New faculty profile: Christopher Swann

Dr. Christopher Swann received his BA in Economics in 1972 at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. He then received his Master’s in 1981 and his Ph.D in 1997 at Temple University.

Dr. Swann has presented at many conferences across the country including at the International Communications Forecasting Conference in San Francisco, California in 2002, the National Council on Compensation Insurance in Boca Raton, Florida in 2013, and the Association of Career Professionals in Philadelphia, PA in 2016.

Dr. Swann has 7 publications with his first one being, “Intermodal Competition in Local Exchange Markets,” included in the PAE Papers and Proceedings with David. G. Loomis in 2003, and his most recent being “Estimating the Impact of NABE Member Characteristics on Compensation,” published in Business Economics with Anessa Custovic in 2015.

Dr. Swann has teaching experience at West Chester University, Penn State, Drexel University, Villanova University, Cabrini College, and Temple University.

His past professional experiences include many different positions at Bell Atlantic (Verizon Communication) (1978-1994), Senior Economist at the U.S. Macroeconomic Service. (1997-1999), Senior Consultant at Telecom/Information Technology (2000-2005), and the Senior Advisor of Econsult Services, Inc (2015-Present).

In the past, Dr. Swann has served on the Board of Directors of National Association for Business Economics (NABE), and currently he holds the position of a member on the editorial board of Business Economics.

New faculty profile: Rhiannon Jerch

Dr. Rhiannon Jerch received her Bachelor’s degree in Economics at the University of Illinois in 2009. There, she also received her Master’s in applied Economics, and then continued her education at Cornell University where she received her Ph.D.

Dr. Jerch has been invited to give many presentations across the country including the NARSC Annual Meeting in Portland, Oregon in 2015, the NTA Annual Conference on Taxation in New Orleans in 2017, the APPAM Annual Fall Conference in DC in 2018, and presentations at 8 different colleges in 2019.

Her awards include the American Studies Graduate Research Grant (2016) and the George F. Warren Award (2017) from Cornell University. Dr. Jerch has also received fellowships, including the Graduate Fellowship in 2013-14 from Cornell, and the C. Lowell Harris Dissertation Fellowship in 2017 from the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.

Dr. Jerch has published “The Efficiency of Local Government: The Role of Privatization and Public Sector Unions” in the Journal of Public Economics in 2017. This was coauthored with Matthew E. Kahn and Shanjun Li. Currently, she is working on “The Local Consequences of Federal Mandates: Evidence from the Clean Water Act,” which is a job market paper, and “Road Rationing Policies and the Spatial Distribution of Wealth in Beijing,” with Panle Barwick, Shanjun Li, and Jing Wu.

In addition to teaching at Temple University, which she will start in January 2020, Dr. Jerch has taught 5 different courses at Cornell and 2 different courses at the University of Pennsylvania. Some of these include Intro to Econometrics (Cornell), Environmental and Resource Economics (Cornell), Urban Economics (Cornell), and a Research Seminar in Policy Analysis (UPenn). In addition to her undergrad courses, she has taught 2 graduate courses: Economics and the Environment (Cornell), and Economics for Social Policy (UPenn).

New faculty profile: Viviane Sanfelice

Dr. Sanfelice was awarded her Applied Mathematics degree at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil in 2008. She received her master’s degree in Economics at Fundac̃ao Get́ulio Vargas in 2010, and then she moved to the U.S. and ultimately received her Ph.D. at the University of Rochester.

During her time at University of Rochester, she was honored as the W. Allen Institute of Political Economy Fellow in 2016-2017, and the McKenzie Family Scholar in 2017-2018.

Dr. Sanfelice started teaching at University of Sao Paulo as a TA for Calc I and III. She then was a TA for Graduate Statistics in 2009, and assisted in teaching econometrics classes. At University of Rochester, she taught Undergraduate Econometrics.

Dr. Sanfelice has been the Technical Advisor at the Office of the Special Advisor in Sao Paulo, Brazil. She has also worked in Washington D.C. as a Junior Professional Associate at the World Bank Group.

Viviane Sanfelice is currently working on “Impact of Firearm Apprehension on Criminal Activity, and has published “Weather Shocks and Health at Birth in Colombia,” in World Development and “The Relationship between Budget Amendments and Local Electoral Power,” in Journal of Development Economics.

