Ask Andrew Pennock to describe his research and “eclectic” will most likely be among the adjectives. Dig deeper and it soon becomes obvious that his academic pursuits have taken him to many varied spheres of the public policy world. But he’s spent the majority of his time exploring two main research interests: the global economic crisis and the link between inequality and large landholding concentrations.
The global economic crisis was the inspiration for his most recent paper. Working with colleagues at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, where he was awarded a master’s and Ph.D., Pennock formulated what he calls a “complex networks approach” to describe how financial crises spread through the world. Describing it as a “hub-and-spoke model,” Pennock theorizes that based on investment flows there are only a handful of countries that could spark a global financial crises, with the United States being the main catalyst.
“The United States sits in the center of the financial system. Seventy-five percent of countries invest money in the United States; 30 percent invest in the United Kingdom or Germany,” Pennock says. “More than half of countries receive no significant investment from any country.” If there’s an economic crisis in the United States, it affects everyone; if there’s a crisis in what Pennock calls a peripheral country, it will be absorbed by the United States before it can affect others.
Applied to the current European crisis, Pennock’s model indicates that while the situation there is significant, it really isn’t a problem for the United States or the world as a whole because investment from Europe runs through the United States before it reaches other countries. “It’s really quite counter-intuitive to the big narrative,” Pennock says.
Pennock’s other primary research interest has taken him to a far different topic: large landholding concentrations in colonial-era North and South America. He’s examined the role that topography has played in determining the institutional structure of various countries. For example, sugarcane, a crop of the Caribbean, lends itself to a slave-labor plantation model because of the type of work required for harvest. Pennock has shown how these large landholding concentrations cause educational inequalities within countries.
This coming year, Pennock will teach four classes: a freshman seminar on comparative public policy; graduate statistics; an undergraduate class on public policy and program evaluation; and another graduate course. He’ll also be embarking on a couple of new research projects. The first will examine the development of American foreign policy in the late 1900s. He’ll also be relating the current debate about American income and inequality to the American exchange rate.
Pennock says the opportunity to be a part of the Taubman Center, with its small Masters in Public Policy and Masters in Public Administration programs, was a primary factor in his decision to come to Brown. “The Taubman is a really unique place, and the chance to teach in these programs is amazing,” Pennock says. As a former fiscal analyst for the North Carolina General Assembly, Pennock says he’s also excited to be moving to a state with an ever-changing political environment and looking forward to bringing some of his real-world experience to the classroom.