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Research Activities

The department has two long-standing areas of research: industrial organization economics and natural resource and environmental economics. Newer areas emphasize experimental economics, biosecurity issues, health economics, and household economics. The department’s traditional research in agricultural economics continues through applications of micro-econometric analyses.

Industrial Organization/Food Marketing

Work in this area has been led by Julie Caswell. She is joined by Nathalie Lavoie, Christian Rojas and Dan Lass. This research has attracted more than $1.5 million of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and National Science foundation (NSF) funding. The research focuses on understanding the operation of domestic and international food systems, analyzing how well they work, and evaluating how government policy affects their operation and performance. Examples include mandatory nutrition labeling impacts, regulatory program impacts on food safety, use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and how the changing operation and structure of the food distribution chain is affecting food prices and choices available to consumers. Research has also focused on price differentiation and market power, particularly when goods differ by quality, how marketing on the internet enables firms to gain market power and various aspects of two important trends in agri-food industries as they relate to market structure and performance: the increase in concentration at various stages of the food industry, and the growing consumer demand for quality, taste, appearance, and ethical values of food products.

Natural Resource Management/Environmental Policy

Thomas Stevens has a long and productive record of using contingent valuation and conjoint analysis to value wildlife conservation, ecosystem management of forests, wetlands, and recreation on public lands. A consistent flow of external funding has supported this research. More recently, he has investigated sources of hypothetical bias and how conjoint and contingent valuation techniques can be modified to produce better results.

John Stranlund has focused on the economic theory and experimental evaluation of environmental and natural resource policies. Much of his work has been supported by grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. State Department. He and John Spraggon received a $1million Environmental Protection Agency grant to study the enforcement of pollution markets of the sort that will characterize domestic policies to confront global climate change.

Sylvia Brandt is conducting work on similar issues in fisheries, comparing command-and-control policies with tradable property rights and examining the impact of the institutional setting and of the strategic behavior. She has supported her research with grants from the (NSF).

Experimental Economics

With support from all levels of university governance, the department has undertaken a major investment in the field of experimental economics. This investment includes two hires, John Spraggon and Angela de Oliveira, and the creation of the Cleve Willis Experimental Economics Laboratory. External research funding in this area has exceeded $1.34 million since 2002 with grants from the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Science Foundation.  Sylvia Brandt will begin experimental research on fisheries management responses to global warming under an NSF grant.

Health Economics

Sylvia Brandt, joined by Bernard Morzuch, is examining the joint effect of environmental regulation and organization of the health-care sector on the prevalence of asthma. In addition, Dr. Brandt  has received two external grants to support this project and received an Air Quality Management District grant of $250,000.

Household Economics

M. J. Alhabeeb is developing his long-term study of adolescent behavior with a new focus on how out-of-school activities contribute to positive youth development as part of a multi-university study.

Sheila Mammen is engaged in a long-term multi-university study on the impact of welfare-reform policies on the economic well-being and functioning of rural low-income families. She is joined by Dan Lass for econometric analyses of these issues.

Security Issues and Management

L. Joe Moffitt, along with John K. Stranlund, MJ Alhabeeb, and Bernard J Morzuch are conducting research on the economic aspects of security issues, surveillance, and management under severe uncertainty.  This research receives substantial external funding from the federal government and is an outgrowth of their Experiment Station project "Economics of Individual and Collective Preparedness for Unpredictable, Global Threats to Population, Food, and the Environment."