Besides being a talented Economist, Dr. Sanfelice can speak Portuguese and Spanish alongside of English. She also knows Stata, Matlab, C/C++, and AcGIS.


  1. Looking through your CV, I see you know C/C++, Matlab, etc, and I was wondering which type of projects you have used these programs on, and how important you think learning programming is for an economist?

During my undergraduate I have learned how to program using C/C++. I haven’t really used this language later on, but for sure it provided a great foundation, making easier for me to use other programming software like Matlab for instance.

Several courses at the graduate level have as assignment the estimation of models that are not that standard and we usually used Matlab. I have also used it on my own research projects.

At the same time the ultimate goal is to get my estimation results. Then I try to not complicate and to use software that may not sound fancy such as Stata, but are practical for data cleaning and regressions.

Lately I have used ArcGIS quite frequently, which is not a programming language, but it is useful software for spatial analysis.

I think the best and probably only way to learn a programming language is by actually using it. Then, being a research assistant is always a good idea to get practice and experience. I have had some working experiences outside academia and they were very valuable in terms of learning data analysis and software.

I believe programming languages are powerful tools and knowing some is essential for an economist interested in empirical research. I would strongly recommend undergraduate students to invest time in learning a language and even taking a formal programming course such as data structures and algorithms or introduction to numerical analysis.

As economist we do not need to become sophisticated computer programmers. However knowing how to use these tools efficiently will save computer memory and time.

  1. Have you ever been to Philadelphia, and are you excited to live here?

Yes, I am very excited to live in Philadelphia. I have visited the city before. My husband was born in Philadelphia and when we started dating we took a trip there together. I like that it is a large city with lots of history but not overwhelming like New York or Sao Paulo can be.

  1. What can students expect from your class?

(I am responding this question having in mind that I am teaching undergraduate econometrics in fall 2019.)

Students can expect to learn useful tools in terms of methods and data to empirically study economic relationships. Attention is devoted to understanding the difference between correlation and causation in these relationships.

My goal is to make the course interesting and intuitive, and at the same time to teach solid skills about econometric methods.

At the end students should gain a better understanding of economic relationships and its estimation through the use of real-life examples, statistical techniques and computer software.

  1. Are you interested in teaching other economics courses in the future?

For sure, I would be happy to teach some field courses for undergraduates like development economics or applied econometrics for public policy. For graduate level it would be nice to teach a course on discrete choice models with application in applied microeconomics or a field course which explores the latest and most relevant research works on the topic.

New faculty profile: Olga A. Timoshenko

Olga A. Timoshenko

Dr. Timoshenko received her Economics degree at the University of Western Ontario in 2005. After receiving her masters there as well, she continued her education at Yale, receiving her Ph.D. in Economics.

In her time at Yale, she was a research assistant, and a Teaching Fellow for three different courses: international economics, intermediate microeconomics, and international trade. Her thesis for Yale was “Essays in Trade and Learning. She also received the Economic Growth Center Prize from 2006-2010.

Dr. Timoshenko has published her research in The Canadian Journal of Economics, Economics Letters, Journal of International Economics (From which she just won the Outstanding Reviewer Award), and others. She has also given many presentations, including presentations at the Canadian Economic Association, the Midwest International Trade Meeting, The European Trade Study Group.

Her research interest includes international trade, and macroeconomics, which for most of her works include trade.

She started teaching quite early by being a Teaching Assistant at the University of Western Ontario, later becoming an Assistant Professor at The George Washington University. This fall, Dr. Timoshenko is teaching an international trade course.


  1. Looking through your CV, I see you’re most interested in international trade. What are some of your favorite projects you have worked on dealing with this subject?

I often think about the role of information uncertainty in firms’ decisions. Due to a variety of reasons, firms do not always have complete information about the demand in foreign markets for their goods, about a potential popularity  of their products in markets. Yet, firms need to decide whether  to export or not, where to export, how much, which products to sell and at  which prices. As a result, many of my projects focus on modeling the decisions of firms under uncertainty. For example, in my recent project entitled “Uncertainty and Trade Elasticities” co-authored with Erick Sager at the Federal Reserve Board  we show that more firms enter more uncertain markets, but that  those  firms have on average smaller export sales compared to the behavior of the same firms in markets that could be characterized  by a more complete information structure.

