New Faculty Profiles
How does a person’s psychological, cognitive and cultural background shape his or her economic decision-making?
Aidin Hajikhameneh devises clever experiments to help answer that deceptively simple question. An assistant professor in the Department of Economics, Hajikhameneh specializes in behavioral economics — which compares the predictions of classical economic theory to what actually happens in society.
At the University of Tehran, he became fascinated by the question of why Middle Eastern countries had languished behind Western societies over the past four centuries. His theory was that people from collectivist cultures like those in the Middle East make different economic decisions than those from more individualistic backgrounds.
“The path that individualism created we can safely say created a major influence in
the world,” he says. “My idea was that if I showed in this day and age if you are
from a different cultural background you are going to make different economic decisions,
why not a thousand
He has his laboratory subjects play exchange-based games that measure trust and risk aversion — and finds that players from differing cultural backgrounds do indeed choose differently on a consistent basis. He’s now testing whether there is a connection between an individual’s tolerance for uncertainty and their economic decision-making.
Hajikhameneh did his undergraduate studies in economics in Tehran, followed by a master’s there in economic development and planning. He moved to Simon Fraser University in British Columbia for his Ph.D. in economics. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Chapman University in southern California before coming to San José State, where he is teaching microeconomics to master’s students.
“Experimental economics is a tool,” Hajikhameneh says. “If you can come up with a clever design you can answer many major questions in economics.”
Paul Lombardi combines an abiding love of economics with his avid exploration of the
of economic inequality in his new role as assistant professor in the Department of Economics.
The San Diego native completed his bachelor’s degree in management science at the
University of California, San Diego. After working in the insurance industry, he elected to
pursue his Ph.D. in economics at the University of California, Irvine.
As an economic historian, he focuses on the “cotton South” — the period in the late 19th and early 20th century in which subsistencelevel farming dominated the 10 agrarian Southern states that at one time produced 96 percent of the world’s cotton.
African American households lacked ready access to credit — or were forced to pay higher rates of interest when times were lean, Lombardi says. To survive, parents pulled children from school and put them to work to increase the cotton yield. Or, they took jobs and the children assumed some of their household duties.
“I was curious whether the approaches they used to deal with shortterm fluctuations led to worse long-term outcomes,” he says. Census records from 1900 through 1940 suggested that was indeed the case. Children who hadn’t completed their educations were trapped in lower-wage occupations and the cycle repeated itself through time.
“Some of these approaches they used to deal with changes in their income led to permanent differences between whites and blacks,” Lombardi says.
Lombardi is studying whether families in modern-day developing economies might find themselves in a similar bind. Answering that question could potentially provide developing economies with evidence-based policy recommendations, Lombardi says.
Meanwhile, he is looking forward to sharing his enthusiasm for economics with his
students. “Fifty people might care about my research,” he says, “but a lot more people
are affected by
Darwyyn Deyo’s disappointing encounters with politicians as a reporter covering state government in Harrisburg, Pa., helped steer her toward graduate school to study economics.
“It was frustrating, being a journalist and being able to ask questions and know the kinds of things we should be focused on and have politicians give me ‘politician speak’ in return,” says Deyo, a newly appointed assistant professor in the Department of Economics.
Realizing she could make more of an impact by helping to shape policy rather than just reporting on it, Deyo went to George Mason University for her Ph.D. She developed dual interests in labor economics and health economics (one dissertation topic focused on the impact of occupational licensing, which has become much more widespread in the U.S. in recent decades).
She’s currently working with colleagues in analyzing a large sample of Medicare beneficiaries
to discern the impact of tort reform on the utilization of medical services. They
are trying to
answer a deceptively simple question: If doctors order more tests to protect themselves from malpractice claims, do tort reform measures have an impact on these practices?
Deyo, who earned degrees in economics and international studies at St. Mary’s College of California in Moraga, finds her journalistic training comes in handy in the classroom.
“I like to take my background as a journalist and transmit that expertise to the students to help improve their writing,” she says. “I’m teaching them to think critically, how to ask a question and how to answer that question working with the tools they already have.”
Deyo has participated in competitive Scottish Highland dancing since childhood and was elated to learn that there is a school of Highland dancing in San José. “Scottish festivals are fun,” she says.