The Future of Inequality

A free, one-day conference to explore the causes and consequences of economic inequality

The USC Center for Economic and Social Research’s 5th anniversary conference

Discussant biographies

Silvia Barcellos, Economist, University of Southern California Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research.

Dr. Barcellos’ research interests span Health, Labor and Development Economics. Her current projects investigate the determinants of health insurance choice, the effects of health insurance on health and financial well-being, and how genetic makeup mediates the effects of education on health and labor market outcomes. Dr. Barcellos was awarded the 2015 Albert Rees Prize from the Industrial Relations Section at Princeton University. In 2016, she received a Career Development Award from the National Institute on Aging to study the pathways in which health insurance affects mental health and subjective well-being. Dr. Barcellos received her PhD in Economics from Princeton University.

Daniel Benjamin, Associate Research Professor of Economics and Director of the Behavioral and Health Genomics Center, University of Southern California Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research.

Dr. Benjamin's research is in behavioral economics, which incorporates ideas and methods from psychology into economic analysis, and genoeconomics, which incorporates genetic data into economics. His current research topics include understanding errors people make in statistical reasoning, exploring how best to use survey measures of subjective well-being (such as happiness and life satisfaction) to track national well-being and evaluate policies, and identifying genetic variants associated with outcomes such as educational attainment and subjective well-being. Dr. Benjamin is a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, and received his PhD in Economics from Harvard University.

Ashlesha Datar, Senior Economist and Director of Program on Children and Families, University of Southern California Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research.

Dr. Datar’s research focuses on the role of family, neighborhood, social, economic, and policy factors on the health and well-being of children and families, with focus on childhood obesity and related health behaviors. She is leading two large natural experiment studies that examine how changes in built- and social-environments in neighborhoods influence diet, physical activity, and obesity among children and families. She has received grants from the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Her research has been published in leading health, education, and policy journals. Dr. Datar received an MA in Economics from the Delhi School of Economics and a Ph.D. in Policy Analysis from the Pardee-RAND Graduate School.

Brian Finch, Research Professor of Sociology and Senior Social Demographer, University of Southern California Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research.

Professor Finch's work crosses the disciplinary boundaries of social demography, social epidemiology, and medical sociology to investigate the causes and correlates of population health disparities. He focuses on socioeconomic and racial/ethnic disparities in health outcomes, behaviors among adults, and biological/social interactions across the early life-course. His recent projects examine the population health implications of crime and police violence. Dr. Finch received his PhD in Sociology from the University of Texas, Austin.

Margaret Gatz, Professor of Psychology, University of Southern California Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research.

Professor Gatz studies the mental health of older adults, including age-related change in depressive symptoms, risk and protective factors for Alzheimer disease, and evaluation of the effects of interventions. She directs the Study of Dementia in Swedish Twins, a large longitudinal investigation of genetic and environmental factors in Alzheimer disease, and is part of the iGEMS consortium on Interplay of Genes and Environment Across Multiple Studies, which focuses on determining how social context is related to physical functioning (health, functional ability), and psychological functioning (well-being, cognition) in mid-life and older ages. She has recently archived data from the NAS/NRC World War II Twin Registry for use by the scientific community. Currently she is also working with the Tsimane Health and Life History Project to study dementia in an indigenous Bolivian population. Professor Gatz is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and recipient of an honorary Doctor of Medicine degree from the Karolinska Institute. She received her PhD in Clinical Psychology from Duke University.

Jinkook Lee, Research Professor of Economics and Director of the Program on Global Aging, Health, and Policy, University of Southern California Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research.

Professor Lee’s research interests include the economics of aging, late-life cognition, and dementia and their modifiable risk factors, health disparities, and cross-country differences in late-life health and wellbeing. She currently serves on the advisory panels of population surveys in England, China, Japan, and Korea, the review panels for the National Institute of Health and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the editorial boards for the Journal of Economics of Aging and the Journal of Aging and Social Policy, and on the World Health Organization’s task force on aging.  She is also a senior economist at the RAND Corporation and professor at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. Dr. Lee received her Ph.D. in Family Economics from Ohio State University and her B.S. from Seoul National University.