  1. Had you ever been to Philadelphia before arriving at Temple U, and are you excited to live here?

I have briefly visited Philadelphia on a number of occasions, but I have never lived in Philadelphia to truly enjoy what the city has to offer.  I am looking forward to explore various museums, theaters, restaurants, and historical sites. My first stop will certainly be at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

  1. What can students expect from your class?

Students can expect an energetic and  motivated professor who is  keen on educating them on topics of intentional trade. Students can expect a lot of active learning activities such as group projects and educational games; a lot of work at the start and a high intellectual reward at the end.

  1. Are you interested in teaching other economics courses in the future?

Yes. I hope that, over time, as I discover what interests Temple students, I would be able to design a course that could address those interests. I hope to earn students’ excitement for my classes such that  by the end of the first course-registration day, my classes would get full and have a waiting list with many more students eager to register and learn.

Professor Leeds’s publication with an undergraduate student coauthor

Amy Nguyen, an undergraduate Honors student, worked with Professor Michael Leeds on a paper for her Honors project. Last month, this research article that ultimately came out of this project was published in the Journal of Sports Economics, under the title “Productivity, Rents, and the Salaries of Group of Five Football Coaches”. Here is the abstract of the paper:

“Standard labor market theory says that workers are paid their marginal revenue product (MRP). However, firm revenue is sometimes independent of the productivity of individual workers. This often occurs in professional sports, as the bulk of a team’s revenue comes from league-wide TV contracts negotiated years in advance. This is also true for head coaches at “Group of Five” schools, which form the second tier of college football programs. We show that a coach’s performance affects both his MRP and his bargaining power over the division of exogenous rents that accrue to his program.”

Economics Department Awards Luncheon 2019

On May 1st, 2019, the Department of Economics held their annual Awards Luncheon at the Estia Restaurant in Center City Philadelphia.

The ceremony opened with a short address from Department Chair, Professor Leeds.

The first award presented was the Student Professional Development Award to William Strahan.

The economics society was then acknowledged for their accomplishments. The members specifically recognized were Vincent DiMichele, Benjamin Ginsberg, Erica Hall, Veronika Konovalova, and Benjamin Salzer.

The Undergraduate Program Awards had many students being recognized.

CLA Distinction in Major Students: Mosammath Anjum, Kristopher Blazeski, Joshua Chen, Sean Dix, Steven Doncaster, Julia Flanagan, Geneva Heffernan, James Jackson, Evan Martin, Megan Maxwell, Frashiah Mwangi, Rebecca Neergaard, Benjamin Salzer, Nicholas Tarpey, Matthew Tkacik, and Caroline Lewis.

The Phi Beta Kappa Nominees included Alex Mark, Michael T. McMahon, Jacob Stoltzfus, and Collin Wardius.

The Student with the highest GPA as a Fox School Economics Major was Patrick Gleason.

The winner of The Norman and Ruth Sun Award in Writing was Steven Hamilton. The Honorable Mentions for this award were Evan Martin, Megan Maxwell, and Marie Shorokey.

The recipients of The Norman and Ruth Sun Memorial Award were Julia Flanagan from the College of Liberal Arts and Elinor Dittes from the Fox School.

The First Graduate Program Award announced was the Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award, received by Luke Mafrica.

Outstanding Teaching by a Graduate Student was received by Xiyue Cao.

The Third Year Ph.D. Student Writing Award was received by Thanh Lu for, “Medical  Marijuana and Household Spending: Evidence from the Consumer Expenditure Survey.” Advisor: Dr. J. Catherine Maclean.

Five students were recognized for successfully defending their doctoral dissertations:

Weige Huang for, “Essays on Microeconometrics and Finance.” Advisor: Dr. Brantly Callaway

Melissa Oney for, “Three Essays in Health Economics.” Advisor: Dr. J. Catherine Maclean

Joseph Shinn for, “Three Essays of Labor, Health and Real Estate Economics.” Advisor: Dr. Michael Bognanno

Keisha Solomon for, “Three Essays on Health Economics.” Advisor: Dr. J. Catherine Maclean

Lulei Song for, “Three Essays on Macroeconomics and Banking.” Advisor: Dr. Pedro Silos

There were four faculty awards presented.

