SPOTLIGHT: Manasi Deshpande
ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, ECONOMICS
Dialogo asked new Assistant Professor Manasi Deshpande a few questions to help us get to know her better. After spending a year as a fellow with the Becker Friedman Institute for Research in Economics, she began her appointment in the Department of Economics on July 1, 2016.
WHAT EXCITES YOU MOST ABOUT BEING AT UCHICAGO?
For me, it’s an intellectual community that is both broad and deep. I study social safety net programs, so my work touches on a broad array of issues—public finance, labor markets, health, and disability, to name a few. I discuss my research with colleagues in the economics department, Booth, Harris, SSA, the medical school, and the law school. The University of Chicago is a place where I can learn from researchers who are experts in topical areas as well as those who apply a rigorous conceptual framework to an issue they haven’t considered before. The large community of junior faculty doing important and interesting research has been particularly rewarding.
NOW THAT YOU'VE BEEN HERE FOR A FEW MONTHS, WHAT MYTH OR LEGEND ABOUT UCHICAGO HAS BEEN DISPELLED (OR REINFORCED)?
It’s certainly the case that the University of Chicago has an unparalleled intellectual ferocity. People take ideas seriously and expect you to defend your positions and conclusions. But I’ve also found it to be a welcoming and constructive environment. I’ve received useful feedback on my research from the full spectrum of University members—from students to junior colleagues to senior mentors. There is a passion for knowledge that permeates through the University.
WHEN SAIEH HALL OPENED A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO, WE PRODUCED A SET OF ECON-THEMED BUTTONS. WHICH IS YOUR FAVORITE AND WHY?
My favorite is “No free lunch.” I teach an undergraduate course called “Inequality and the Social Safety Net” and what I emphasize to my students is that social safety net programs involve tradeoffs. In the political debate, the social safety net tends to be characterized in extremes—one side argues that these programs foster idleness and discourage achievement, and the other side denies that they have any perverse effects at all. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, and we need empirical work to quantify those tradeoffs and make evidence-based public policy decisions. We have to set priorities because progress towards one goal often comes at the expense of another.