Geneva Summer Schools Interview Series: Prof. Michele Pellizzari
Prof. Michele Pellizzari is the Academic Director for the new summer school Evaluating Policy Interventions. Michele Pellizzari is a Professor of economics at the University of Geneva, where he is also the director of the Laboratoire d’Économie Appliquée. He is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) in London, a Research Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in Bonn and an External Research Fellow at CREAM (UCL, London). Michele holds a PhD in Economics from the London School of Economics (London, UK) and has visited the Economics Departments at Stanford University and at the University of California at Berkeley. He has also authored and contributed to numerous books, intended both for the academic and the wider public. Michele is a member of the editorial board of the Italian economic policy watchdog website lavoce.info.
More information about the Evaluating Policy Interventions summer course: http://genevasummerschools.ch/courses-2015/evaluating-policy-interventions
Geneva Summer Schools (GSS): What do you want students to learn from your summer course?
Prof. Michele Pellizzari: I think the most important thing the student should take away from this course is knowledge of the most modern and up-to-date techniques of problem evaluations. There is a whole field in econometrics that has been developed in the past two decades. It’s dedicated to understanding the causal effects of interventions that can be manipulated by policy makers.
Simple examples: Is it true that introducing a minimum wage reduces employment? Is it true that if more migrants come in, natives loose their jobs? These are causal questions that are very important for the public debate. Students will become familiar with econometric techniques that can be used to provide answers to these questions .
Who is the ideal GSS student?
We designed the program to target MA and PhD students. We would like students to have some background in statistics and econometrics. The program is also designed to fit the profile of an analyst at international organizations or public institutions that are very often confronted with these types of questions.
Is there something you are excited about in this year summer school?
What I find exciting is the possibility to transfer some of the advanced knowledge that has been produced in the context of academia and to make it available to a wider audience. I think that this is a particular field where academics have developed a number of tools that can be extremely useful for practitioners. That is the purpose of this summer school: transfer this knowledge from the academia to practitioners and students.
Is there a speaker that you are interested to hear from?
The summer school is divided in two parts. Most of the first week is devoted to present econometric techniques. The rest of the summer school is about applications and we have a blend of speakers who are going to present applications of these techniques from both the academia and analysts in international organizations.
One person that will add an important value to the program is Andrea Bassanini who is a senior economist at the OECD in Paris. He is the one who carried out the evaluation of the recent labor market reforms in Spain. This is a very practical example in which these techniques will be used and Andrea Bassanini will talk about his experience and how the results have been used in practice.
What are your current research interests?
I’m a labor economist with a strong taste for empirical work. Working with data is very common in labor economics mainly because historically labor force surveys were the first type of data that national statistical institutes made available for research purposes.
I’m currently working on a number of projects on the effect of minimum wages on the salaries of skilled workers. I’m also working on a joint project with colleagues at the OECD in Paris on estimating life cycle income trajectories. We will be able to simulate the earnings patterns of individuals from labor market entry to retirement. I have a number of projects in the area of education, trying to understand the effect of good teachers on future earnings, both at the high school and university level.
Are your research interests related somehow to the summer course?
Absolutely. I was lucky enough to recruit so many good people to teach for this summer course that I won’t have to teach myself. Students in the summer school will be evaluated on the basis of a research project that they will write in small groups. My role would be the supervision of those group projects. I will not be actively teaching, other than giving a short introduction. I believe my experience with my own research can be useful for students in the development of their own projects.
All the projects that I mentioned do try to answer causal questions: What is the effect on the wages of high skilled workers when you impose a minimum wage or rise wages of low skilled workers? What is the causal effect of having a very good teacher at the high school or at the university? These are all causal questions and econometric techniques that will be covered in the summer school and will be useful to answer them.
Is there something particular you would like to say?
When I teach the subject of econometrics or program evaluations to my students, I always try to make them enthusiastic about this topic. It may seems technical but it is extremely important because the type of causal questions that we will address formally in the course are everywhere in the public debate. Switch on the TV tonight and you will certainly see some politicians arguing that something they did last year has had a positive causal effect on something that happened today. Very often these causal statements are not very rigorous. It might seem technical but it has very direct effects on your understanding on what is going on in the political word, in the policy making and in your ability to judge the validity of some of the statements that public figures often make in the media.
Interview by Léo Richard, Alumni network coordinator