Economics researcher assumes role as center’s director

From 1979 to 1982, Arie Kapteyn worked as an assistant and associate professor of economics at USC.

Kapteyn ultimately left for a professorship in the Netherlands, but said he just couldn’t stay away from the University Park Campus: Effective Thursday, Kapteyn will serve as the director of a new research center focusing on economics.

New director· Arie Kapteyn, an associate professor of economics from 1979 to 1982, assumed his position as director of a new center Thursday. – Photo courtesy of USC News

“There is a little bit of sentiment,” Kapteyn said. “When I was at USC before, I had a really good time and really enjoyed my experience. It is sort of nice to come back to USC, even though it has changed and grown quite a bit.”

Kapteyn added that the excitement of new changes on campus was a big draw for him.

“There’s a lot going on,” he said. “I really like the current leadership -— it seems to be very open to new things and very entrepreneurial.”

As director of the USC Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research, Kapteyn’s first duties will be getting the new research institute off the ground in terms of finances and hiring.

“I found that to create a really good research center there’s always one thing that dominates everything else -— you have to hire the best possible people and then provide them with the best possible support,” Kapteyn said.

One of the first things the management will have to work on is an official opening date for the center; Kapteyn said he hopes to open the center by spring at the latest.

Another goal of the USC Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research is to create more opportunities for interdisciplinary research.

“USC is a really big university with a number of really good departments in a number of different schools,” Kapteyn said. “I hope to make many connections with many school departments about things we can do together.”

Kapteyn’s background at RAND, a Santa Monica-based non-profit policy and decision-making think tank, provided him with experience and leadership in economics-related research. Before coming to USC, Kapteyn was not only a senior economist and the director of RAND Labor & Population, but also served as director of the Roybal Center for Financial Decisionmaking and associate director of the Financial Literacy Center. He also taught at the Pardee RAND Graduate School, where he advised 25 doctoral candidates on their theses.

Kapteyn said that at USC, he will be utilizing the same research methods and skills he used at RAND.

“In my current position, most of my time is research and it’s going to stay that way,” Kapteyn said. “That’s the only way I want to do it … I think you’re more effective when you do research yourself. I wouldn’t want to just be a manager.”

Kapteyn will continue researching his favorite topic — aging and its relationship to financial behavior.

“I want to understand what an aging population means, how people age now and how they age differently than they did in the past,” Kapteyn said. “There are implications for how long they can work or how much money they’ll need when they retire.”

Kapteyn is also regarded as an expert in microeconomics, econometrics and public finance.

Steve A. Kay, dean of the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, said in a statement that Kapteyn’s expertise will help the university and economics department improve its academic reputation.

“Arie Kapteyn’s wealth of experience shows he has the skills and talent to continue to propel social sciences research at USC Dornsife to new heights with the founding of the USC Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research,” Kay said.