Graduate Student Spotlight: Alejandro Abarca

  Alejandro Abarca is a fifth-year student in the Applied Economics Ph.D. program.

He is originally from San José, Costa Rica. 

What are your previous schools and degrees?

I have a bachelor's degree in economics from the Universidad de Costa Rica, and a master's degree in economics from the University of British Columbia.

What is your area of research?

My current research aims to use applied econometric methods and machine learning to answer economic development questions. For instance, my second year paper estimates the effect of domestic violence on women´s labor supply and labor market outcomes.

Why is your research important?

I think economists try to stay away from machine learning because more often than not they are seen as "black box" methods. However, I believe that they can be incorporated into economic analysis to answer questions which current economic theory and methods cannot answer properly.

What inspired you to choose to study applied economics?

Since my undergraduate studies, I´ve been a hopeless romantic for economic policy, quantitative methods, and public policy design. After getting my master´s degree, I worked as an economist for the institution in Costa Rica that administers the funds for most social programs in the country. Over the years, I saw how my work materialized into public policy and how my analysis could be used to justify and optimize public policies. This was a great feeling, and it always pushed me towards understanding how the world and society work in order to promote changes that make a society better off. I thus decided to acquire more skills and knowledge about how this can be done. And the rest is I am!

Why did you choose Oregon State University?

I got my master's degree in Vancouver, Canada, and I fell in love with the Pacific Northwest. I knew I wanted to live and study in this area again. I found this program at OSU and realized that it pretty much offered everything I wanted to do and study, plus it was in my desired location.

What is a fun or interesting fact about you?

I have been growing my beard for three years, and one of my small dreams in life is to win a "best beard" competition in Oregon. That would be a fun achievement!!