A self-described “labor economist,” Theresa Devine’s interest in the subject has taken many forms in the years since it was first sparked by her Ph.D. dissertation at Cornell University. It was the mid-80s, a time, not unlike today, when the labor market was in flux, and large numbers of people were unemployed and looking for work. Devine jumped at the potential research opportunity, crafting a paper that looked at what it takes for people to make the transition from unemployment to employment.
That paper led to an interest in women in the labor market, a topic she studied independently at first — analyzing self-employment data for 1975 to 1990 and finding that a growing share of employed women were choosing self-employment — and later as a principal analyst in the Congressional Budget Office in Washington D.C. Part of her role in that position was to measure the potential impact on women of proposed Social Security reforms.
Following that, Devine took a position in the office of New York City’s Public Advocate Mark Green, who was gearing up for a run at the mayor’s office. Taking her research experience on the road, she traveled the five boroughs soliciting proposals for affordable housing plans, work she describes as a “totally different experience” from the desk jobs she had previously had. By 9-11, Devine realized that politics wasn’t for her and moved to the city’s Independent Budget Office, where she analyzed budget proposals and monitored the city’s labor market.
Sprinkled amidst her work were various stints in academia, including at Penn State, New York University, Hunter College/CUNY, the University of Michigan, and the University of Chicago. After almost nine years working in the Independent Budget Office, Devine felt a longing to return to the classroom. Now, several months later, she finds herself at Brown. She says the University is the perfect place for her to relaunch her academic career: “It’s an opportunity for me to teach really smart students about something I love.”
Devine will be teaching two classes in the fall (statistics and an undergraduate seminar in social welfare policy) and three in the spring (a masters’ in public policy basic economics course and seminars on the economics of the labor market and urban economic policy). She also plans on delving into some research on the Rhode Island labor market, a new subject for her that she’s confident will provide plenty of material.
Devine’s free time will be spent helping her seven-year-old daughter Lucy, adopted from China in 2005, adjust to a more suburban life in their new home in Barrington. “She’s not really sure what to do with the backyard yet,” Devine said with a laugh.
Devine confesses to having a bit of adjusting to do herself. She’s relearning how to drive after 11 years away from the wheel, and getting used to cooking more meals at home.
Still, it’s getting back to the academic life that Devine is most excited about. She says she’s thrilled that the focus of her lectureship is on teaching and is eager to impart the wisdom she’s gained from years of experience in the field to her students: “At this point in my career I think I have a lot to bring to the classroom.”