BGSE students get job offers

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From left: José Manuel Cebrian Diaz-Heredero, Emmanuelle Derré, Michèle Hamel, and Moritz Degler

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Now that the academic year 2016-17 is coming to an end, and the hustle and bustle is finally dying down, it is a good time to reflect on how the journey at the BGSE has been. The Voice team is glad to find out that many BGSE students of the current batch have got job offers. One of our editors, Demas Koh, met up with four students who were happy to share this piece of great news with the BGSE and the wider community: Moritz will start working at Oxford Economics (London Office) as an Assistant Economist; Emmanuelle has got an offer from The Brattle Group (London Office) as a Research Analyst; José Manuel will soon begin his role as a Research Assistant (Bank Strategy) at CaixaBank in Spain; and Michèle has been offered a traineeship at the Strategy and Institutional Relations Division of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) in Luxembourg. This post presents the full transcript of the interview with these four BGSE students.

 

Can you please tell us more about yourself and your background?

Moritz: I am from Germany, and I graduated from Zeppelin University where I studied Economics from a rather interdisciplinary perspective. I have done several internships – in management consulting and investment banking. I also did a research internship at the Central Bank of Estonia and worked as a research assistant at Zeppelin University. During these stints, I was becoming increasingly sure that I would subsequently pursue a Master’s in Economics, and BGSE’s programme was definitely one of my top choices.

Emmanuelle: I come from France. After graduating from high school with the French baccalaureate, I went to the UK and did a Bachelor’s degree in PPE at the University of Warwick. I am now doing the Master’s in Economics at BGSE. I used to work as a research assistant at Warwick and my supervisor was Professor Luigi Pascali, who is currently at UPF. I was working a lot on international trade and economic development.

José Manuel: I am from Madrid and I did my Bachelor’s in Economics at Carlos III. During the last year of my undergraduate education, I was working at the BNP Paribas as an investment operations assistant for a year and a half. Thereafter, I moved to London, where I did a Business course. In January 2016, I started to work as a junior economist at BBVA Research, which awarded me a full scholarship for my first Master’s in Professional Development and Business Management at CIFF Business School and Alcala University. Now at the BGSE, I am doing the Competition and Market Regulation programme.

Michèle: I am from Luxembourg. This is also my second Master’s. Before coming to the BGSE, I did a Master’s in International Relations at the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium. At the same university, I had also done my Bachelor’s in Political Science. During my first Master’s, I did an internship at the Embassy of Belgium in Luxembourg, where I found the combination of politics and economics really interesting. I am studying International Trade, Finance, and Development (ITFD).

 

What are your interests? Please describe them in two to three sentences.

Moritz: Academically, I like macro. What also fascinates me is the role of technological change and how it will affect the economy in many different ways. In my free time, I try to read more about it and follow up on things in the tech world. Apart from that, I am very interested in economic policies in the EU. I also like travelling a lot.

Emmanuelle: My academic interests are mostly related to microeconomics, especially industrial economics. I like the fact that it combines many different elements – micro, econometrics, and law. Outside of university, I like attending cultural events. For example, one of my favourite things to do is visiting museums, and being in Barcelona for close to a year has been great for this. Needless to say, London has an extensive array of cultural activities too.

José Manuel: My passion lies in strategy and competition using a quantitative framework. It is commonly assumed that the field of strategy is for MBA graduates and these graduates mostly do not employ economic and econometric analyses. There is definitely room for economists to be more involved in the strategy sector. In my free time, I enjoy doing sports, such as canoeing, surfing or playing football, as well as photography.

Michèle: I would say that I am very passionate about microeconomic policy evaluation. I guess I am also similar to Moritz in the sense that I like following European politics and reading up on EU policies. My hobbies include travelling, reading and cooking.

 

What have you gained from the BGSE?

Moritz: I did some applied research before beginning my Master’s here but I thought that there were gaps to fill with regard to the depth of my understanding of research methods in economics. So, academically, this year really helped me to do things in a considerably more rigorous way. I also really liked the international environment at BGSE.

Emmanuelle: Studying at BGSE enabled me to really develop and strengthen my quantitative background and to widen my knowledge of economics in general. I also really enjoyed working in groups for the weekly assignments: I was able to learn a lot from my friends. Apart from that, the international environment of BGSE enabled me to make some really good friends from all over the world.

