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Howard Bodenhorn, professor of economics and business, will speak on “The Economic Consequences of Colorism and Complexion Homogamy in the Black Community” 3 p.m. Friday in Simon Center room 125.

Refreshments will be served following the seminar.

A research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, Bodenhorn’s upcoming presentations of this paper include talks at Binghamton University next month and Yale University in November.

“Whether measured by social rank, occupational status or educational level, newlyweds tend to resemble one another,” he explains. “The pattern of like marrying like, which anthropologists label status homogamy, is observed across time and place, and is true among both commoners and nobility. This paper investigates complexion homogamy (light marries light and dark marries dark) in the African-American community. The evidence reveals a marked pattern of complexion homogamy dating back to the mid-nineteenth century. The evidence also reveals that the convention of complexion homogamy had meaningful economic ramifications. Complexion homogamous marriages among light-complected blacks resulted in households with higher literacy rates, higher occupational status, and greater household wealth.”

Since this summer, Bodenhorn has involved economics and business major Martha Osier ’06 (Nairobi, Kenya) in his research on the economic condition of African-Americans living in the shadow of slavery. Collaborating through Lafayette’s EXCEL Scholars program, in which students assist faculty with research while earning a stipend, they are using federal censuses of 1850 and 1860 to track free blacks over the intervening decade.

“Few such longitudinal studies exist, mostly due to the difficulty of locating people in censuses a decade apart,” says Bodenhorn. “However, genealogists have scanned the censuses onto disk and made them searchable. These genealogical resources [are being] used to track individuals between censuses to determine their geographic and economic mobility.”

Bodenhorn received grants from the National Science Foundation and Earhart Foundation for the overall research project, which will result in a book. He launched preliminary work with the assistance of Shivani Malhotra ’03of Bangalore, India, who went on to graduate summa cum laude with honors in economics and business and membership in the Phi Beta Kappa and Omicron Delta Epsilon (economics) honor societies. Like Osier, she collaborated with Bodenhorn through Lafayette’s EXCEL Scholars program, which has helped to make Lafayette a national leader in undergraduate research. Many of the more than 160 students who participate in EXCEL each year share their research through academic journal articles and/or conference presentations.

He conducted EXCEL research with Trustee Scholarship recipient and Phi Beta Kappa member Veronica Hart ’05 (Sewanee, Tenn.), a double major in economics & business and Spanish, on how race affected crime and punishment in the 1800s. He presented the results of their collaboration at a faculty seminar at Saint Lawrence University last fall and their coauthored article will be published by NBER. Hart shared their results at the Social Research/Social Justice Conference hosted by Muhlenberg College in March.

In a different research area, Bodenhorn is conducting EXCEL Scholars research with economics and business major Denitsa Karadzhova ’07 (Stara Zagora, Bulgaria) on the employment conditions and wages of industrial workers in Connecticut in the early 20th century, who toiled in an era before unemployment insurance. They are using information gathered from surveys of manufacturing workers in 1900-05.

“We are investigating whether workers that faced a higher risk of unemployment (such as construction workers) received a wage premium when they did work large enough to offset the lost wages due to irregular employment,” says Bodenhorn.

A member of the Lafayette faculty since 1993, Bodenhorn has mentored several outstanding seniors writing in-depth theses to earn departmental honors at graduation. One thesis earned the Cliometric Society’s annual award for best undergraduate essay in economic history. Another was nominated for the same prize and yet another was published in revised form in Stats: The Magazine for Students of Statistics.

Bodenhorn mentored mathematics-economics major Justas Staisiunas ’04 (Panevezys, Lithuania) in an independent research project on capital flows to Eastern Europe, which the student presented at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research. Bodenhorn, Staisiunas, and Susan Averett, professor and head of economics and business, co-authored a paper that is under review for publication by Economic Inquiry, one of the leading journals in economics.

Bodenhorn is the author of State Banking in Early America: A New Economic History, which was nominated by Oxford University Press for the prestigious Alice Hanson Jones Prize, awarded every other year by the Economic History Association for the outstanding book in North American history.

In nominating, Oxford University Press states, “We consider this book an important contribution to the broad area of financial and economic history because of the lessons it underscores that so clearly emerge from that history. The book succeeds as a studious investigation into the fundamentals of a structure which nourished the spirit of risk and experimentation that so significantly influenced America’s financial institutions.”

The book also has been praised in several major reviews.

In its Business History Review publication, Harvard Business School states, “Professor Bodenhorn has provided students of American business history with a thoughtful, well-written account of the role of state-chartered commercial banks in furthering the material progress of antebellum America.”

The Journal of Interdisciplinary History, published by The MIT Press, calls Bodenhorn “one of the leading practitioners of the ‘new financial history’” in its review. ”He possesses the rare ability not only to explain complicated economic ideas in straightforward prose but also to apply the models in insightful ways to historical settingsOverall, State Banking succeeds admirably. Financial historians at the front lines may quibble at some of Bodenhorn’s conclusions. For readers whose training is not in financial history (such as myself), the book is a superb resource.”

A review in the on-line Economic History Services by Peter L. Rousseau, associate professor of economics at Vanderbilt University, states, “By 1825 [the United States] had a financial system that was world-class. It is difficult to make the case that state banks, or any one component of the system, was the prime mover — all were crucial. Bodenhorn’s book aptly fills in the details of the emergence and meteoric growth of one of these components, and describes how lessons learned in the period of early state banking have gone on to shape the institutional forms that remain with us today.”

The book is the second major work on banking in early America by Bodenhorn, an expert in American economic and financial history, law, economics, and industrial organization. He wrote A History of Banking in Antebellum America: Financial Markets and Economic Development in an Age of Nation Building, published in 2000 by Cambridge University Press. That volume, for which he conducted research under a major grant from the John M. Olin Foundation, was hailed by the field’s leading scholarly journals, including The Journal of the Early Republic, The Journal of Economic Literature, and Scandinavian Economic History Review. The book also received favorable reviews in The Review of Austrian Economics, Business History, The Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Journal of American History, and American Historical Review, among others.

An editorial board member of the journals Explorations in Economic History and Financial History Review, Bodenhorn has published more than 30 papers in peer-reviewed academic journals and given many presentations at academic conferences and seminars.

He has been a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) since 2001 and is author of six NBER working papers. More than a third of Nobel laureates in economics, and several current and past members of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors, are current or past NBER associates. About 600 NBER associates are chosen from the 10,000 or more academic economists in the U.S. Economists are nominated by their peers and appointed to NBER positions because their research is innovative and they have made significant contributions to the economics literature and to the understanding of economic phenomena. While NBER is committed to nonpartisan research, much of its work has direct policy implications, and the NBER working paper series has as much influence on academic research as any of the major economics journals.

In 1999 Bodenhorn received the Otto Eckstein Prize for best article in Eastern Economic Journal. He was the 1993 recipient of the Arthur H. Cole Award for best article in Journal of Economic History. Last year, he received the Lafayette Student Government’s Superior Teaching Award, and in 1988, he won an award from Rutgers University for teaching excellence.

He holds doctoral and master’s degrees in economics from Rutgers University and a bachelor’s degree from Virginia Tech.

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