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Sept. 11, 2018

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Economics, Lazaridis School of Business and Economics

I am an economist specializing in the study of labour markets and international trade. I’m also interested in issues relating to discrimination and immigration, and I have published research on gender wage gaps and economic history. Much of my current work aims to improve our understanding of how increased market access and openness, whether through trade liberalization or increased transport connectedness between regions, can affect people and the regions they live in.

My most recent journal article, “Market access and occupational upgrading: evidence from the 19th century American transportation network”, combines my research interests in economic history, labour economics and the effects of market openness. I found that the expansion of U.S. transport infrastructure between 1870 and 1880, led principally by the building of railroads, resulted in workers switching jobs into higher paying occupations, and contributed to the shifting away from agriculture into other sectors. Also, I show that it was increased access to more remote markets that provided the impetus for this reallocation and upgrading – not having access to a railroad or other transport linkage in and of itself. This is an important distinction; it implies that linking a region to a transportation network may not lead to the same outcomes if the linkage does not improve that region’s access to larger markets.

One of the most surprising things in my research for this paper was how closely the trends mirror research on modern-day trade liberalization episodes and how they affect workers today. While other researchers had drawn this connection in prior work, it was very eye-opening to see it first-hand. It reinforced the idea that economists can – and should – take advantage of the increasing availability of historical data to help inform us about modern issues that are of first-order concern both to academics and policy-makers.

I was aided in my research by a very capable undergraduate student in the Business Administration program, Ramisha Asghar, who is graduating in 2019. Her assistance was invaluable to the completion of this project and was particularly crucial in the early stages. I have really enjoyed helping my students become more interested in research in economics, and I hope to continue providing opportunities for students to apply the skills they develop in their coursework at Laurier.

My current research agenda focuses on understanding the effects of increased exposure to international trade due to recent events, such as the rise of China as a global exporter or the implementation of the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement on workers in North America. I also hope to continue investigating how historically-important, large-scale infrastructure projects such as the construction of the U.S. interstate highway system still affect labour markets today.

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