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RRI Faculty Research Associate Spotlight: Lindsay Allen

Dr. Lindsay Allen

We are proud to call our faculty research associates part of the RRI family. And as in any family, sharing information helps to strengthen bonds. In academia, it also provides one another with background information that may be useful in identifying collaborators and establishing relationships for future publications and research.

Therefore, each quarter, we will be profiling a different faculty research associate.

She is an avid Eagles football fan, can’t get enough reality television, and loves spending time with her family and three rescue dogs. But her real passion is working to ensure that underserved and vulnerable populations get the care they need—when they need it—and in the right care setting. Dr. Lindsay Allen is an Assistant Professor, heath economist, and health services researcher at the School of Public Health.  Currently, she is the co-Principal Investigator, along with Dr. Tom Bias, for the evaluation of West Virginia’s Substance Use Disorder 1115 Medicaid Waiver, designed to provide Medicaid enrollees better access to care for opioid and other substance related health issues.

Her interest in health care began in high school when seniors were required to complete a one-month internship with a local company; Allen chose to intern in the Sales Analytics department of a local pharmaceutical company. “Since that time, nearly all my work experiences have been in health care, though in very different parts of the system,” Allen said. “I tell my students that there are many facets of the health care system and that internships, fellowships, and volunteer work can go a long way in helping them figure out what they love to do,” Allen continued.

Her undergraduate and master’s degrees were earned at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Chicago, respectively; she achieved her Ph.D. at Emory University, where she met her now-husband. They graduated at the same time, and although it’s a rare occurrence, they had hoped to find positions at the same university and were fortunate enough to do so. Allen’s husband, Dr. Alex Lundberg, is an Assistant Professor of Economics in B&E.

“The field of health economics is full of terrific researchers who produce great work and are also exceptionally generous with their time and mentorship,” Allen said. Allen credits her two mentors from Emory University, Jason Hockenberry and Janet Cummings, with helping to shape her thorough and logical approach to research. She also names Kosali Simon from Indiana University, Guy David from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and Brendan Saloner from Johns Hopkins as researchers she admires.

Allen’s position gives her great satisfaction because she can see the many ways her research affects patients in the real world. “Right now, I’m especially interested in acute care, and the role of non-traditional delivery models in meeting the demand for it,” she said. Most of her work pertains to the structure of the health care system and its effects on patient interaction with it.

What does not give her satisfaction is the absence of universal health care in the United States; the only highly developed country in the world that doesn’t have it. Allen notes, “The majority of Americans have made it clear they want the government to provide health care for all. Medicare and Medicaid were originally created in the 1960s because it was thought that universal health care would not pass. Those bills provided public insurance for two specific groups (the elderly and the poor), which heavily influenced the piecemeal approach we have taken to expanding health insurance since then.” It is her goal to provide policymakers with the information they need to distribute health care resources in a manner that is not only efficient, but also helps people.

Allen is also interested in the spatial aspect of health care. “A lot of my research focuses on the supply of health care resources at the small area level. Instead of looking at state-level outcomes, I prefer to look at what’s going on at the zip code or census tract level,” Allen said. “When you make statements about health care in large geographies (such as the state or region of the country), you’re potentially missing out on a lot of important factors that are happening more locally. Consider Morgantown versus some of the more rural areas of West Virginia.” Allen continued. She points out how different the health needs and policy goals are in these areas, requiring different types of intervention.  She explains that it is important for policy makers to understand these nuances when they make their decisions based on her (and others’) research.

“I love the opportunities I currently have to collaborate with colleagues from WVU’s Economics Department, School of Pharmacy, and Department of Emergency Medicine,” Allen said. She points out that these interdisciplinary relationships strengthen the work being done in the School of Public Health. She is especially interested in collaborating with the Regional Research Institute on some advanced spatial techniques that will allow them to do a “deep dive into local health problems.” But she also wants others to know that if they are interested in collaborating, they can drop her a line at any time.


Jing Chen Wins the 2018 Barry M. Moriarty Award

Jing Chen receiving 2018 Barry M. Moriarty award from Dr. Steven Deller, UW-Madison

Which is better for economic growth—specialization or diversification?  According to Jing Chen, Regional Research Institute (RRI) Graduate Research Assistant (GRA) and Ph.D. candidate in Geography, regional scientists have suggested that the answer is both—specialization and diversity can coexist in a regional economy under diversified specializations. Chen’s curiosity was piqued as to how these two opposing theories could coexist, so he began his research to empirically test this proposition. The result was a paper titled “Interpreting Economic Diversity as the Presence of Multiple Specializations.”

