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Dean Kay Appoints New Economics Professor and Director

Arie Kapteyn was a senior economist and director of RAND Labor and Population. At USC Dornsife, he has founded a center for economic and social research.

Arie Kapteyn, professor of economics and founding director of the newly established USC Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research, begins his new post on Nov. 15. Photo by Pamela J. Johnson.
Arie Kapteyn, professor of economics and founding director of the newly established USC Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research, begins his new post on Nov. 15. Photo by Pamela J. Johnson.

USC Dornsife Dean Steve Kay has announced the appointment of Arie Kapteyn as professor of economics and founding director of the newly established USC Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research.

The new center positions USC as the world’s leading institution for health policy research. Kapteyn will begin his post on Nov. 15.

Kapteyn arrives from the RAND Corporation, where he was a senior economist and director of RAND Labor and Population. He was also director of the Roybal Center for Financial Decision-making and associate director of the Financial Literacy Center, a joint center of RAND, Dartmouth College and the Wharton School.

Additionally, he was a professor at the Pardee RAND Graduate School and thesis adviser for approximately 25 Ph.D. students. His research expertise covers microeconomics, public finance and econometrics. The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decision-making through research and analysis. Kapteyn worked at the global corporation’s headquarters in Santa Monica, Calif.

Kapteyn is a fellow of the Econometric Society, past president of the European Society for Population Economics, and corresponding member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Before joining RAND, Kapteyn held a chair in econometrics at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, where he served the university in numerous capacities, including dean of the Faculty of Economics and Business Administration; founder and director of CentER (a research institute and graduate school) and of CentERdata (a survey research institute); and director of CentER Applied Research (a contract research institute).

He has held visiting positions at several universities, including Princeton University, the California Institute of Technology, Australian National University, the University of Canterbury (New Zealand), the University of Bristol (England), and USC, where he was assistant then associate professor of economics from 1979 to 1982.

At RAND, he led research teams on dozens of projects analyzing topics such as successful financial planning to how much Americans know about Social Security to comparing life satisfaction in the United States and the Netherlands.

Elizabeth Garrett, USC provost and senior vice president for academic affair, emphasized that Kapteyn brings tremendous experience in rigorous economic research and its practical application to real world issues.

“He has also demonstrated outstanding leadership at RAND and academic institutions around the world,” Garrett said. “His appointment as director of the new USC Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research amplifies USC’s already strong position as a global innovator in the development of evidence-based social policy.”

Kay echoed those remarks.

“Arie Kapteyn's wealth of experience shows he has the skills and talent to continue to propel social sciences research in USC Dornsife to new heights with the founding of the USC Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research,” Kay said. "He has proven himself a first-rate economist, researcher and professor who I believe will enhance our Department of Economics.”

USC Dornsife Vice Dean for the Social Sciences Wendy Wood said having such a distinguished economist join the social science community in USC Dornsife is exciting.

“His work links to significant areas of study within the social sciences, including health care, aging, personal savings and retirement benefits,” said Wood, Provost Professor of Psychology and Business. “Faculty and students will benefit from the collaborations and research opportunities in these areas with Dr. Kapteyn. Along with our current faculty strength, the hire of Dr. Kapteyn makes us one of the world leaders in the study of health economics.”

Kapteyn said ambition drew him to USC Dornsife.

“I’ve seen ambition at the top down from every level,” Kapteyn said. “The provost, the executive vice provost, the dean. I’ve talked to faculty members. I’ve talked to department chairs and everyone has a sense that this place is really going somewhere and there is an ambition to make it work.

“Not only is it what people say, but it’s how they behave. If they say they are going to do something they do it. I was very impressed with how the process of the transition took place. How quick it was, how businesslike it was and how very little bureaucracy there was involved. I’m ambitious, too. This really is an environment in which I can realize my ambitions with the new center.”

Geert Ridder, professor and interim chair in the Department of Economics, called Kapteyn “the rare economist who is a great scholar but who can also build a group of researchers.”

“As a scholar he has wide interests,” Ridder said. “He has made contributions to econometrics, the measurement of subjective well-being and the study of aging and retirement. He also set up an Internet panel that is a great tool for data collection and field experiments. As a builder, he created a center in Tilburg, the Netherlands, that is still a premier research center in Europe, and he made the labor and population group at RAND a flourishing research group.

“These skills will make his new Center for Social and Economic Research in the Verna and Peter Dauterive Hall a success,” Ridder continued. “For both the economics department and the Social Science Center, Arie is a great hire.”