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Prof. Habibi recalls exciting, fulfilling experiences in economics

By Albert Reiss

Section: Features

March 4, 2016

Prof. Nader Habibi (ECON) is a professor in the Economics department at Brandeis. Prof. Habibi’s scholarship focuses on the Middle East region, where he investigates the economies of countries in the geographic area. In addition to being a member of the department of Economics, Prof. Habibi is affiliated with the Crown Center for Middle East Studies.

Initially, Prof. Habibi started his academic life planning to double major in mathematics and computer science at Eastern Washington University. However, a riveting introductory microeconomics course sparked Prof. Habibi’s interest in economics. “During the second semester of my freshman year I took an introductory microeconomics class as an elective course. I was so attracted to the topics and methods of analysis in this class that I decided to take an introductory macroeconomics class the next semester. By the time I finished that class I was hooked on economics and decided to double major in Economics and Mathematics,” said Habibi. Eventually, this would lead Habibi to earn a Ph.D. in Economics from Michigan State University.

Professor Habibi came to Brandeis initially from a background as the director of economic forecasting and risk-analysis for the Middle East region at a consulting firm near Philadelphia. What drew Habibi to Brandeis was the opportunity to work as an “applied economist with a research concentration in the economies of Middle Eastern countries.” Unlike his previous career choice, Prof. Habibi was now in a strictly academic position.

Currently, Prof. Habibi is studying how university graduates from the Middle East are faring in the labor market. Specifically, Habibi is researching a condition known as ‘over-education,’ where there is a mismatch between job applicant skills and skills required for jobs. According to Habibi, “Employment statistics show that in recent years the unemployment rate among university graduates has increased and in some countries it is higher than the rate of unemployment for high school graduates.” By studying this phenomena, Habibi hopes to make policy recommendation that will bring more stability to the “supply and demand for university graduates.” Prof. Habibi is also collaborating with colleagues from Egypt, Turkey and Iran to help find solutions to this modern economic dilemma.

In addition to studying over-education in the Middle East, Prof. Habibi has also studied other issues related to the Middle East. In 2011, he wrote about the economic consequences of the Arab Spring. Additionally, Habibi has written extensively on the economic effects of sanctions imposed on Iran by the United States.

Occasionally, Prof. Habibi will collaborate with other faculty members from the Brandeis community. Habibi noted that his affiliation with the Crown Center—with faculty from disciplines such as political science, economics, history and anthropology—which affords him the benefit of working with colleagues from various disciplines. An example of this was in 2010 when he wrote a paper on Turkish trade relations with the Arab world with a visiting professor.

Currently, Prof. Habibi teaches Intermediate Economics and Economics of the Middle East. When asked which course he prefers to teach, Habibi commented, “I enjoy teaching both of them but if I have to select one I would select the Economics of the Middle East because my research activities as an economist are focused on the economic conditions of the Middle East region.”

When asked about the most rewarding part about being an economist, Habibi replied, “I enjoy the challenge of dealing with current events and trying to understand the interaction of political, social and economic institutions in a country that I am studying. It is impossible to predict the course of economic developments in a country without understanding these interdependencies. I often have to consult with my colleagues who are studying the same country as a political scientist or sociologist.”

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