José Manuel: At BGSE, I have applied my life philosophy, which is in accordance with this: “If I’ve seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of the best”. Here, I have enhanced my competencies in cutting-edge economic topics like competition and I have gained a solid foundation in quantitative and statistical methods thanks to a great faculty and wonderful colleagues from all around the globe – people with different points of view and tons of experience, both in their professional and personal capacities.

Michèle: This year I definitely developed strong analytical and quantitative skills in Economics and Statistics.  I will really miss studying with these amazing people from all around the world.

 

 Please tell us more about people who have inspired you.

Moritz: I definitely learned a lot from my supervisor at the Bank of Estonia, Karsten Staehr and my thesis/ research advisor at Zeppelin University, Jarko Fidrmuc with regard to applied economics research. Here at BGSE, I really enjoyed our first macro course with Manuel García-Santana.

Emmanuelle: I think two professors really inspired me to choose this career. Professor Robin Naylor at the University of Warwick made me discover and love economics in my first year of university. He made economics so intuitive, while at the same time demonstrating to us the rigour of the field. Working for Professor Luigi Pascali as a research assistant really motivated me to start a career in economics as I really liked how empirical quantitative research intertwines with theoretical knowledge.

José Manuel: There are many people who have inspired me throughout my life and I do not have enough space to mention them all so I will mention a few who were vital in shaping me into what I am today: Juanjo Dolado, Agustín Casas and Francisco Marhuenda from UC3M, the community of “No free lunch” (Nada es gratis) and last but not least, all those whose paths have crossed with mine, and made me who I am today.

Michèle: Former Belgian Ambassador and current Benelux Secretary General Thomas Antoine inspired me to pursue this Master’s. His optimistic view of the European project is also what partly convinced me to apply for the traineeship at the ESM. So starting July I can take part in the policy debates surrounding this project.

 

Why do you want to work at the organisation you applied for?

 Moritz: First of all, I think being at Oxford Economics brings together the experiences that I like most – not only research, but also facing real-world issues in a dynamic environment. It is not very common in the private sector that one can take on an advisory role in a macroeconomic research context.

Emmanuelle: I really like competition economics. Hence, starting my career at the Brattle Group is a great opportunity. They work on very interesting cases in Europe, the US and the rest of the world. When I was interviewed by them, I was surprised at how kind and encouraging people were. Working on competition economics in a pleasant environment seems like the ideal fit for me.

José Manuel: The CaixaBank is the third largest bank in Spain. The prospect of doing research in the Bank Strategy department really attracted me. I believe I can apply all the knowledge that I have acquired, especially what I have learned at the BGSE. Moreover, I am really excited about the development of new ideas for the transition into technology banking.

Michèle: I believe that this traineeship at the ESM will be an excellent starting point for me to put into practice what I have learned so far at the BGSE – a combination of quantitative, research and analytical skills. My previous academic endeavours have also equipped me with important communication skills. I think this is the right avenue for me to consolidate my learning and hone my skills. I will also work in an international environment, very much like the BGSE, and I am looking forward to it.

 

Please provide a brief job description of what you will do.

Moritz: I will be in the team that covers the Eurozone, and European economics is very important to me. I am glad that I will have the opportunity to work on these issues.

Emmanuelle: I will be working as a research analyst for the London office. I will be working on various projects in competition economics, as well as doing some quantitative analysis.

José Manuel: The department of Bank Strategy analyses the competitive and regulatory environment for strategic business decisions, both nationally and internationally, while also designing and following up on the strategic plans of CaixaBank.

Michèle: During my traineeship, I will assist the Policy Strategy & Institutional Relations Team. The division maintains relations with Member States and international institutions. Moreover, it does research on further euro area integration, regional financial arrangement and rating issues.

 

What advice can you give to future job applicants? How have you prepared for the application process?

Moritz: BGSE organises lots of recruiting events and I would definitely recommend taking advantage of that.

Emmanuelle: I think that the BGSE career centre was a very supportive platform to prepare for my job interviews, to get advice for my CV and cover letter. Magda and Laurence are really helpful and encouraging; they know a lot about micro consulting. Attending the companies’ presentations was also helpful to prepare for interviews and you could even write about it in your cover letter. For example, you could talk about your first-hand encounters with the company.

José Manuel: BGSE is educating many excellent professionals-to-be, so if you really want to be at the top, you have to be honest with yourself and show that sincerity and ambition to the world.

Michèle: I would say find out the most you can about any company you apply to via their website, news reports or other sources. Also, I would contact any BGSE alumni, for example via LinkedIn, that have worked or are currently working at your company of interest.