Chen submitted his paper to the 57th Meeting of the Southern Regional Science Association that was held  March 15-17, 2018, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to compete for the Barry M. Moriarty Award. Entries were required to be original research by a sole author on a topic in regional science, with the author designing all maps, illustrations and audio-visual materials.

A panel of academicians and researchers recognized his scholarly work as the winning entry, presenting him with a plaque and $1,000. Chen said, “I am so excited to win this award. This paper was developed as a part of my dissertation research on economic diversity and regional development at a time when there were few empirical studies that had emphasized the coexistence of economic specialization and diversity.”

In his paper, Chen used three indices to measure regional economic diversity “to examine the relationship between economic structure and regional economic performance among 359 metropolitan statistical areas in the contiguous U.S.”  Chen also said, “The main contribution of this paper is to interpret economic diversity as the presence of multiple specializations to leverage the benefits of economic specialization and diversity simultaneously.”

Drs. Jackson and Schaeffer Recognized for Recent Scholarship

Randall Jackson

Peter V. Schaeffer

Drs. Randall Jackson and Peter V. Schaeffer are being recognized at the third annual celebration of long-form scholarship and creative work produced by WVU faculty and staff. In partnership with the WVU Humanities Center and the WVU Press, the Provost Office plans to celebrate and recognize the achievements of all faculty and staff members who have published a book, released a cd, or produced a full-length work in another medium (e.g., art or theater). For Drs. Jackson and Schaeffer, the work they will be recognized for is: Regional Research Frontiers: Vol 1 – Innovations, Regional Growth and Migration; and Regional Research Frontiers: Vol 2 – Methodological Advances, Regional Systems Modeling and Open Sciences, The nearly 700 page, two-part series are published by Springer International Publishing.

Volume 1  Identifies trends and future developments in the areas of innovation, regional growth and migration; covers research areas such as mobility, regional forecasting, and regional policy, and includes expert contributions on disasters, resilience, and sustainability; and builds on recent methodological and modelling advances, as well as on extensive policy-analysis experience.

Volume 2 identifies methodological advances as well as trends and future developments in regional systems modelling and open science; covers research areas such as interindustry modelling, computable general equilibrium models, exploratory spatial data analysis, geographic information science, and spatial economics; and builds on recent methodological and modeling advances, as well as on extensive policy-analysis experience.

The celebration is being held on March 22 from 4:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. in the Milano Reading Room at the Wise library and is open to the public.



RRI Faculty Research Associate Spotlight: Dr. Xiaoli Etienne

Xiaoli Etienne

We are proud to call our faculty research associates part of the RRI family. And as in any family, sharing information helps to strengthen bonds. In academia, it also provides one another with background information that may be useful in identifying collaborators and establishing relationships for future publications and research.

Therefore, each quarter, we will be profiling a different faculty research associate.

We never know what experiences during our childhood will shape our future. For Dr. Xiaoli Etienne, Assistant Professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics, it was the trips she spent with her father visiting farms in rural China. As her father, who worked for the local government’s agricultural division, conducted field surveys, young Xiaoli was learning one of life’s harsh lessons― that each year poor farmers in China were taking life-or-death financial risks, and it was this revelation that drove her to choose agricultural economics as her career.

In college, Etienne learned that applied economics is a critical tool to understand poverty and risk as well as to explain social phenomena and human behavior, solve real-world problems, and educate policymakers. Through applied economics, she would be able to benefit everyone involved in the economy, including the poor farmers in China.

Currently, Etienne is working on various issues in food, agricultural, and energy markets, in particular those related to price volatility. Her short-term goals are ambitious: to broaden her research fields (including regional analysis) while maintaining her research productivity in the area of commodity market analysis. “Eventually I would like to establish myself as an expert in agricultural and resource economics, as an educator that inspires others to dream bigger and motivates them to work harder, and as an economist that contributes to policy-making that challenges the status quo and creates a better world,” Etienne said.  Some of the researchers in her field that she admires and respects include, but are not limited to, Holbrook Working, William Tomek, Eugene Fama, Bruce Gardner, and Anne Peck.

She and her husband, an assistant professor in WVU’s Department of Mathematics, came to the University in 2014. Xiaoli was drawn by WVU’s high research productivity, particularly its energy-related research, and she was particularly excited that the University encourages and fosters creativity, offers a friendly working environment, and is close to Washington D.C. and Pittsburgh, PA.

