.”

Frick wants to debunk this myth for her students. “What is perhaps less known is that the language of economics can also be used to study phenomena such as procrastination, ambiguity aversion, or communication and persuasion, to name just a few examples I’ve enjoyed exploring with my students already this semester.” She is teaching students in three courses this semester, two in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, “Advanced Microeconomic Theory I” and “General Economic Theory: Microeconomics,” and one in Yale College, “Economics of Information.”

Ryota Iijima

Photo of Ryota Iijima
Ryota Iijima

Iijima, who is also a microeconomic theorist, joins the department as an assistant professor. He studies microeconomic theory, game theory, decision theory, information economics, and networks.

I find economics exciting in that it gives me many interesting perspectives to understand human interactions through formal models,” said Iijima, “and I would like to convey my enthusiasm for this through my teaching.” This semester, he brings his enthusiasm to his instruction of “Bounded Rationality,” an advanced seminar in the college.

Iijima wrote that he hopes that he “can contribute to the Department of Economics at Yale by highlighting approaches in economic research that were not previously paid much attention.”

Yusuke Narita

Narita, whose areas of research interest include labor economics, market design, microeconomics theory, and applied econometrics, joins the department as an assistant professor. He said he finds economics to be an incredibly exciting field right now because “its biggest questions are still mostly open.”

This is good news,” Narita said, “since it means we have opportunities to tackle some of the most important problems touching the lives of numerous people. I hope to demonstrate this fortune through my research and teaching.” Currently, Narita is teaching “Econometrics and Data Analysis II” to students in the college and co-teaching “Topics in Empirical Economics and Public Policy” to students in the graduate school. 

According to Department Chair Dirk Bergemann, the Douglass & Marion Campbell Professor of Economics & Computer Science, these first three new faculty “have already enjoyed a year as postdoctoral fellows at the Cowles Foundation at Yale University, and now formally join the ranks of our department.”

The economic theory group will be noticeably strengthened with the arrival of Mira Frick and Ryota Iijima,” wrote Bergemann, “and Yusuke Narita, who completed his Ph.D. in empirical work on school matching, will join our great labor and public economics group.”

Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak

Photo of Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak
Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak

Mobarak has been concurrently appointed as a professor of economics in the School of Management and the Department of Economics. He conducts field experiments exploring ways to induce people in developing countries to adopt technologies or behaviors that are likely to be welfare improving — such as smoke-reducing cook stoves, weather insurance, migration to new destinations, and agricultural practices — and has several such ongoing projects in Bangladesh, Brazil, Chile, India, Indonesia, Kenya, and Malawi. Currently, he is collaborating with Evidence Action in multiple countries to replicate, test, and scale his research program that encourages rural to urban seasonal migration to counter seasonal poverty. He received an Andrew Carnegie Fellowship in 2017 in an amount up to $200,000 to fund these ongoing research projects.

I find research in economics exciting because it forces us to use rigorous techniques to generate indisputable evidence in the interest of solving contemporary social problems,” wrote Mobarak.

Bergemann praised Mobarak’s field research and its potential to solve real-world problems. “Mobarak recently published an article based on his research about the adoption of technologies and behavioral patterns in developing countries,” said Bergemann, “and that article has already become a landmark in the study of migration, a newly emerged focus in development economics. An innovative feature of his research is also attention to the aggregate or general-equilibrium impacts of randomized interventions. He quantifies these not only by carrying out larger-scale interventions but also by carefully designing variation across markets.”

Mobarak will be teaching “Economic Development II” to graduate students in spring 2018, and when he does, he said, he hopes to “convey this enthusiasm to students and get them excited about marrying analytical rigor with practical, policy-relevant applications.”

Fabrizio Zilibotti

Photo of Fabrizio Zilibotti
Fabrizio Zilibotti

Zilibotti has joined Yale economics as the Tuntex Professor of International and Development Economics. His interests include economic growth and development, political economy, macroeconomics, and the economic development of China. Recently, he published a study about how economic factors influence parenting style.

According to Bergemann, “Zilibotti is an undisputed world leader of the academic research on economic growth. His work combines theory and data to resolve long-standing questions and some puzzling empirical phenomena. Zilibotti has published many articles that became instantly classics, gathered thousands of citations, and reshaped the field. He authored what is universally considered the most compelling — importantly, also quantitatively compelling — explanation for China’s growth experience in the last 30 years.”

Zilibotti brings not only his research prowess but also his teaching experience to Yale. After teaching economics in five other countries, he said he is excited about his first teaching position in the United States. “Yale is an institution with a very rich and diverse human capital,” said Zilibotti. “My ambition is to contribute to its continuing success through bringing new perspectives and the experience accumulated at all education levels in the last 23 years.”

Currently teaching the graduate level course, “Growth and Macroeconomics,” Zilibotti said he is looking forward to “transmitting knowledge to students about global economic issues, like understanding why some countries thrive and improve the living standard of their population over time while others stagnate and fail.”

Social Sciences