 

Finally, where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

Moritz: I think it’s most important to stay curious, open-minded and to make sure to do things right. In the medium term, I could see myself either going more in a quant / tech direction or towards the analysis of economic policy and investment, specifically in the EU. Actually, finding meaningful answers on how to connect these two fields in the near future is also something I find very appealing.

Emmanuelle: Working at Brattle will definitely give me the chance to encounter many opportunities professionally. I am sure that in five years’ time, I will enjoy doing microeconomics consulting at Brattle even more!

José Manuel: Who knows? What is sure is that I will be working hard to do what I really like and I hope to grow professionally and personally by working alongside top economists.

Michèle: In general, I would like to use the next couple of years to gain as much experience as I can in order to then take up the responsibility of managing a team.

BGSE students get PhD offers

In the last few months, several BGSE students have gotten PhD offers. The Voice team has met up with a few of them to find out more about their (academic) experience, and just life in general. This post presents the full transcript of the interview with Erfan Ghofrani, Rachel Anderson and Cristiano Mantovani, interviewed by one of our editors, Demas.

 

What were you doing before you started the Master’s programme at the BGSE?

 

Erfan:              I did Electrical Engineering as my major at Sharif University, in Tehran, Iran. I also minored in Economics. I took a couple of courses in Economics at UC Berkeley in the summer of 2015.

 

Rachel:             Before coming to BGSE, I was studying at Duke University, where I majored in Economics and Computer Science. I also spent some time during my undergraduate summers studying Turkish and Arabic abroad.

 

Cristiano:       I was working at UniCredit for about 2 years in Milan, Italy, as a risk analyst in the banking sector. Before that, I graduated from Bocconi University with a Master’s in Economics and Social Sciences. I did my Bachelor’s in Business Administration at the University of Parma, which is close to my hometown.

 

Did you accept the offer of entering the UPF’s PhD programme? Why? Did you apply to other PhD programmes? Why?

 

Erfan:              Yes, I have accepted the offer. Before Trump’s executive order regarding Iran, and before coming to Barcelona, I wanted to do my PhD at one of the top ten universities in the US. However, after living in Barcelona and pursuing my education at the BGSE, I have had a change in perspective. In my opinion, UPF is a great university with a renowned faculty, and Barcelona is also a really amazing city to live in.

 

Rachel:              While it was tempting, I did not eventually accept the offer from UPF. Instead, I’ve decided to study in the United States, where I’m from.  Macroeconomics does pique my interest, but I’m more passionate about other fields, which is why I’ve applied to schools that I think will  better cater to my interests – in applied microeconomics and econometrics. I’m happy to say that I’ve been accepted by Princeton University, and will likely be doing a PhD there.

 

Cristiano:       Yes, I accepted the offer from the UPF. I had only applied to one programme. Fortunately, I did not have to apply to other programmes as I was notified of the admissions decision rather early. I accepted the offer mainly because I was enticed by the Macroeconomics faculty members. Moreover, I really enjoy living in Barcelona.

 

What have you found most challenging about studying a Master’s at the BGSE?

 

Erfan:              Living alone, away from family members, is difficult and it will become more challenging if one does not understand Catalan and Spanish as one might not be able to communicate well with people outside the university. My undergraduate education was taught entirely in Persian, and hence the English programme has been a little challenging for me. However, it has helped me a lot with my English.

 

Rachel:              At first, the most challenging thing about studying at BGSE is living in Barcelona.  Barcelona is such an incredible city, with such great weather, and it has taken some time to learn how to avoid distractions and be productive! I’m glad that I’ve been able to strike a balance between working hard and playing hard.

 

Cristiano:       In the beginning, it was difficult to get back into the life of a student, as I had been working for some time. The biggest challenge was more of a mental adjustment, and I had to keep up with the fast pace of university life (besides the courses themselves). The free weekends seem to have become something of the past. However, I really enjoy what I am doing, so that keeps me going.

 

Name someone whose work has inspired you. Please elaborate.

 

Erfan:              My BSc thesis and project supervisor, Dr. Madanizadeh, inspired me a lot. I found it interesting how he had done the same thing as I was doing – Electrical Engineering at Sharif. Thereafter, he went on to read Mathematics at Stanford and Economics at Chicago. After graduation, he came back to Iran, unlike most of the Iranian students, who usually stay in the US. It seems to me that he loves Iran and wants to help fellow Iranians by improving the economic situation of the country. Now, he is the Head of the Modelling Group at the Money and Banking Research Institute of the Central Bank of Iran, as well as Assistant Professor of Economics at Sharif University.

