HCEO recently sat down with MIP network member Esfandiar Maasoumi to talk about his theoretical and empirical work in both economics and econometrics

"I work on measurement and inference in econometrics, and inequality, mobility, multidimensional well-being, that kind of topic on the economics side,"  Maasoumi says. "The two come together because I treat the economics questions statistically."

In economics, Maasoumi focuses mainly on measurement issues. Recently he has looked at measuring the gender wage gap. "First, what does the gap mean?" he asks. "We’ve heard on the news that the average woman gets 73 cents for every dollar. That’s a very technical but little analyzed way of looking at the gap - for the average person. Most of the interesting stuff happens at different parts of the distribution, not at the average."

To study this, he uses methods inspired by information theory. Maasoumi looks at the entire distribution of outcomes for women and compares that to outcomes for men. "The main theme of my research in both of those areas is: How do you measure the distinction between two entire distributions of outcomes rather than some index like the average pay?"

In order to find out what to attribute the wage gap to, Maasoumi uses counterfactuals to figure out what would be the distribution of wages for women were they given the attributes of men, something he notes you could never observe. "That's an example of the type of interest, in terms of characterizing a distribution of outcomes for one group compared with another group, using both econometrics and economic concepts," he says.

Maasoumi is the Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor of Economics at Emory University.