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Three MIT economics doctoral students selected as among the world's most promising

Clockwise: Melissa Dell; Nathaniel Hendren, Gabriel Carroll
Clockwise: Melissa Dell; Nathaniel Hendren, Gabriel Carroll

Each year, The Review of Economic Studies selects seven of the most promising graduating doctoral students in economics and finance in the world to present their research to audiences in Europe. For the third consecutive year, MIT's graduates were extremely successful in the highly competitive selection process for The Review of Economics Studies European Tour.

This year, three of the 2012 graduating MIT PhD students — Gabriel Carroll, Melissa Dell, and Nathaniel Hendren — have been honored as participants in the tour. Carroll, Dell and Hendren will be joined by Saki Bigio (NYU), Marco Maggiori (Berkeley), Paolo Somaini (Stanford) and Joseph Vavra (Yale).

Commenting on these students, Whitney Newey, professor of economics and head of the Department of Economics, said "The recent accomplishments of our students continues a long record of achievement. MIT economics PhDs continue to be most influential in their scholarly work and in their contributions to economic policy. It is wonderful to get to work with such outstanding students."

About the winners

Gabriel Carroll is a microeconomic theorist.

His main interest is in mechanism design — the design of institutions for making decisions that depend on dispersed information about people's preferences, with an eye to the strategic incentives faced by participants in these institutions. His dissertation takes a quantitative approach to studying the size of incentives provided by different voting systems, as well as various market institutions. On the economics program at MIT, Carroll comments, "The research environment at MIT is extremely fluid. Not only my advisers but a broad range of other faculty were interested in what I was thinking and available to offer their perspectives. It makes for an especially supportive community. My classmates are very smart and energetic, and aside from their ideas that contribute directly to my research, it's stimulating just to have the air full of economics." After graduating, Carroll has accepted a postdoctoral position at Microsoft Research, followed by an assistant professorship at Stanford.

Melissa Dell is a development economist whose dissertation examines the Mexican drug trade.

Specifically, she uses a network model of drug trafficking to analyze how traffickers' economic objectives have influenced the direct and spillover effects of government crackdowns. Dell describes her experience at MIT by saying "MIT has provided an outstanding research environment. The faculty in development and political economy are extremely supportive, and the development PhD students sit together in JPAL [Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab] and interact on a daily basis. MIT has also provided various opportunities to engage with economics faculty in other subfields, with computer science faculty who have developed computational techniques that I employ in my research, and with members of the political science department who have research and policy experience closely related to my interests." Upon finishing at MIT, Dell will be joining the Harvard community, first as a junior fellow at the Society of Fellows and then as an assistant professor in the Harvard Economics Department.

Nathaniel Hendren is a public finance economist whose dissertation analyzes the role of information in insurance markets.

He shows that private information leads to the common practice of insurance rejections, whereby insurance companies turn away some applicants without offering any price. On his time at MIT, Hendren explains, "There is no way to describe how amazing MIT is. It combines an intensely intellectual environment with amazing professors that care deeply about your success." Hendren is going to start as an assistant professor at Harvard.

MIT students selected for previous Review of Economic Studies European Tours

In 2011, three of the Tour's seven participants were also from MIT: Dan Keniston a development economist who studies informal transactions such as bargaining for rickshaw fares in India and now is an assistant professor at Yale; Mar Reguant who studies aspects of market design for wholesale electricity markets and now teaches at Stanford's Graduate School of Business; and Alex Wolitzky, a microeconomic theorist who studies the role of reputation in bargaining and repeated games and will start a job as an assistant professor at Stanford.

In 2010, four of the Tour's seven participants were from MIT: Cynthia Kinnan, a development economist whose dissertation studied the role of insurance arrangements in Thai villages, and who is now an assistant professor at Northwestern; Pablo Kurlat, a macroeconomist whose dissertation examined the sources of variation in liquidity over the course of the business cycle, and who is now an assistant professor at Stanford; Florian Scheuer, a public finance theorist whose dissertation studied the design of optimal tax systems in an economy with an important entrepreneurial sector, and who is also now a faculty member at Stanford; and Alp Simsek, a macroeconomic theorist whose dissertation examined asymmetric information and heterogeneous prior beliefs in financial markets, who is now a Harvard faculty member.

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