Outstanding Teaching by an Adjunct Professor was received by Dr. Joseph Shinn.

Outstanding Graduate Teaching by a Full-time Faculty Member was received by Professor Pedro Silos.

Outstanding Service by a Faculty Member was received by Professor Dimitrios Diamantaras

Outstanding Research Paper by a Faculty Member was received by Professor Dai Zusai.

Photos from the event can be seen here:

Text and photos by Kaitlin Flynn, edited by Dimitrios Diamantaras

Ph.D. Alumna Elizabeth Wheaton publishes a textbook and receives a teaching prize

Dr. Elizabeth Wheaton holding a copy of her textbook in the exhibits hall of the 2019 ASSA annual meetings.

Dr. Elizabeth (Beth) Wheaton, 2006 Ph.D. alumna, currently CEO at Equip the Saints and Economics Senior Lecturer at Southern Methodist University, celebrated two important achievements in this academic year. She had her book Economics of Human Rights published in the Fall and this April she was one of the two recipients of the 2019 SMU ALEC PAT “Pretty Amazing Teacher” Award, which honors professors who encourage their students to get the tutoring and academic training they need, challenges students to become better learners, and works in partnership with the SMU ALEC (Althshuler Learning Enhancement Center). We reached out to her about her textbook and she answered our questions as follows.

Q. What is the reason behind creating this book? What motivated you to create this book?

A. I saw an overlap in the needs of several different groups. Students ask me how they can best prepare to change the world. Nonprofit organizations and think tanks ask Equip the Saints (the nonprofit consulting organization I founded) for help with data collection and analysis in areas where social issues and economics connect. National and international organizations, researchers, and activists who find my research ask how they can access necessary research and gain insight.

I wrote The Economics of Human Rights to provide economics (and other) students with the training needed to work in interdisciplinary teams. The textbook teaches students how to view a social issue through the lens of economics and provides the foundational information needed to understand that issue so that they can use their economics skills to complement the world-changing team of which they are a part. Around 75% of the material is accessible to non-economics majors so the textbook can be used in political science, communications, human rights, and other studies.

I also wanted to encourage students to consider choosing economics as a major. Economics provides powerful tools that can be used to create positive change in the world.

Q. Do you think this book will make a difference in how people view human rights? Will they see it in more of an economics aspect? Why do you think discussing the use of economics in human rights is important?

A. I believe this book will make a difference in how people view human rights and how they view economics. I define economics as the science of choice when dealing with scarcity. The basis of each human rights violation is the choices of a person or group. In addition, each human right has multiple parts that are tied to monetary decisions. When we can determine the benefits and costs of perpetrators, victims, and bystanders, we can find ways to create incentives to change those decisions. Changing those incentives could lead to decreased violence and better lives.

Q. How did you first get into economics and why did you choose to major in it in college?

A. I earned a bachelor’s degree in international business and economics at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas and a Masters in international business and trade from Grambling State University. While working for an international finance company, I read about child labor and its ties to the production and consumption in developed countries. I realized that a Masters and Ph.D. in economics would provide me with the skills and status needed to make a real impact in the lives of marginalized people, so I went back to school at Temple University.

Q. Tell us about your time obtaining your Ph.D. and M.A. at Temple University.

A. I was out of school for several years before starting my schooling at Temple University. Fortunately, some of my fellow Ph.D. students were willing to tutor me to help me catch up with the skills I lacked. There was great camaradery among the economics Ph.D. students. I found the mentors I needed in Dr. Michael Leeds and Dr. Moshen Fardmanesh. These two gentlemen were instrumental in teaching me to become an economist and to do scientific research. The economics professors poured their knowledge into us.

Q. Are you working on any pieces right now?

A. My current project is rewriting the textbook in a reading style for professionals. I am also working on new research on the economics of gun violence.

Q. What do your colleagues and family think of your piece?

A. My family, friends, and colleagues have always been supportive of my work. They are proud of the textbook and the fact that I keep finding new ways to change the world in a positive way.

Interview by Oumaima Elaamerani.

