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Economics faculty earn Big XII Faculty Fellowships

Two faculty members of the economics department in the West Virginia University College of Business and Economics are continuing to make a lasting impact in their areas of expertise and help certain populations through collaboration with other Big 12 institutions.

Assistant professors of economics Drs. Gregory DeAngelo and Daniel Grossman were both named 2016-2017 Big 12 Faculty Fellows and offered research grants from the WVU Office of Provost as part of the 2016-2017 Big 12 Faculty Fellowship Program.

The program offers faculty members at institutions in the Big 12 Conference the opportunity to travel to other member institutions to pursue collaborative research in a variety of ways. The WVU application specifies that award recipients may each use up to $2,500 to “work on collaborative research, consult with faculty and students, offer a series of lectures or symposia, acquire new skills or take advantage of a unique archive or laboratory facility.”

Gregory DeAngelo

Greg DeAngelo

DeAngelo primarily conducts research at the nexus of law enforcement and illicit markets, specifically evaluating policy effectiveness.

The economist, who earned his Ph.D. in economics from University of California at Santa Barbara, will be using this fellowship to travel to Baylor University in Waco, Texas, to work with Scott Cunningham, an associate professor of economics, on their research for the working paper, “Signaling in the Sex Services Industry.”

“There is a very small number of experts in the economics of vice, specifically with regard to the sex services industry. The illicit industry attracts significant attention, especially from law enforcement and policy makers. There have been many attempts to regulate the industry, but most of the time, the regulation hurts the female service providers more than it helps them. Many of these women are in this industry because they are destitute,” DeAngelo said. “Scott recently did a survey of The Erotic Review, which is an online review website of sex service providers. By combining my empirical research and his efforts to learn more about the sex behavior of service providers, we believe that we can provide significant policy insights that can be utilized to improve the welfare of providers in this market.”

While at Baylor, DeAngelo also plans to give a talk about his other research, entitled “An Empirical Test of the Swedish Model of Crime Prevention”, which is the concept of exclusively targeting the demand side of the sex services market – the “Johns”.

“If police target only the Johns, the men now become squeamish about utilizing sex service providers because they know they are being targeted. In response, the women will take on greater risk in order to entice the men to pursue their services,” he said. “The price of services remains unchanged even after police target the Johns. What does change, though, is the risk level of the service being provided. Specifically, service providers offer much riskier services for the same price. This ends up hurting the women, despite efforts that target the men. This is an example of the unintended consequences of regulation.”

DeAngelo says Cunningham’s survey of providers in the market is a valuable tool to their collaborative research and should provide some interesting results in their working paper.

“Service providers have a way of avoiding high risk situations without the need for the police to step in or regulations to be passed” he said.

DeAngelo is also working on other research on risky behavior and social norms. He is interested in understanding the interface between deviance and norms.

Daniel Grossman

Daniel Grossman

Grossman has been with B&E for nearly a year and a half, and throughout his time he has worked on a number of projects with his colleagues on campus and at other institutions.

He earned his Ph.D. from Cornell University in 2015, and he focuses his research on health economics with an emphasis on the effect of government programs on health, especially that of pregnant women and their babies.

“I’ve had an interest in health for a long time. I was a Peace Corp volunteer in Senegal for two years, working to develop small businesses with local associations including a group of disabled individuals. It instilled upon me that health is one of the most important things we have,” Grossman said. ”So, when I came back to the U.S., I began working as a research assistant for Frank Sloan, a health economist at Duke University.”

With the Big 12 Fellowship, Grossman will be traveling to the University of Kansas to give two seminars and work with his colleague, David Slusky, also an assistant professor of economics. The two health economists are working on preliminary research for a project about the Flint, Michigan water crisis and the effect of the change in the Flint water supply on birth outcomes.

“In 2014, [Flint] switched from Lake Huron water to Flint River water to try to save money, and they didn’t really do their due diligence and test the water to see if it was safe to drink. Essentially, they were treating the new water supply and it leached a lot more lead out of the water than they thought. For about a full year and a half, people were drinking highly-leaded water, so we are trying to investigate what the effect of this new water source is on birth outcomes,” he said. “We are trying to tease out the effect of this change in water supply on pregnant women and their babies. We will be using Michigan Vital Statistics data, which contains the universe of births to mothers living in the state. We’ll know exactly where the women live at the time of birth and thus whether they were affected by the new water regime.”

Currently, Grossman is working on several additional research projects. He is working on one with Umair Khalil, a visiting assistant professor of economics at B&E, which focuses on peer effects on uptake of public programs.

“We are study California mothers, defining their peer groups as the women who live in their immediate neighborhood who recently gave birth. We are asking whether where you live affects your decision to use Medicaid during your pregnancy, based on whether previously pregnant women in your area used Medicaid during their pregnancies. The basic idea is essentially that if you live very close to other women using Medicaid, you are going to be more likely to also use Medicaid. That’s what we’re actually finding,” he said. “The follow up study we are currently planning is does this peer effect affect your health and the health of your baby? If you’re switching from private insurance to Medicaid, is that good or bad?”