India has always held a strong appeal for Dror Brenner. Entering Tel Aviv University to begin his undergraduate coursework, Brenner was set on studying Sanskrit, an ancient Indian language that he had learned in earlier years. But encouraged by an uncle in academia to take up something more practical, Brenner took a number of business and economics courses and realized that he particularly enjoyed the latter. Still, it’s no surprise that despite his shift in interests, Brenner has found a way to maintain the connection to the country he loves, one that also provides plenty of research material, in the form of both past and current projects.
“It’s a huge economy, one of the largest in the world, but it does have a lot of challenges, so there are a lot of interesting things to study there,” Brenner said.
Currently, the self-described applied and labor economist is working on examining incentives to production and whether it’s compensation or other factors that ultimately contribute to worker happiness.
Brenner, in collaboration with former Brown professor Yona Rubinstein, has also completed research in his home country of Israel, most notably a study that pinpointed a link between labor market discrimination and ethnicity by looking at wage differences between two different Jewish ethnic groups.
The research that Brenner is perhaps most excited about is a study he did while working as a visiting Ph.D. student at Brown a couple years ago.
Using data from the NLSY79, a study that has followed thousands of young American men and women from 1979 through today, Brenner looked at the factors that often prevent low-income students from attending college. Economists debate whether it is cost or ability that is preventing these students from continuing their education. Brenner determined that while cost is an obstacle for some, there is another group of students for whom skill is the biggest deterrent. Brenner notes that these findings could have significant policy implications for efforts to target each group differently, although he adds that further research is needed to determine the best way to do this.
While Brenner has been a teaching assistant at Brown for the last five years, his entrance into the classroom this fall marks his first full-time teaching position. He is one of several additions to the Department of Economics. While he’ll continue to focus his research on the labor markets of Israel and India, much of Brenner’s attention will also be here at Brown, as he leads classes in both econometrics and microeconomics. Brenner said he’s settling into the department, getting to know his new colleagues and discovering commonalities among them, in economics and beyond.
“What I liked about the department is the laid-back environment. Everyone is very accessible and it’s been nice to communicate with colleagues in other areas, whether we want to collaborate on a project or are looking for some statistical advice. Everyone takes questions and works well together. Also the socializing: Many of us come from different countries and we can talk about that. It’s nice; it feels like home now.”