With unemployment rates top-of-mind for economists and the media, Bryant Economics major Hannah Sheldon '20, in collaboration with Professor of Economics Edinaldo Tebaldi, Ph.D., published an article in Providence Business News shedding light on labor market conditions in New England. According to both Tebaldi and Sheldon, the process that led to the accomplishment was as impactful as the findings presented in the article itself.
“It was an exercise in curiosity, sparked by her engagement and her willingness to ask a question.”
“I was looking at these data points, and they didn’t match up with the Phillips curve," an economic model that describes the trade-off between inflation and unemployment, "and I really wanted to know why,” said Sheldon, an aspiring economist. “I knocked on Professor Tebaldi’s door. I wasn’t even a student of his, but it didn’t matter to him. He just wanted to help.”
“Hannah wanted to truly understand the makeup of what economists call the natural unemployment rate, or NAIRU – Non-Accelerating Inflation Rate of Unemployment," said Tebaldi, a widely consulted expert in applied economics who recently returned from a year of work at the World Bank. "Ultimately, the only way to do that is to apply the concepts involved, and she jumped at the opportunity.”
"I just wanted to develop my passion further. After working on this project with Professor Tebaldi, I love economics even more.”
To help her grasp the issues involved, Sheldon, also an Accounting major, undertook the complex process of calculating the NAIRU herself. By working with Tebaldi throughout the semester – on her own time, instead of through a course or for academic credit – Sheldon developed a strong set of estimates of the NAIRU for each New England state.
“For me it wasn’t about earning credit," said Sheldon. "I just wanted to develop my passion further. After working on this project with Professor Tebaldi, I love economics even more.”
Tebaldi suggested she write and submit an article to Providence Business News detailing what her estimates revealed: a too-tight labor market, an indicator of future inflation and economic trouble down the road. “It was the culmination of a process where she provided the initiative, and I just guided it,” says Tebaldi. (Read the article here; subscription required.)
"At Bryant, students who have an interest in developing research skills will always find faculty support – because we believe research is fundamental to better decision-making.”
“With the article, Hannah helped us to start asking questions about natural unemployment rates here in New England,” said Tebaldi. “It was an exercise in curiosity, sparked by her engagement and her willingness to ask a question.”
Now she’s working on a new project, an academic research paper for submission to scholarly journals. “I’m hoping to bring my work from the PBN article to the next level,” she said. She has the support of faculty members throughout the Department of Economics, including Tebaldi.
“People who innovate, who change the way organizations work, are like entrepreneurs — always asking questions, and finding answers," said Tebaldi. "Research easily teaches those skills. At Bryant, students who have an interest in developing research skills will always find faculty support – because we believe research is fundamental to better decision-making and will make them better professionals.”
“I want to be a senior economist one day, and I want to make it to the top. So I think it’s great that if you show that you want to do something here at Bryant, your professors are going to help you do it," Sheldon said. "I’m very grateful for that, because I feel I couldn’t have done any of this if they hadn’t been available. I’m glad they were there.”