Peter Dizikes has a nice profile of economist Amy Finkelstein and her work in health economics in the MIT Technology Review. If you’re not familiar with her work, Finkelstein won the John Bates Clark Medal in 2012 and a MacArthur “genius” fellowship in 2018. (You can find her research here.) Dizikes includes a quote from Finkelstein that really captures the motivation for research that I feel.
“If you made me king or queen of the world, it’s not obvious how we should be designing our health-care system,” she says. “Which makes me a very bad cocktail party conversationalist, because when people say ‘What do you think of Medicare for All?’ or ‘How should we design health insurance?’ my usual reaction is ‘Well, I don’t know the answer, and that’s why I work on it.’ There are a lot of things I know or think I know the answer to, but those are not the things I do research on.” (emphasis added)
I’ve worked in development economics for some years now, and I’ve carried out repeated research on a few topics: education (especially teachers); social safety nets (especially cash transfers); and health. This research has certainly given me views on topics, but there are so many things to know and there are so many different contexts with different variables that I usually go into new research projects with little idea of what I’ll find, even in areas where I’ve worked before.
Here’s to finding new answers through good research.