 

Rachel:              I am most inspired by Paul Krugman as a communicator. I love how he is able to convey complex economic ideas in a way that is comprehensible to his audience.  I am also inspired by the work of professors at the BGSE like Robin Hogarth, who has made huge contributions to the field of behavioural decision-making.

 

Cristiano:       My thesis advisor at Bocconi, Antonella Trigari, really inspired me because of her work on unemployment dynamics. She has adopted a macroeconomic perspective, and when I was working under her supervision, it seemed obvious to me that I should study Economics at the graduate level. These are fundamental topics in every part of the world, and are especially pertinent in countries in which the unemployment rate has been increasing constantly. For example, youth unemployment in Italy has soared to 40%, and this has made me want to unravel the dynamics of unemployment.

 

What are/will be your research interests? Please describe them in two to three sentences.

 

Erfan:              We have seen dire economic situations in Iran in the last decades. An inflation rate of 40%, stagflation, as well as the Dutch disease are issues that one might have heard about in theoretical texts, but we Iranians have experienced them in reality. These have destroyed the lives of millions of people. My interests lie in monetary policies and macroeconomic policies through which I can better understand the causes of the aforementioned predicaments and I hope that we can prevent them in the future.

 

Rachel:              Right now, I’m most excited about applied microeconomics and econometrics, as well as behavioural economics. I’m interested in pursuing projects that address real-world economic problems and have the potential for positive social impact. One good example would be studying labour market trends for women in Turkey, which is the topic of my undergraduate thesis.

 

Cristiano:       Currently, I would really like to study the macroeconomics of labour as well as the interaction between fiscal and monetary policies. However, I don’t want to constrain myself too much, especially at the beginning of the PhD – I am not ruling out the possibility of working perhaps in applied microeconomics, such as public economics or studies on inequality dynamics.

 

 

What advice would you give to future PhD applicants?

 

Erfan:              I would advise potential applicants to work hard in mathematical methods as these are essential for a PhD in Economics. Moreover, reading a variety of papers about Economics is always useful as there is a lot to learn from them. Also, for applicants to universities in Spain, it would be good to start learning Spanish if you don’t already speak it.

 

Rachel:             Be patient.  Some of the material won’t be easy to understand right away; but if you’re resilient you will learn a lot.

 

Cristiano:       I have no particular insights with regard to this, but studying in groups and sharing ideas and comments has been particularly helpful for me. Moreover, I would also say: don’t be afraid to speak to professors during office hours – they are always happy to reply to you, and more often than not, they understand your needs and concerns.

 

Finally, what are your future aspirations?

 

Erfan:              I would like to be a professor and researcher in Macroeconomics. In addition, my ambition is to help countries with poor economic performance.

 

Rachel:             Personally, I would like to be a professor at an international research university like UPF, or my alma mater, Duke University. I would be excited to teach Economics.

 

Cristiano:       My ideal path would be to pursue a career in academia after the PhD, but a job at a central bank, a think-tank, or in the policy sector would all be equally desirable outcomes. When it comes to where I would like to work, I still don’t know, but leaving Barcelona won’t be easy at all, as I have made really good friends over the past few months.

Re-thinking Inequality and How to Measure it

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On 26 October 2016, Chilean economist Dr. José Gabriel Palma gave a lecture, organised by Institut Barcelona d’Estudis Internacionals (IBEI) – “Why is inequality so unequal in the world? Do Nations just get the Inequality they deserve?” During the lecture, he also presented his recently-published working paper, which re-examines the eponymous Palma Ratio [1].

Forces at work

In an earlier paper, published in 2011 [2], Dr. Palma had already highlighted the two forces pertaining to rising inequality across the world: ‘One is ‘centrifugal’, and leads to an increased diversity in the shares appropriated by the top 10 and bottom 40 per cent. The other is ‘centripetal’, and leads to a growing uniformity in the income-share appropriated by deciles 5 to 9’ (Palma, 2011). Decile 10 refers to the top 10 per cent, and deciles 5 to 9 can be interpreted as the middle-upper class. What this means is that the middle-upper class has been quite successful at protecting their shares, and anybody who genuinely wants to understand inequality within a country should really focus on the income-share of the top 10%. As Clinton’s campaign strategist put it crudely: “It’s the share of the rich, stupid.”

