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Student Spotlight

Econ students have stellar fall

Martin Montero, Xiaohong Chen, David Harris and Christa Jensen

December 20, 2010

Economics students have been busy and successful this semester.

Martin Montero won $7,000 in a research contest sponsored by the Bolivian Central Bank. 

The contest topic was Credit, Investment and Economic Growth in Bolivia. Montero's paper was Public Investment and Economic Growth in Bolivia: A Spatial Analysis. 

Montero, who earned an undergraduate degree in economics from Universidad Autónoma Gabriel René Moreno in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, his hometown, enrolled at WVU in 2006. 

"I wanted to analyze which sectors the government should direct public investment in order to maximize the investment," he said. 'I was surprised to win. Actually I found out when my mom called from Bolivia. She was very happy." 

Examining Bolivian economic data from 1989-2008, Montero discovered that public investment in productive and social welfare sectors has a negative impact on real per capita gross domestic product (GDP), a principal indicator of economic growth. On the other hand, he found that public investments in infrastructure and education have a positive effect on real GDP per capita, although the effect of education is not as significant as believed. 

Additionally, he did not find evidence to support the idea that Bolivian states are economically integrated. That is, a state's real per capita GDP does not appear to be affected by its neighbors' real per capita GDP. Additionally, public investment does not appear to spill over across states, he said. 

Montero will defend his dissertation topic this spring and hopes to do postdoctoral work in Europe or the United States. "I want to continue with my research agenda, spatial econometrics applied to macroeconomic issues," he said. 

"It is rare to receive a cash price for research in economics, but Martin was able to show the importance of his dissertation research in macro economics for the case of Bolivia," commented Ronald Balvers, dean's professor of economics. "Not only is he receiving a cool cash prize, but also he has a nice publication to boot." Montero's paper will be published in the Bolivian Central Bank Economic Journal

Xiaohong Chen, who enrolled at WVU in the economics Ph.D. program in 2007, has received a $1,500 American Finance Association (AFA) Doctoral Student Travel Grant to attend its 2011 annual meeting in Denver on Jan. 6-9. 

"This meeting is a special opportunity to get abreast of the cutting-edge research going on in our field," said Xiaohong, who earned an undergraduate degree in economics from Hunan University and attended Sun Yat-Sen University. She is from Guangdong, formerly Canton, China. "It is also a chance to meet students and faculty from other universities." 

This year the AFA offered 120 such grants. AFA members could nominate one student, whom he or she has taught or supervised. Xiaohong, whose faculty advisor is Ron Balvers, has taught four finance classes since coming to WVU. She hopes to defend her dissertation within two years and plans a career as a finance professor. "I still have a lot of work to do," she said. 

"Xiaohong's travel grant," Balvers said, "will allow her to attend the meeting so she can receive feedback on her research and learn more about recent developments in her area of asset pricing under financial constraints while her dissertation research is still in progress and before having to focus on the job market." 

Additionally, David Harris, an economics Ph.D. student from Fairmont, W.Va., is one of three economists to receive a $93,000 grant from the Institute for New Economic Thought to construct a detailed work that will be written for economists to change the method of modeling of capital, inventory and financial capital in economics. Their application was one of 500 from around the world. Only 31 initiatives are to be awarded grants totaling $7 million.  Read More

Ph.D. student Christa Jensen won the Early Career/Doctoral Student Award for Best Paper at the 39th Annual Meetings of the British and Irish Section of the Regional Science Association International. Her research examined how commercial and industrial waste moves between geographical areas and how it relates to economic and socio-economic characteristics.  Read More