Susanne Schennach


Susanne Schennach

Professor of Economics

Economists rely on numbers — many of them very large numbers — to describe human activity. While numbers are exact, data sets may incorporate a variety of errors. Susanne Schennach works on ways to identify and control for measurement error, including “unobservables.”

Specializing in statistics for economic sciences, Susanne Schennach is perhaps best known for her work in measurement error, which launched her reputation as a world leader in mathematical econometrics.

“The data sets that economists typically use contain some kind of measurement errors, such as in income, expenditures, or skills. So, if you were to ignore the fact that there are errors in the data you observe, you may reach biased conclusions,” Schennach said. “My work basically takes into account that we don’t always observe the exact, precise data that we would like to observe, but mis-measured versions of that.”

Her interest in measurement error grew out of an applied economics research project on U.S. coal productivity that she worked on as a research assistant and coauthor during her doctoral program. Schennach realized that there was clearly measurement error in their data set, and started reading the corresponding theoretical econometrics literature.

“I realized that very little had been done for the type of models we were looking at and that’s what got me interested in the area — I thought the questions in the field were wide open. It was coming from an applied perspective, figuring out what we actually need to do to answer economic questions,” she recalled.

Schennach has recently expanded her research to other “unobservables,” such as preferences and how to deal with them in a very general framework via simulations.

A native of Innsbruck, Austria, Schennach attended Brandeis University as an undergraduate, majoring in economics and French, and minoring in math and Spanish. She received a Ph.D. in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2000 and immediately began teaching in the Department of Economics at the University of Chicago. She was named a full professor there just seven years later at the age of 32.

Schennach’s vitae is distinguished, including papers in prestigious outlets, such as Econometrica, Biometrika, and the Annals of Statistics. Schennach also serves as associate editor of both Econometrica and Econometric Theory. Since 2006, she has been an international fellow at the Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice in London, an organization which brings together some of the top global researchers in econometrics. She has also been funded by the National Science Foundation since 2002 for research on both measurement error and developing better estimators on a variety of projects.

Schennach says it’s an exciting time to be in Brown’s Department of Economics, specifically within econometrics, and looks forward to the productive teaching and research environment. Schennach will teach econometrics at both the undergrad and graduate level when she begins in January 2012.