New Faculty
Justine Hastings Associate Professor of Economics

Justine Hastings
Associate Professor of Economics

By Deborah Baum  |  September 1, 2010  |  Email to a friend

Justine Hastings’ main research interests are in industrial organization, public economics, and behavioral economics. Using data and statistics, she strives to understand how individuals and consumers make decisions and what implications that might have for firm strategy, regulation, and public policy.

One of the policy-relevant questions Hastings has examined is the effectiveness of public school choice in improving educational outcomes at underperforming schools and among students from traditionally disadvantaged backgrounds. She looks at whether choice can be effective at increasing student achievement in the short term by allowing students at persistently underperforming schools to attend higher performing ones — and in the long term whether the threat of losing students would improve underperforming schools.

She and her colleagues found in both the short run and long run that public school choice systems can broaden rather than narrow the racial achievement gap because of the choices parents from varying socioeconomic groups make. Some parents, for example, might give more weight to a school’s achievement while others might rely on other characteristics when selecting a school. Hastings found a way to narrow the differences.

“Clever policy design that provides clear information to parents from low-income backgrounds who face high decision-making costs in the context of school choice can reverse this, leading to similar school choices and equal academic gains across low- and high-income students,” she said.

Hastings has also conducted work on the implications of investor behavior across socioeconomic groups for privatization of social security markets and competition among investment firms. Additionally, she has examined the impact of subsidy design for low-income households on retail prices and firm behavior, and the implications of regulation of vertical contracts and environmental regulations on gasoline pricing and competition.

Hastings comes to Brown from Yale University and has previously taught at Dartmouth College. She is a faculty research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research. As an undergraduate, Hastings attended the University of California–Davis and she received her Ph.D. from the University of California–Berkeley in 2001. She has received grants from the National Institutes of Health, the Social Security Administration, the Department of Education, and the National Science Foundation.

Hastings will be adding two elements to Brown’s Department of Economics: a tenured woman on the faculty and expertise in industrial organization. Roberto Serrano, department chair, says both have been absent for some time.

“There is a very low proportion of tenured women in economics departments across the country (about 30 tenured women in the nation’s top 30 departments). Now Brown will have two tenured women on our faculty: Professor Hastings, along with the internal promotion of Anna Aizer this year to associate professor,” he said. “Justine will bring a specialization in industrial organization, which is an important field in microeconomics. She will also strengthen our offerings in public economics, making easier our connections with other units on campus, such as the Taubman Center for Public Policy and the Department of Education.”