5 Scholars Join Econ Faculty

This fall, Duke Economics is thrilled to bring five new faculty members to campus.

Two will be joining the department this year. Three will be teaching and researching in person for the first time, having completed post-docs elsewhere. All will bring exciting, essential expertise to Duke.

Their research covers some of the world's most pressing problems, including racial inequalities in policing, gender inequality in the labor market, education and child welfare policies, the impact of inflation and exchange rates on international trade and how emissions regulations are influenced by the market.

“The department, and Duke at large, is extremely fortunate that these scholars are joining us. We are incredibly excited to see the impact that their research and teaching have at Duke and beyond," said Economics Chair James Roberts.

Bocar Ba

Assistant Professor

Ba’s research is focused on the economics of crime and labor. He has always been interested in learning more about how the two intersect. “I realized that no one was focusing on the unintended consequences of policing, like what is the impact of arresting someone who was actually an innocent?” he said when he first came to Duke as a postdoc in 2018. “What kind of incentives do police officers have? What is the objective function of a police officer? And what are the consequences of these actions?”

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Jason Baron

Assistant Research Professor

Baron describes himself as an applied microeconomist with research interests in the economics of education, public finance, and child welfare. He credits his time spent in public schools in Mexico with developing these interests. 

“Experiencing public education in the U.S. was shocking,” said Baron. “I could not believe the quality of the teachers, guidance counselors and other staff, and the school facilities. I immediately became very interested in the role that school funding plays in shaping academic success.”

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Laura Castillo-Martinez

Assistant Professor

Castillo-Martinez’s research interests lie in international macroeconomics and monetary economics. They were shaped by what was happening on an international scale with the recession of 2008. “I had just started college in ’08, and when Lehman Brothers collapsed, I decided I wanted to study economics.”

She’s also interested in the effects of the European sovereign debt crisis, as she was ten years old when Spain switched from the peseta to the Euro. “I like to look at questions about how exchange rates move, how inflation moves. How does it affect money and international trade across borders?”

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Quitzé Valenzuela-Stookey

Postdoctoral Associate

“Policymakers often do try to look at markets to inform their decisions,” said Valenzuela-Stookey. “For example, the Federal Reserve will look at a bond prices when deciding on how to conduct monetary policy, because these prices are supposed to reveal some information about the underlying state of the economy.”

Now, Valenzuela-Stookey hopes to shed light on emissions regulations and the ways that cap-and-trade policies are influenced by the market.

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Pengpeng Xiao

Assistant Research Professor

Xiao describes herself as a labor economist, and her research interests lie in gender gaps, education, the search and matching theory of beneficial relationships and family economics.

She studies the differences in how men and women behave in the labor market when they become parents, and how employers make hiring decisions and wage offers based on those behaviors. She has examined how women switch jobs after having children, costs to employers when women go on parental leave and the underlying reasons why women are paid less than men, shedding light on policies that aim to improve equality in society.

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