Helen Roberts

    Email Address: hroberts@uic.edu
    College: Liberal Arts and Sciences Department: Economics
    Title: Clinical Associate Professor
    Office: 709 UH Phone: 3550378
    Webpage: http://www.uic.edu/~hroberts
    Participating in the Chancellor’s Undergraduate Research Awards program: Yes

    Research Interest:
    My research falls into two broad categories. The first is the effects of increasing returns to scale on equilibrium in a number of circumstances, including the tools to analyze this. The second is to improve economic education for students from very young children through adults.

    Some questions that interest me in the first category involve how people, firms, and other organizations handle the circumstances outside the simple world of beginning economics courses with simple alternatives of perfect competition or monopoly. When the world’s conditions do not give a clear supply/demand curves intersection, then there is not a definite quantity-price answer to the usual questions economists ask. Yet the interactions lead to some price-quantity answers in markets such as automobiles, the subject of my dissertation. Firms must cover their cost per unit and the process continued over time even though the fundamental economic insight that marginal cost should equal marginal revenue leads to bankruptcy when there are increasing returns to scale. In addition to the automobile markets, similar cost conditions that lead to these issues exist in such different arenas as philanthropy and health care.

    Competition, Cost Theories and Trade under Declining Average Costs: The U.S. Market for Small Cars, 1995, University of Chicago Ph. D. Dissertation, 103 pp., shows how increasing returns to scale influenced which company to produce at which output levels in the 1970s and 1980s. International philanthropy has a similar cost structure. "Jewish Donations to Israel," in Contemporary Jewry, vol. 20, 1999, pp. 201-213, examines the contrasting trends in donations – fewer donations through umbrella organizations but more contributions from individuals directly to specific charities – and investigates economic causes of this change, and “Donations under Declining Average Costs” (June 2000) considers effects of cost conditions on efficient solicitation, organization, and delivery of philanthropic donations.

    I have projects on measuring the results of programs in career and technical education, economics, and financial literacy and measuring learning using different teaching techniques. The second category includes both program effectiveness studies and curriculum design to fill holes in the existing literature. What are students learning at different ages? Economic decision-making is a life skill for educated citizens and we in economic education need to understand what students are already learning and how we can teach them the skills they need. How much do they bring from their homes and parents? What are the additional gains from elementary lessons, or middle school, or high school? How do career-oriented programs affect students’ learning of academic subjects? Is the learning better under selected the teaching methods?

    Minimum time commitment in hours per week: 6-9

    Qualifications of a Student:
    I am looking for smart, flexible, committed students who want to learn about research in economics. You need to be willing to commit 6 to 9 hours per week of work in return for 2 or 3 credits of ECON 399.

    To apply, you must have a strong GPA and you must have completed ECON 346 (Econometrics). You must also be very reliable and very committed to scholarship.

    Brief Summary of what is expected from the student:
    This experience could be at the beginning of a project, in which case there may be literature search, preparation of materials, experimental design, and setting up of permissions and procedures. It could be in the middle, in which case there would be data entry and/or cleaning, preliminary statistics using SAS or STATA, tables, and charts. It could be in later stages, with drawing conclusions and constructing tables and graphs--making the case. We will train you for all tasks.

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