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Year in Review: PURCE continues Krannert’s long tradition in economics research

Monday, December 16, 2019

When Herman Krannert endowed the School of Management in 1962, Purdue University already had built a strong foundation for economics research under the leadership of founding Dean Emanuel “Em” Weiler.

“Purdue in the late 1950s was one of the most exciting economic centers in the world, and Em Weiler was the reason why,” former Boston Globe business columnist David Warsh writes in “The Vital Many.”

“Weiler managed to turn an undergraduate service department into a sophisticated theoretical PhD program and merge the resulting economics department into a business school without creating a fracas.”

Flash forward more than half a century, and you’ll find that same spirit and mission in the Krannert School of Management’s current economics center, which bridges the worlds of research and public policy, data and real-world impact.

The Purdue University Research Center in Economics, or PURCE, conducts policy-relevant economic research and shares that research so it helps the well-being of people and society.

“The center’s focus is on the production and dissemination of empirical economic research that provides insights into how government policy affects our lives,” says Kevin Mumford, Kozuch Director of PURCE and associate professor of economics.

“Laws, regulations and government programs all have effects, both intended and unintended, on individuals, the functioning of the economy and society at large. We want community groups, businesses and policymakers to understand those effects,” Mumford says. “We do not have an agenda, other than to provide data and empirical analysis that can have a real impact.”

PURCE’s research areas include crime and the legal system, education, federal entitlement programs, labor markets and wages, taxation, trade and globalization, and more. Recent PURCE affiliate research topics by Jillian Carr, assistant professor of economics, look at the effects of the timing of nutritional aid disbursement on crime and, in The Review of Economics and Statistics, an exploration of the relationship between juvenile curfews and urban gun violence.

Established in 2013 by John Umbeck, professor of economics at Krannert, and the center’s first director, and professors Jack Barron and Justin Tobias, PURCE has grown to support more than 25 faculty affiliates and nearly a dozen PhD students. Mumford was named new director when Umbeck stepped down at the end of the 2017-18 academic year.

PURCE moved into its home in the newly renovated Webster Suite on the third floor of the Krannert Building in fall 2017. PURCE-affiliated faculty and PhD students benefit from research funding as available — the center relies on the generosity of donors — and take part in center events, including monthly policy luncheons and an annual Economic Ideas Forum.

The Economic Ideas Forum brings together alumni, community, business and government leaders, students and faculty, and a guest speaker for a day of discussions on crucial economic topics.

This year’s forum was April 18 in Rawls Hall and featured nine PURCE faculty affiliates presenting hour-long synopses of their latest research. Attendees could choose from one of three sessions in three time slots; topics offered included associate professor Tim Moore’s look at the opioid crisis; assistant professor Joe Mazur on the economics of antitrust policy; associate professor and Magner Chair Victoria Prowse on the science of motivation; and associate professor Tim Bond on discrimination in the labor market.

In the classroom, forum attendees from undergraduate students to local business leaders to distinguished Krannert alumni were encouraged to participate in discussions on PURCE research.

“I always enjoy presenting during the forum because it brings participants of varying backgrounds together in one classroom,” Bond says.

While the afternoon faculty symposium was open to the public, some forum events were by invitation to PURCE donors and supporters. The day began with a private lunch and talk by the keynote speaker, Douglas Irwin, the John French Professor of Economics at Dartmouth College and the pre-eminent economic historian of U.S. trade and trade policy over the past 150 years.

Irwin started his daylong visit at Krannert by assessing the United States’ current trade policy through the lens of economic theory and history. He   is the author of many papers and several books, including his most recent, Clashing over Commerce: A History of U.S. Trade Policy.

“Doug Irwin is perhaps the greatest historian of trade and trade policy in the world,” says David Hummels, the Dr. Samuel R. Allen Dean of the Krannert School of Management and Distinguished Professor of Economics. “His visit to Purdue as PURCE’s Economic Ideas Forum guest speaker comes at an opportune time, when there is so much activity in trade policy, and therefore so much to discuss and assess.”

Irwin is known for his engaging speaking and teaching — he has more than 25 years of teaching experience — and spent the afternoon in small group discussions with economics students, who had read his latest book.

The forum concluded with an evening fireside chat and Q&A in Stewart Center’s Fowler Hall, featuring Irwin, Hummels and David Schoorman, Krannert’s associate dean. The three discussed trade policy and negotiations. The entire lecture is available on Krannert’s YouTube channel at

The Fowler Hall lecture was a part of Purdue’s Ideas Festival, the centerpiece of Purdue’s Giant Leaps Sesquicentennial Campaign, which is a series of events that connect world-renowned thought leaders and Purdue experts in a conversation on the most critical problems facing the world.

The 2019 Economic Ideas Forum was made possible by the support of the Hugh and Judy Pence family. PURCE plans to host the center’s next forum in fall 2020.