A day in the life
Mevlude Akbulut-Yuksel, assistant professor
It has to do with the need. In developing countries, there are so many people who need help and the idea is to help people if you can.
Stories that inspire extraordinary research
Mevlude Akbulut-Yuksel’s applied microeconomics research often tells very personal stories of how extraordinary events affect peoples' everyday lives.
For example, when she studied the effects of World War Two aerial bombardments on German children, she looked at how the conflict affected whole lives. She tracked over 40 years of data on these children after the war. She gathered reams of statistics and immersed herself in their history and their stories.
“If you have that kind of shock in your childhood, it has long-lasting effects – even four or five decades after the event,” she says. “They ended up with less education, they had less earnings and they have more health problems.”
Economics is a changing field. Research into development, labour, education and health are now hot topics for economists. The field is more diverse. Half of the Economics faculty specialize in applied microeconomics. It’s become a strength here.
“It has to do with the need. In developing countries, there are so many people who need help,” she says, “and the idea is to help people if you can.”
Economists are essential to evaluate whether policy solutions to social problems work or not. The main difference between economics and other social sciences is that economists talk about society with numbers, she says. Their work is quantitative.
“We get the data, and we analyze it and we say what we find,” she says.
Take education policy. Dr. Akbulut-Yuksel looked at mothers with HIV and child education in developing countries. She used data from World Bank surveys of 17 countries – covering almost 100,000 people – and found that a whole generation of kids were missing out on a quality education because of the HIV epidemic in Africa.
“It’s mathematical, but it’s concrete,” she explains. “You communicate with the subject. You do get attached.”
It is that dedication to hard numerical fact – coupled with a desire to help – that she wants to pass onto her students.
“I want them to think about certain issues. I want them to be skeptical. I want them not just to have beliefs about those things, I want them to look at the data.”