Becker Friedman Institute
for Research in Economics
The University of Chicago

Research. Insights. Impact. Advancing the Legacy of Chicago Economics.

Scholar Spotlight: Paul Ho

Photo by Amy Dykens

This morning, we heard talks on big data and machine learning—topics not typically covered in economics PhD classes—while yesterday we attended Bayesian econometrics workshops that provided both an overview of methods as well as specific examples of how these approaches actually work to answer economics questions.

Paul Ho, a PhD candidate at Princeton University, is one of 50 next-generation economics scholars attending the Macro Financial Modeling summer camp offered by the Becker Friedman Institute this year. Ho, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Chicago in 2012, has attended several MFM meetings in the past and described the MFM group as “constantly exploring beyond traditional boundaries of economics for new research questions and methods.“ 

Ho became interested in the economy during his undergraduate studies at Chicago, where he received the Becker Friedman Institute Award for Academic Achievement and learned that economics is more than abstract ideas and formulas. “It tries to answer questions that have tangible, real-world implications,” he explained. Armed with important mathematical and statistical tools, Ho is now in his third year at Princeton, studying various forms of risk and uncertainty in the economy. 

In recent work with Anmol Bhandari of the University of Minnesota and Jaroslav Borovička of New York UniversityHo investigated households that are confronted with ambiguity aversion,” a situation in which individuals or households alter decision-making because they do not know the probabilities of different economic events. They found increasing ambiguity aversion has contractionary effects on the economy, especially on the labor market.

During this week’s inaugural MFM Summer Session activities, Ho is gaining fresh insights into his research by brainstorming with other graduate students and young professionals at poster sessions and in the hall between talks. “It has been extremely useful to talk with people of different backgrounds and interests about my research. To see their reactions, hear their feedback, and understand what they find interesting has been valuable,” he said. He described the events thus far as high quality and covering a wide range of topics. “This morning, we heard talks on big data and machine learning—topics not typically covered in economics PhD classes—while yesterday we attended Bayesian econometrics workshops that provided both an overview of methods as well as specific examples of how these approaches actually work to answer economics questions,” he said.

As for his plans to apply the information he has learned this week, he says he’ll be revisiting many of the presentations and giving himself time to let everything soak in during the coming days.

The Macro Financial Modeling Summer Session, offered under the auspices of the Becker Friedman Institute for Research in Economics, is one of a host of summer research activities highlighted in this series. To learn more, please visit our summer research hub.

Tina Cormier