Labor Economist Brings Interdisciplinary Focus to University

Sandra Black, a renowned labor economist whose research examines how family background and early childhood experiences affect people's lives, has joined the faculty of The University of Texas at Austin.

Black will be a professor in the Department of Economics and will also be affiliated with the Population Research Center (PRC) and the Center for Women's and Gender Studies (CWGS). A graduate of Harvard University and a former economist with the Federal Reserve, she has been on faculty at UCLA since 2001.

"I was really drawn to the academic environment in Texas. I see interdisciplinary and policy opportunities I don't see elsewhere, and it feels like a true academic community," Black says.

Black's research attempts to identify the role of family characteristics, such as birth order, family size and birth weight, on the longer-run outcomes of children. In addition to the role of family characteristics, she also examines the role of education policy, including the effect of school starting age and compulsory schooling laws.

Her hiring reflects the university's emphasis on interdisciplinary studies through which scholars from different fields work collaboratively.

For example, CWGS is broadening its gender-related research to include more quantitative social sciences such as economics. Black's work will be a major part of that effort.

"Sandy's research helps the university broaden our areas of specialization. She's a good community builder who will help make connections with other departments," says Vice Provost and former CWGS Director Gretchen Ritter.

"The kinds of questions she works on are absolutely the kinds of questions we're interested in -- and they're not limited to any one academic field," says PRC Director Mark Hayward, a sociologist. "She's a natural to the work we do here."

Black is the first female full professor in the Department of Economics and her hiring reflects the College of Liberal Art's ongoing commitment to eliminating gender inequality among faculty.

She earned her doctorate at Harvard in 1997 and was a senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank in New York before going to UCLA. She has also been a visiting economist at Princeton University and is a fellow at the Stanford Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality, associate editor of Labour Economics and Review of Economics and Statistics and an affiliated professor with the Norwegian School of Business and Economics.

She was a visiting professor at The University of Texas at Austin last year and taught a class on the economics of gender.  This coming year, she will teach graduate labor economics.

"Moreover, Sandy will take on a leading role in recruiting faculty and raising the department's international reputation," says Economics Chairman Dale Stahl.

"Sandy is a world class scholar who will be a great asset to the university," adds College of Liberal Arts Dean Randy Diehl. "She brings a collegiality to her departments. And her decision to come to campus reinforces the idea that The University of Texas at Austin is the place to be to conduct cutting-edge research."