“I have found the people in Davis College are quite friendly and hard-working, and my colleagues and students commit themselves to their work,” Etienne said. “They are a constant motivator for me to tackle research problems, and while everyone is willing to share their views or advice, I am particularly grateful and indebted to Dean Robison and my division chair Gerard D’Souza, both of whom have assisted me in my professional development and are there when I need advice to handle a challenging situation.”

The findings for some of her research have been surprising. Recently, for example, she and her Ph.D. student Alexandre Scarcioffolo investigated spatial price integration of natural gas markets in various regional markets in the U.S. Historically, Etienne points out, natural gas was one of the most highly regulated markets in the U.S., but this changed in the late 1970s when the industry began to deregulate amid natural gas shortages. One interesting question emerged: has the deregulation achieved its intended goal of developing a nationwide spot market that efficiently allocates natural gas? To find the answer, Etienne and Scarcioffolo evaluated the degree to which regional markets in the U.S. natural gas industry are connected and the role each market plays in the determination of national prices. The unexpected finding was that while the regional markets have become more integrated over time, the integration process seems to have slowed down recently.

“In particular,” Etienne said, “the spillover index we constructed—which measures how a shock in one market affects the price in another market―has declined over the past few years. This is surprising because this corresponds to the recent shale boom that has flooded the market with cheap natural gas.” Given the increasing completion, she expected the regional markets to be more connected. “However, this may not be that surprising after all since natural gas demand, particularly in the short run, is quite inelastic. This means that shocks in one market may have a smaller impact on another market when the overall price level is low. The issue can further be complicated by pipeline capacity constraints, a lack of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facilities, and other regional-specific demand and supply factors.”

Etienne incorporates many regional elements into her research and classes.  In addition to the natural gas market integration paper, she is currently investigating the determinants of price linkages between various regional natural gas markets in the U.S. Such factors may include the geographic distance, pipeline transmission capacity, industry growth, and development of renewable energy, just to name a few. “This is a multifaceted problem, and we are tackling it from both spatial and time series perspectives,” Etienne said.  In another paper, which is still in the early exploratory stage, she plans to use input-output models to estimate the economic impacts of rising foreign competition in the international markets faced by the U.S. grain sectors. “This is a very timely issue because the U.S.’s role as the leading grain exporter in the world is being challenged by South American countries,” Etienne said.

Etienne suggests that graduate students aiming for success would do well to sharpen their programming skills, particularly “R” and Matlab. In an era of big data, she says, the ability to efficiently process, clean, analyze, and make inferences from data are the essential skills for applied economists.

Some of her accomplishments include more than 24 publications in professional journals, conference proceedings, and the popular press (articles for the general public), refereeing articles for more than twenty professional journals, serving on various committees within WVU and in the profession, advising a number of Ph.D. and M.S. students, and teaching two graduate classes and one undergraduate course. She was awarded the Divison’s outstanding researcher in 2015 and was named a 2015 Big XII faculty fellow. More recently, one of her papers was listed as the top 10 most cited articles in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics (AJAE) in 2017, the profession’s top journal.

With all the demands on her time, it’s hard to imagine how she can find time for activities outside her academic life. She finds balance by following time management expert Laura Vanderkam who says, “Time is highly elastic. We cannot make more time, but time will stretch to accommodate what we need or want to put into it.” Through Vanderkam’s Ted talk titled “How to Gain Control of your Free time,” Etienne learned that managing time is about choosing priorities. She enjoys spending time with her husband and two little boys and traveling around the world with them; her goal is to visit all states in the U.S. (26 so far), all provinces in China (16 so far), and all continents in the world (5 so far; only Africa and Australia remain).


What is the Future of Regional Science

Regional Research Frontiers, Volume 1 and Volume 2 was released this past spring by Springer as a part of their Advances in Spatial Science series. Edited by Randall Jackson, Director of the Regional Research Institute (RRI), Professor of Geology and Geography, and Adjunct Professor of Economics at West Virginia University and Peter V. Schaeffer, Professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Adjunct Professor of Economics, and RRI Faculty Research Associate, the two-volume book comprises 37 authors and almost 700 pages.

Click here for more information about Regional Research Frontiers – Volume 1 and Volume 2.