Anna Saavedra, Research Scientist, University of Southern California Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research.

Dr. Saavedra’s research addresses inquiry-based and deeper  approaches to teaching and learning, Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), and civic education. She is currently Principal Investigator of a randomized controlled trial evaluation of the impact of the Knowledge in Action project-based learning approach to teaching AP taking place in five large U.S. school districts. Her publications address implementation of Common Core State Standards, deeper teaching and learning, IB, and K-12 civic education. Dr. Saavedra’s education master’s and doctorate are from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Juan Saavedra, Economist, University of Southern California Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research.

Dr. Saavedra has published on topics including school vouchers, conditional cash transfers, the impacts of resources on educational attainment, collegiate value-added, teacher labor markets and job training. He has led projects in Mexico, Peru and Colombia sponsored by the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the MIT Jameel Poverty Action Lab. In 2014, he published a book that became the education sector’s reform platform for Colombia’s (now outgoing) president and the blueprint for a recent reform of national teacher evaluation policy.  Dr. Saavedra is currently principal investigator of a large-scale randomized controlled trial evaluation of an intervention designed to help high school seniors overcome informational and behavioral obstacles in their transition to college. He is a Faculty Research Fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research and received his PhD in Economics and Public Policy from Harvard University.

Donna Spruijt-Metz, Research Professor in Psychology and Preventive Medicine and Director of the USC mHealth Collaboratory, University of Southern California Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research.

Dr. Spruijt-Metz’s research focuses on childhood obesity, chronic disease prevention, and treatment in minority populations. She uses mobile technologies to develop data sets that combine temporally dense and highly contextualized sensor and self-report data, along with innovative modeling techniques, to develop dynamic, individual mathematical models of health-related behavior. She was one of the first to undertake a just-in-time, adaptive intervention (JITAI) in youth, and envisions most or all interventions being JITAI in the future. Example of her mHealth projects include: KNOWME Networks, which developed a Wireless Body Area Network system in order to help increase physical activity and reduce sedentariness in minority youth and Monitoring and Modeling Family Eating Dynamics (M2FED), a project that uses smart-home technologies to understand family eating in the home. Dr. Spruijt-Metz received her PhD in Medical Ethics/Adolescent Health from Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam.

Arthur A. Stone, Professor of Psychology, Economics, and Public Policy, and the Director of the Center for Self-Report Science, University of Southern California Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research.

Professor Stone's early work addressed measurement of life events and coping, with the goal of understanding how the two impact susceptibility to somatic illnesses. These results led to Dr. Stone’s examination of the impact of environmental events on biological processes, especially the endocrine and immune systems. Concurrently, he was researching how people self-report information about their psychological and symptom states, which led to the development of diaries measuring within-day phenomena. The diaries ultimately yielded a set of techniques known as Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA), which capture experience in the real-world on a momentary basis.  Professor Stone has worked on alternative methods for capturing the ebb and flow of daily experience for large-scale surveys, including the Day Reconstruction Method (DRM).  He also contributed to the development of an extensive battery of questionnaires for use in clinical trials (the PROMIS project). Finally, working with the OECD and the National Academy of Sciences, Professor Stone  has investigated the measurement of subjective well-being and its application for public policy. He received his PhD in Clinical Psychology from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Joanne Yoong, Senior Economist and Director of CESR-East, University of Southern California Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research.

Joanne Yoong Su-Yin is an applied micro-economist conducting research on behavioral economics, health and financial decision making. She directs the research program for the Center for Economic and Social Research (East) and participates in the University of Southern California’s Behavioral Economics Studio, a newly-founded initiative to promote the translation of behavioral insights into better policy by providing advisory, consultancy and training support to public sector and nonprofit organizations.  Dr. Yoong holds concurrent joint and honorary positions as Associate Professor of Health Systems and Behavioral Sciences at the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health  and Senior Lecturer at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Her academic research has been published in leading journals and has been funded by the WHO, OECD, NIH, DFID, World Bank and USAID. Dr. Yoong received her PhD in Economics from Stanford.