Gini or Palma?

The Gini coefficient, developed by Corrado Gini, is an index measuring income inequality, with 0 implying perfect equality, and 1 meaning perfect inequality. The Gini coefficient has been in use for a long time, but is not without its limitations. Atkinson (1970) [3] pointed out that the ‘Gini coefficient attaches more weight to transfers affecting middle income classes and the standard deviation weights transfers at the lower end more heavily.’ In other words, the Gini index is more sensitive to changes in the middle of the distribution, and less sensitive to changes at the top and bottom. Cobham and Sumner (2013) [4] have also echoed similar sentiments and criticised the use of the Gini index. They have in fact coined the term ‘Palma ratio’, which is ‘the ratio of the top 10% of population’s share of gross national income (GNI), divided by the poorest 40% of the population’s share of GNI’ (Cobham and Sumner, 2013).

Why might the Palma ratio be a more relevant indicator of the extent of income disparity in an economy? Why is there a growing consensus that the use of the Palma ratio is more appropriate in formulating policies that aim at reducing poverty? The answer is obvious – if an economy has a high Palma ratio, policy-makers can immediately focus on measures to narrow the gap between the top 10% and the bottom 40%. In Palma’s own words: ‘… … it measures inequality where inequality exists; it is also simple, intuitive, transparent and particularly useful for policy purposes’ (Palma, 2016). In contrast, the Gini index is likely to engender distortions because it reflects changes in the distribution where the probability of such changes (i.e. in the middle-upper class) is the lowest. This is such an important consideration that, during the lecture at IBEI, Dr. Palma cautioned his audience to ponder about norms versus distortions. Indeed, if we are often fixated on the middle-upper class, whose homogeneity is evident across the world, we might just be turning a blind eye to more serious concerns – the norms, that is, the (widening) gap between the extreme ends of the spectrum. In light of this, an inclusion of the Palma ratio in policy design will lead to desirable outcomes.

Other revelations

It is interesting to note that the Palma index has also revealed certain stylised facts.

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Source: Palma, 2016

Using the Palma index, the figure shows how inequality increases in an almost linear fashion quite steadily until about the 100th ranking, the point at which most Latin American countries come into the picture (as indicated by the red circles – with the exception of Uruguay), and where inequality starts increasing exponentially.

Moreover, we also need to reconsider the correlation between education and income distribution. Dr. Palma has noted that most of the diversity in educational attainment (especially in terms of tertiary education) across the world is found in the deciles 5 to 9 group. However, ‘why does one find extraordinary similarity across countries in the shares of national income appropriated by this educationally highly diverse group?’ (Palma, 2016). Chile is a case in point. With a rate of 71% of gross tertiary enrolment, the income share generated by deciles 7 to 9 in the country is about the same as that of the Central African Republic, which has a gross tertiary enrolment at only 3.1% (Palma, 2016). Hence, is it really all about education? Or is it that the positive externalities and effects of education will truly manifest themselves only in certain institutional settings? Ostensibly, more research has to be done to unravel the intricacies of the relationship between income disparity and educational attainment.

“We know very little.”

That was what Dr. Palma emphasised, during the lecture, to a sea of concerned faces amongst the audience. However, that is undoubtedly the right attitude to adopt as we challenge certain mainstream ideas in economics. Apart from being assiduous in the journey of constantly refining our tools of analysis, as demonstrated by the shift from the Gini index to the Palma ratio, we should also make a conscientious effort in reflecting about norms versus distortions. Indeed, from time to time, one must always make a critical assessment of the aspects on which one should focus.

References:

[1] Palma, J. G. (2016) ‘Do Nations just get the Inequality they Deserve? The ‘Palma Ratio’ Re-examined’, Cambridge Working Paper Economics, no. 1627, University of Cambridge.

[2] Palma, J. G. (2011) ‘Homogenous middles vs. heterogeneous tails, and the end of the ‘Inverted-U’: the share of the rich is what it’s all about’, Cambridge Working Paper Economics, no. 1111, University of Cambridge.

[3] Atkinson, A. B. (1970) ‘On the Measurement of Inequality’, Journal of Economic Theory 2. p.244-263.

[4] Cobham, A., and Sumner, A. (2013) ‘Is it all about the tails? The Palma Measure of Income Inequality’, CGD Working Papers, no. 343, Center for Global Development.