Two RRI Graduate Research Assistants Win Best Paper Award

Elham Erfanian

Elham Erfanian

Amir Borges Ferreira Neto

Amir Borges Ferreira Neto

Elham Erfanian and Amir Borges Ferreira Neto, two RRI graduate research assistants, were co-recipients of the monetary award for Best Paper in Economics by a Graduate Student at the Academy of Economy and Finance. The presentation took place at the Academy’s 54th annual conference in late February in Charleston, SC.

The Academy is celebrating its 50th year; its mission is to support the increasing role played by financial economists and finance specialists. Originally more regional in nature, it began in Mississippi, its membership base had expanded over the years to include members from  many states in addition to areas outside the borders of the United States.

Erfanian, also a doctoral candidate in Agricultural and Resource Economics, said, “I am so glad to win the award. We started the paper from an assignment for our econometrics II course. Adding a spatial dimension to the research enabled us to ask more questions about the effects that R&D elements has on research output. Incorporating spatial dimension and measuring neighboring effects helps regional economists to incorporate the spillover effects in research and development literature and that leads to more realistic policy implementations.”

Borges Ferreira Neto had this to say, “I am very happy to have won the outstanding graduate student paper award in Economics as it tells me I am on the right path as a researcher. With respect to regional science, this paper’s main contribution is to re-introduce the importance of looking at this other facet of innovation, namely, the production of science (journal articles) instead of usual measure: patents.”

The name of the winning paper they co-authored is Scientific output: labor or capital intensive? An analysis for selected countries. In the paper, they explain why “policy-makers should understand how the different inputs – namely labor and capital – are related to a country’s scientific output.” They address this issue by “estimating output elasticities for labor and capital using a panel of 31 countries in nine years.”

Dr. Randall Jackson, RRI Director had this to say about the winners, “We are very proud of Elham and Amir, who have now joined the ranks of other RRI graduate student award winners.  Recognitions like these reinforce the value and benefits of direct graduate student participation in funded research projects, from inception through research communications.”

The two authors have had their paper published in Scientometrics, Volume 112(1) pp. 461-482. Scientometrics is an international journal for all quantitative aspects of the science of science, communication in science and science policy.

New Input-Output Software Now Available

In line with an Economic Development Administration research project on Regional Innovation Systems, RRI researchers set about to gain firsthand technology transfer experience by developing its own commercial software. In the process, we gained valuable insights into copyrighting, licensing, and other steps in the tech transfer process. These efforts produced not only academic insights and outcomes, but we also now have in hand the software, called IO-Snap (Input-Output State and National Analysis Program).

A Demo/Trial version is available now, and the Pro version, which will have greater sectoral detail and more years of data, will be released in coming weeks. The Demo/Trial version is ideal for classroom use, and we expect it to continue to be free to all users. Once the IO-Snap Pro is released, it will available at no cost to users within WVU; however, there will be a cost to users outside WVU.

To get your copy or learn more about IO-Snap, including video tutorials, please visit the IO-Snap Website.

If you decide to download your own copy, you will be taken to a typical product purchase page. You will need to enter all but the credit card/financial info to get the product link.

Let us know what you think about the software!

Did you know. . .

During the month of June, the RRI website received nearly 72% new visitors. The top five countries these visitors represented include the U.S., China, United Kingdom, Brazil, and Canada.

The greatest percentage of visitors fell within the 25-34 age group, with 54% being male and 46% being female.

Amir Borges Ferreira Neto Awarded Fellowship

Amir Borges Ferreira Neto is a graduate research assistant in the RRI and a doctoral candidate in the College of Business and Economics. Just recently, he became a recipient of the W. Marston and Katharine B. Becker Doctoral Fellows Endowment. The Beckers are both WVU alumni.

Borges Ferreira Neto said, “I am honored and grateful to have been awarded this prestigious fellowship.” He continues, “On the one hand, the fellowship will allow me the opportunity to focus on both my doctoral and my personal research, which are consistent with the donors’ expectations of regional and public policy-oriented research. On the other hand, over the next couple of years I will be able to complement my doctoral training with  teaching experience while continuing to maintain focus on my research.”

This fellowship is awarded to the top students by the Center for Free Enterprise at WVU and is based on a student’s ability to communicate basic economic principles through research on state policy. Fellows are expected to engage in the ongoing dialogue on state economic policy through public speaking opportunities and new commentary and publications. Borges Ferreira Neto explained, “Because of this fellowship, I expect to finish my doctoral program with both research and teaching experience concurrent to publishing and participating in conferences to strengthen network opportunities.”

Students are awarded a $20,000 annual stipend to work on research relevant to West Virginia economic policy while pursuing doctoral studies.