Ellie Dittes, Economics Major, 2019 Diamond Award Winner

Portrait of Ellie Dittes

This year, the recipient of Temple’s Diamond Award was Fox economics major, Ellie Dittes.

The Diamond Award is the highest recognition given to an undergraduate at Temple University, and is for those who have shown exceptional leadership, academic achievement, and service to the University and community.

Ellie is a senior from Nashville, Tennessee. After she toured Temple as a high school freshman, she was attracted to the school’s positive vibe and moved to the Northeast.  She first stared off as an International business major, but then fell in love with economics and changed her major. Her first internship was at Bimbo Bakery, focusing on supply chain management. She then worked for Johnson and Johnson, and her most recent internship was with PWS. As for research, Ellie studied sports economics and did her own independent research on auction theory.

Ellie believes her work as the project administrator for Fox’s strategic planning process contributed most to her winning the Diamond award. With this process, Fox is working to redefine itself, and she supported this initiative immensely. Her leadership roles include being the executive VP of the college council, and she was in the Temple Student Government for Fox school. Alongside all of this, Ellie was a Diamond Peer Teacher for Professor Das’s Microeconomics class.

After graduation, Ellie will be stationed in Kosovo working for the Peace Corps in community development.

Ellie emphasizes the advantage of being a business student and being able to work closely with the faculty of the economics department in the College of Liberal Arts.

Profile of Ellie Dittes by Kaitlin Flynn.

Economics presentations at the 2019 Symposium for Undergraduate Research and Creativity

Nine undergraduate economics students presented their research in the 2019 Symposium for Undergraduate Research and Creativity that has held at Temple University’s Main Campus on April 11. Their presentations filled two sessions. The program of the sessions follows, with a link to photos from the sessions at the end.

9:30 – 10:50 Research in Economics 1

Megan Maxwell,, Measuring the Influence of China on South Asian Trade Openness

Han Pham,, “No Country for Young Women?” The Impact of Restrictive Legislation on Women’s Health in Texas

Nicholas Russo,, Should We Eat Rotten Tomatoes? An Examination of the Relationship between Film Critic Reviews and Box Office Performance

Benjamin Salzer,, The Transfer Market and Success in the English Premier League

11:00 – 12:20 Research in Economics 2

Indonesia Young,, The Impact of Inclusivity in the Cosmetics Industry: The Effect of Skin Shade Variety on Complexion Product Ratings

Sean Dix,, Exploring the Impact of Unemployment on Voter Turnout in Pennsylvania Counties During the 2016 Presidential Election

Steven Hamilton,, A Consumer Choice Model for Effective Altruism

Natalie Scott Bird Biodiversity, GDP Per Capita, and the Environmental Kuznets Curve

Julie Weiss,, The Life and Deaths of Opiates: An Empirical Analysis of Opioid Overdoses and Opioid Prescribers

For photos of the event, please visit

Two recent papers by Professor Maclean

Associate Professor Maclean, who recently became a Co-Editor at the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management (JPAM), has two recent papers in this journal.  The objective of JPAM is to publish and disseminate high-quality and timely policy-relevant work.

Paper 1:

Title: The effect of medical marijuana laws on the labor supply and health of older adults: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study

Authors: Lauren Hersh Nicolas and Johanna Catherine Maclean

Summary: Legalization of medical marijuana is highly controversial in the United States.  While federal law prohibits the use of marijuana for any purpose, 34 states – beginning with California in 1996 – permit legal medical use of this substance for patients meeting specific criteria.  Advocates contend that medical marijuana offers an effective medication that allows patients to treat painful symptoms associated with chronic and acute health conditions for which traditional medications and procedures are unable to adequately manage.  Critics argue that legalization will result in recreation, not medical, use of marijuana and, in turn, cause substance use disorders, crime and violence, and other social ills.

A number of studies have examined the effect of state legalization of medical marijuana laws (‘MMLs’) on marijuana use, use of other substances (e.g., alcohol and cocaine), use of related healthcare (e.g., prescription medications that are used to treat symptoms for which marijuana is often used), health outcomes (e.g., days in poor mental health), and crime (e.g., traffic accidents).  Overall, these studies suggest that MMLs lead to both increased medical and recreational marijuana use, and improve many, but not all, health outcomes, suggesting a complex relationship between legal access to marijuana and social outcomes.

