Family Inequality network member Christopher Flinn met with HCEO during "From Theory to Statistics to Empirics: An Econometrics Conference in Honor of James Heckman," to discuss his work on labor market dynamics and child development, and the importance of data availability.
Before he studied economics, Flinn had a career in sociology - focusing on many of the areas he studies now: income inequality, schooling decisions, and so on. "There was a lot of continuity in my interests," he says. "Economics afforded me more of an opportunity to use more formal models, behavioral models, to investigate these phenomena. And on the basis of estimated versions of these models, to be able to do various kinds of counterfactual policy experiments."
Flinn has two main areas of research: job search and child development. He did his initial job search work while a graduate student of HCEO Co-Director James Heckman. Flinn noted that the lack of data availability has been a challenge for the profession since his grad school days.
"That remains one of the big challenges of doing any of this kind of research: data availability limitations," he says. "I remember Jim always complaining about how lack of data was a fundamental problem...The profession didn’t incentivize people to invest in collecting data. There was so much secondary analysis. Now there’s field experiments and so on, but those aren’t as involved as collecting big, representative, national samples that people can use for decades afterwards."
In recent years, Flinn notes that the work of his NYU development psychology colleagues has had a big effect on his research. "Their ideas have influenced me a lot," he says.
Flinn is Professor of Economics at New York University and Senior Research Fellow at Collegio Carlo Alberto