I wasn’t supposed to be an Economist. When I first arrived at Carolina, I was on track to be an academic classicist: For my first two years of college, reading Greek and Latin was just about all I did. Along the way, however, I dipped into a few classes in the economics department. I studied the basics in 101 with Ralph Byrns, the ins-and-outs of regression analysis with Boone Turchi, and the nuances of government involvement in the economy with Jonathan Hill.
By my junior year, I found myself thinking more about the economics of the ancient world than ancient languages. How did the Diocletian price controls affect market efficiency? What can Rome’s Monte Testaccio (a giant pile of broken earthenware on the banks of the Tiber) tell us about patterns of trade across the Mediterranean? How much did standards of living for the average Roman increase from the early Republic to the golden age of Augustus?
Without really knowing it, I had become a student of human behavior and interactions – the core of economics. And by my senior year, I had fully transitioned to an economic focus. I spent most of my last year writing my honors thesis on patterns of management participation in leveraged buyouts with Bill Parke. The research process was exhilarating. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to do (and still is) but also the most rewarding. I knew then that I wanted to spend my career as a researcher.
But committing to a life in academia at 22 seemed like a big step, and I was still a little curious about what else was out there. So after graduating, I spent three years with Boston Consulting Group in New York City, where I worked on everything from automotive software to precious gems to machines that turn human waste into electricity. I grew a lot over those three years, learned a ton about how the “real” economy actually works (spoiler alert: it is a noisy process), and met some incredible people. But by the end, I was ready to get back to where I was senior year – nose down in data and economic theory, thinking full-time.
I’m now in my second year in the Economics PhD program at the University of California, Berkeley. I’ve survived the first-year – a deluge of survey courses in macro, micro and metrics – and am now taking the field courses for what will be my area of specialization: public, labor and trade. I’m interested in understanding what shapes economic geography, and how the geography of big economies like the U.S. affects the welfare of individuals who wind up living from Fargo to San Francisco and everywhere in-between. My current projects include a study of patterns of female employment in the wake of World War II and a model of what determines equilibrium participation rates across space in a large economy.
I haven’t forgotten my classical roots, however. One day I hope to take my economics chops back to the ancient world and learn something new about how those economies functioned, which in turn may teach us something about the world we live in now. I have Carolina to thank for both of my interests — the economic and the ancient — and for helping me to land where I am now.
–Evan Kershaw Rose
Class of 2011