Stephanie Shimko Interviews Miles Kimball about His Earliest and Latest Research tumblr_inline_npfu8lg2CJ1r57lmx_500.jpg

Stephanie Shimko interviewed me for the May 2015 issue of the Survey Research Center’s monthly newsletter at the University of Michigan. I thought I would share it. It used the same picture I use now as my avatar. 

When we asked Miles Kimball how he became interest-ed in macroeconomics, he told us that it began in his second year of Harvard’s Economic PhD program. Miles referred us to his blog post “Why I am a Macroeconomist.” Miles’ dissertation contained three topics, which is usual for economic dissertations. His first topic was two-sided altruism (the economic consequences of children caring about parents, as well as parents caring about children) that was suggested by his professor Andy Abel. His classmate, Alan Krueger (who was later Assistant Secretary of the Treasury and head of the Council of Economic Advisers) suggested Miles’ second topic, efficiency wages. The third topic, precautionary saving, developed when Miles presented his economic history paper “Farmers Cooperatives as Behavior Towards Risk” in a seminar and his colleague, Greg Mankiw, told him it reminded him of a paper he had written on precautionary saving. Miles told us: “In each case, I just tried to write down the economic model that seemed sensible to me in that topic area, and found that each economic model had interesting implications.” We also asked Miles about his ongoing research questions. He gave us five of his critical research questions.

  1. How can we make deep negative interest rates possible for central banks in the way that is politically easiest for them?
  2. How can we obtain good survey measures and ways of combining them into an index to given an accurate summary measure of how well off people are in the full range of things they care about?
  3. How should we adjust for inequality in making public policy recommendations?
  4. How can we measure what people’s objectives are when they face risk when their answers to questions about risk attitudes initially seem inconsistent?
  5. How important is improvement in the pleasantness of work as a part of economic growth?

For the future, Miles said: “Going forward, in addition to continuing to pursue the kinds of questions I mention above, I want to pursue research that shows that I can back up key proposals I make on my blog, ‘Confessions of a Supply-Side Liberal’, with more formal academic arguments. And I would like to find time to lay out the methods I teach in my class on ‘Advanced Mathematical Methods for Dynamic, Stochastic Models’.” We asked if there were any exciting upcoming projects, and he responded: “My proposal for making deep negative interest rates possible seems to be getting some traction. I am looking forward to some conferences on this, and visits to the central banks of Sweden, Norway, and New Zealand this summer (as well as the Bank of Finland).” Miles also spoke to us about his work in subjective well-being: “Along with Dan Benjamin, Ori Heffetz, and other coauthors, I have published several papers in the American Economic Review about how subjective well-being data relate to the goal of measuring how well-off people are in the full range of things they care about. Dan and Ori and I attended a High Level Expert Group Workshop on Multidimensional Subjective Well-being in Turin last October; our basic approach was very well-received”. At the end of our session, we noticed how often his blog was central to his answers to our questions. He said: “My blog is both an important part of my professional career and a hobby. You can see there all kinds of other things going on in my life and things I am thinking about. On Sundays I alternate between blogging about religion and blogging about philosophy (so far, blogging my way through John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty). I frequently host guest posts on my blog, so it is not a one-man show.”