There are no studies, however, that examine how legal access to marijuana conferred through MMLs affects older adults.  Older adults are important to study as this group is much more likely to experience health conditions with symptoms which can be effectively treated with medical marijuana based on clinical trial evidence (e.g., chronic pain).  Further, older adults are at elevated risk of leaving the labor market due to poor health.  Given the health conditions experienced by older adults and associated implications for labor market attachment, failure to study MML effects on older adults represents an important omission within the literature.

Our study seeks to address the above-noted dearth.  We use data on older adults, defined as those ages 51 years and above, from the Health and Retirement Study to examine the effects of MMLs on health and labor supply over the period 1992 to 2012.  We find that when a state adopts an MML older adult self-assessed health improves, chronic pain declines, and labor supply – measured as the number of hours worked per week and propensity to work fulltime – increases.  In terms of labor supply, our findings imply that while MMLs do not prompt retired workers to return to the labor market, MMLs allow working older adults to work more.  Using unique data on health histories available within the Health and Retirement Study, we show that our effects are driven by older adults most likely to use medical marijuana to treat health condition symptoms.  These findings offer new evidence on the full effects of state legalization of marijuana for medical purposes.


Paper 2:

Title: The effect of public insurance expansions on substance use disorder treatment: Evidence from the Affordable Care Act

Authors: Johanna Catherine Maclean and Brendan Saloner

Summary: Problems associated with substance use disorders (SUDs) are a major public health concern within the United States.  SUDs are clinical conditions that impose substantial costs on both the individual and on greater society.  For the individual, SUDs impede health, interpersonal relationships, and employment, and in some cases can lead to incarceration and even death.  The costs to society – which represent increased healthcare and social service costs, a less productive labor force, and criminal justice system costs – are over $500B each year.  SUDs are common, in 2016 over 20M individuals in the U.S. met diagnostic criteria for an SUD.  Indeed, the U.S. is in the midst of an unprecedented illicit drug epidemic, largely related to opioids.  Each day over 115 Americans die from an opioid-related overdose, representing a quadrupling of the death rate since 1999.  Moreover, the prevalence rate varies across demographic groups with lower income and uninsured populations at elevated risk for an SUD.

While effective treatment is available, only one in ten individuals who would benefit from such treatment receive any care each year.  While there are a wide range of reasons for not receiving care, a commonly cited reason is lack of insurance coverage and inability to pay for treatment.  The Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010 represents a major transformation of the healthcare delivery system.  Health scholars note that no health condition is likely to be more affected by this historic Act than SUDs.  Of particular relevance for SUDs is Medicaid expansion.  Medicaid, which is jointed funded and operated by state and federal governments, is the primary insurer of poor people in the U.S.  However, prior to the ACA, in most states Medicaid covered only poor parents and the disabled.  Many individuals, regardless of their income level and health needs, were not eligible for Medicaid.  The ACA provided additional funding for states to expand Medicaid to all individuals with income up to 138% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL).  As of February 2019, 37 states (including DC) have expanded Medicaid.  Medicaid generously covers a wide-range of SUD treatments.  For many ‘newly eligible’ individuals, Medicaid expansion offers access to insurance for the first time and this population has elevated rates of SUDs.

We study the effect of Medicaid expansion on use and financing of SUD treatment using government data on use of specialty treatment (e.g., inpatient rehabilitation services) and medications obtained in outpatient settings (e.g., private doctors’ offices) to treat SUDs.  We find that, after a state expands Medicaid in conjunction with the ACA, treatment use increases and treatment financing shifts from state and local governments – which provided the majority of funding for SUD treatment through targeted grants historically – to Medicaid programs.

In summary, our findings suggest that Medicaid expansion allowed more people to receive treatment for their SUDs and that the financing of this treatment was provided by state and federal governments through Medicaid programs.  Given the very low incomes of individuals who gained Medicaid eligibility through the ACA expansions – 138% of FPL for a family of two is roughly $23,000 per year – this change in financing likely offers critical financial protection for vulnerable members of society.  Further, this new treatment utilization plausibly reduces SUDs within the population and reduces social costs.