In a nutshell, my teaching philosophy is to get students excited about learning economics. I like to have an active classroom where students all feel that they can contribute to the discussion. I want them to see the beauty and organization of economic models and to help students use these models to answer exciting contemporary questions.
I teach Women and the Economy (ECON 325), Econometrics (ECON 253), Intermediate Microeconomics (ECON 251), and Gender and Economics (WGS 235). In Women and the Economy, I get to share my passion for economics with students by sharing with them a most interesting and yet often understudied (at the undergraduate level) area of economics. I co-wrote (with Saul D. Hoffman) the textbook for the course, which is in its fourth edition: Women and the Economy: Family, Work and Pay. The course exposes students to the economic study of marriage, fertility, labor force participation, and the gender wage gap. Throughout the course, students learn the various models that economists have developed to study these areas. They also learn, most importantly, that family decisions and economic outcomes are inextricably linked. I make use of data (this is an area of study rich with data) to motivate the topics (e.g., marriage is declining and then we study why that might be using the tools of an economist). When students complete the course, I want them to gain a deeper appreciation of how economics can be used to understand the most important decisions that we make (whom to marry, whether to have children, what job to train for, why women earn less than men on average).
I studied this area in graduate school, and I am passionate about teaching this class for several reasons. First, having written the text, I have a resource that has been geared to undergraduate study in this area. Second, the material is so inherently interesting that it tends to excite students as they learn they can apply economics to areas of inquiry that seem outside the purview of economists. Third, I love when students are excited about the material. Although it is a 300-level elective and hence makes heavy use of graphs and equations, students respond positively to the material, which makes me feel that I have helped them better understand economics. I want them to leave my class wanting to learn more about this area of inquiry. And this often seems to be the case, as I receive emails from former students with articles/podcasts related to our class that made them think about what they had learned while they were here.
I would describe myself as an economic demographer. An economic demographer looks at topics such as fertility and marriage using the tools of economics. But I am also a health economist. My research interests started with women’s labor force decisions and how they related to child care costs, and then I branched out into causes and consequences of obesity for individuals (consequences being earnings, probability of employment), marriage and health, pollution (light and noise) and infant health, child care costs and fertility, and underrepresented women in STEM fields, among others. What all my research has in common is that it almost always involves an outcome that is related to women’s economic well-being.
I have been fortunate to have several long-term collaborators, and some of these collaborations have shaped my research agenda. Working with others is fun for me. I like the exchange of ideas, the accountability that comes when working as part of a team, and the new things I learn from those I work with. As an applied microeconomist, I have extensive training in econometrics, and that is the “toolkit” I use to study all these issues above.
Prior to going to college, I had never had a class in economics. I am not sure I knew what it was other than vague notions that there was this thing called the economy and it somehow created jobs for people that were their source of income. I became more aware of the economy in the late 1970s and ’80s, when inflation was high and my savings account was paying a relatively high rate of interest. When I went to college, I found I was drawn to economics courses. Partly it was the part of me that likes order. Economic models start with a question to be answered, and then there is a model that aims to answer that question. It seemed like there were rules to follow, and I liked that. I also felt that my economics courses were tapping into important issues of well-being, such as why do people earn what they earn? Why are some people living in poverty and others are not? Those types of questions intrigued me.
Lafayette provides terrific resources for student/faculty interaction. I have benefited from the research assistance of numerous EXCEL Scholars over the years. I have experienced working with a student on an honors project and seeing how excited they get when they make progress on a topic of their own choosing. I also love the freedom to teach the classes I love and the chance to help students learn and become more confident as economic thinkers.
Lafayette also encourages and provides support to faculty members for attending conferences. And, through the Academic Research Committee, the College provides funding for needs such as one-time data needs, professional development, etc. I think the College tries very hard to be responsive to the needs of faculty members.
I served for 10 years on the board of trustees for Easton Hospital.
I like to run, lift weights, do yoga, hike, and generally get outdoors in my spare time.
Women in the Workforce: What Everyone Needs to Know (co-written with Laura M. Argys) (2022)
The Oxford Handbook of Women and the Economy (2018)
Women in the Economy: Family Work and Pay (co-written with Saul D. Hoffman) (2021)
“Why Gender Matters So Much in Policymaking,” blog post co-written for Oxford University Press with Laura Argys and Saul Hoffman
“Does the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit Increase Fertility?” (presented at APPAM meetings in Washington, D.C., November 2022)
“Exposure to the One-Child Policy and Fertility Among Chinese Immigrants to the U.S.” (presented at Southern Economic Association meetings, November 2022)
Argys, Laura M., Susan L. Averett and Muzhe Yang. “Light Pollution, Sleep Deprivation during Pregnancy, and Infant Health at Birth” Southern Economic Journal. 87:849-888. (2021).
Averett, Susan L., Julie K. Smith, and Yang Wang “Minimum Wages and the Health and Access to Care of Immigrants’ Children” Applied Economics Letters (2021) 894-901.
Argys, Laura M., Susan L. Averett and Muzhe Yang. “Residential Noise Exposure and Health: Evidence from Aviation Noise and Birth Outcomes” Journal of Environmental Economics and Management.
103, (2020). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jeem.2020.102343
Averett, Susan L., Cynthia Bansak and Julie K. Smith “Behind Every High Earning Man Is a Conscientious Woman” Journal of Family and Economic Issues. (2020) DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10834-020-09692-x
Books in Progress
Disparate Measures: The Intersectional Economics of Women in Stem Work (joint project with Mary Armstrong, Charles A. Dana Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and English at Lafayette College)