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Economics professor Arie Kapteyn to join USC

Pamela Johnsonby Pamela J. Johnson
Arie Kapteyn studies microeconomics, public finance and econometrics. (Photo/Pamela J. Johnson)
Arie Kapteyn studies microeconomics, public finance and econometrics. (Photo/Pamela J. Johnson)

Steve A. Kay, dean of the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, has announced the appointment of Arie Kapteyn as professor of economics and founding director of the newly established USC Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research. He will begin his post on Nov. 15.

Kapteyn arrives from the RAND Corp., where he was a senior economist and director of RAND Labor and Population. He was also director of the Roybal Center for Financial Decisionmaking and associate director of the Financial Literacy Center, a joint center of RAND, Dartmouth College and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

In addition, he was a professor at the Pardee RAND Graduate School and thesis adviser for approximately 25 doctoral students. His research expertise covers microeconomics, public finance and econometrics, the application of mathematics and statistical methods to economic data. RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decision-making through research and analysis. Kapteyn worked at the global corporation’s headquarters in Santa Monica, Calif.

Kapteyn is a fellow of the Econometric Society, past president of the European Society for Population Economics and corresponding member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Before joining RAND, Kapteyn held a chair in econometrics at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, where he served in numerous capacities, including dean of the Faculty of Economics and Business Administration; founder and director of CentER (a research institute and graduate school) and of CentERdata (a survey research institute); and director of CentER Applied Research (a contract research institute).

He has held visiting positions at several universities, including Princeton University, the California Institute of Technology, Australian National University, the University of Canterbury (New Zealand), the University of Bristol (England), and USC, where he was assistant and then associate professor of economics from 1979 to 1982.

At RAND, he led research teams on dozens of projects analyzing various topics, such as successful financial planning, how much Americans know about Social Security and comparing life satisfaction in the United States and the Netherlands.

Elizabeth Garrett, USC provost and senior vice president for academic affair, noted that Kapteyn brings extensive experience in rigorous economic research and its practical application to real-world issues.

“He has also demonstrated outstanding leadership at RAND and academic institutions around the world,” Garrett said. “His appointment as director of the new USC Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research amplifies USC’s already strong position as a global innovator in the development of evidence-based social policy.”

Dean Kay echoed those remarks.

“Arie Kapteyn’s wealth of experience shows he has the skills and talent to continue to propel social sciences research at USC Dornsife to new heights with the founding of the USC Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research,” Kay said. “He has proven himself a first-rate economist, researcher and professor who I believe will enhance our Department of Economics.”

Wendy Wood, USC Dornsife vice dean for the social sciences, said having such a distinguished economist join the social science community at USC is exciting.

“His work links to significant areas of study within the social sciences, including health care, aging, personal savings and retirement benefits,” said Wood, Provost Professor of Psychology and Business. “Faculty and students will benefit from the collaborations and research opportunities in these areas with Dr. Kapteyn. Along with our current faculty strength, the hire of Dr. Kapteyn makes us one of the world leaders in the study of health economics.”

Kapteyn said ambition drew him to USC Dornsife.

“I’ve seen ambition at the top down from every level,” he said. “The provost, the executive vice provost, the dean. I’ve talked to faculty members. I’ve talked to department chairs, and everyone has a sense that this place is really going somewhere and there is an ambition to make it work.

“Not only is it what people say, but it’s how they behave. If they say they are going to do something, they do it. I was very impressed with how the process of the transition took place. How quick it was, how businesslike it was and how very little bureaucracy was involved. I’m ambitious, too. This really is an environment in which I can realize my ambitions with the new center.”

Geert Ridder, professor and interim chair in the Department of Economics, called Kapteyn “the rare economist who is a great scholar but who can also build a group of researchers.”

“As a scholar he has wide interests,” Ridder said. “He has made contributions to econometrics, the measurement of subjective well-being and the study of aging and retirement. He also set up an Internet panel that is a great tool for data collection and field experiments. As a builder, he created a center in Tilburg, the Netherlands, that is still a premier research center in Europe, and he made the labor and population group at RAND a flourishing research group.

“These skills will make his new Center for Social and Economic Research a success,” Ridder added. “For both the economics department and the Social Science Center, Arie is a great hire.”