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Faculty News January 14, 2022

Office Hours with Bo Honoré

Honore Office HoursFor Professor Bo Honoré, living and teaching in Princeton comes with many perks. 

First, there’s the ability to get out in nature, either by hopping on a local trail or going on a long bike ride and “seeing more cows than cars.” On the weekends, he helps Friends of Princeton Open Space clean up fallen trees after storms and replace invasive plant species with native ones.

He also enjoys the size of the town, which he says “is the best of both worlds.” Most days, he walks to work to the soundtrack of podcasts about soccer. “I also like that I can volunteer with a group of people from the area and then see some of them at a faculty meeting or in the grocery store.”

But perhaps one of his favorite things about Princeton is the university, which he says is “both one of the best research universities in the world, and a place that takes undergraduate education seriously.”

Honoré says he finds great satisfaction in teaching undergraduate econometrics, and admires how well his students learn to grasp new and difficult concepts. “The difference between what the typical student knows starting the class, and what they know at the end of the semester always amazes me.”

A first generation high school graduate from Denmark, Honoré knows how hard many of his students worked to earn a spot at Princeton, and he takes pride in helping them along their academic journey.

“My first flight was to go from Copenhagen to Chicago to start graduate school at the University of Chicago,” he said. “However, and sadly, I think that my academic route in Denmark was much easier than that of many American first-generation undergraduate students ending up at Princeton almost 40 years later.”

Studying new and improved econometric models

As a researcher, Honoré’s area of focus in microeconometrics–or techniques that help researchers better study “micro” units like individual people or companies. Much of his research focuses on how to estimate econometric models that combine elements of two models all economics students–including those in the department’s required undergraduate econometrics course–study at the outset: fixed effects in panel data and models with binary outcomes. 

“These topics are literally covered in consecutive chapters of the textbook, and separately, they are topics that students who are new to econometrics can understand with a little effort. Unfortunately, it becomes very difficult–and sometimes impossible–to estimate econometric models that combine the key aspects of both.”

Most of Honoré’s current research is theoretical. In “Selection Without Exclusion,” co-authored with former Princeton student Luojia Hu and published in the journal Econometrica, Honoré builds off work the University of Chicago’s Jim Heckman (who was also Honoré’s thesis advisor) on how to better estimate “sample selection models” that account for that fact that researchers may not have a representative sample but, until now, have only been applicable under a set of very strict–and sometimes unrealistic–assumptions. In “Moment Conditions for Dynamic Panel Logit Models with Fixed Effects,” Honoré and Martin Weidner of Oxford University begin what they expect will be a series of papers that show how researchers can combine fixed effects with models with discrete outcomes.

Highlighted Research
Selection Without Exclusion
with Luojia Hu
Moment Conditions for Dynamic Panel Logit Models with Fixed Effects
with Martin Weidner

Outside his work in econometrics, Honoré has become increasingly interested in studying economic outcomes for Asian Americans. 

“This is partly motivated by some of the recent political rhetoric, but also by the fact that not only are Asian Americans the fastest growing ethnic group in the United States, but also the group with the largest within-group income inequality.” 

In a recent working paper, Honoré and Luojia Hu show that Asian Americans with no college education were especially hard hit by the pandemic and ensuing economic crisis, and that the negative economic outcomes experienced by Asian American cannot be explained by differences in demographics or in job characteristics.

To create great work, study what you love

Given his passion for teaching and studying economics, we asked Professor Honoré why students should choose economics as a major. 

“Well, they shouldn’t all choose economics,” he said. “I personally chose economics because I always liked the formal reasoning, but especially the puzzle-solving, aspect of math. But I also wanted to study something useful, either in terms of getting a job or in terms of thinking about real world problems. I think that at Princeton, the economics program would be a good option for someone with those preferences.”

Honoré says that as a student or researcher–in economics or some other discipline–what’s most important is working on a topic or question you like.

“Don’t work on a topic just because it is fashionable. If you are not passionate about what you work on, then your work probably won’t be very good, and you will have a hard time convincing others that they should like it.”

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