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As part of the economics and business department’s New Economic Research Development Series (NERDS), Susan Averett, professor of economics and business, and David Stifel, assistant professor of economics and business, will present “Gray Matter with a Side of Fries: The Economic Determinants and Cognitive Effects of Childhood Malnutrition in the United States” 3 p.m. Friday in Simon Center room 125.

Their research asserts that the United States is facing a two-pronged battle against child malnutrition: While child obesity has increased dramatically over the past two decades, the percentage of underweight children remains very high. Both forms of malnutrition create well-known public health problems, but less is known about how they affect the cognitive functioning and/or behavior of elementary school-age children.

Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, Averett and Stifel are investigating potential consequences of childhood malnutrition.

The aim is to inform policymakers about social, private, and healthcare costs that will manifest in the future if malnourished children are less likely to be productive members of society. The results of the study can also influence the thinking of parents as they realize that in addition to healthcare issues, their children’s future earning potential may be threatened by their current nutritional status.

NERDS allows the Department of Economics and Business and colleagues at other institutions to demonstrate how cutting-edge research is done.

“I hope [students] will see that economic theory and econometrics can be used to tackle questions many people might not think of as economic questions, ” says Stifel. “After all, what do child malnutrition and cognitive development have to do with economics? After seeing the presentation, perhaps the students will have a better understanding of this. I also hope they come to appreciate how important it is to get your econometrics/statistics right when doing applied work.”

Subsequent seminars include “The Impact of Athletic Recruiting and Athletes at Liberal Art Colleges: Case Study,” by Heather O’Neil, professor of economics and business at Ursinus College (date to be determined), and “Macroeconomic Volatility and the Equity Premium,” by Senior Economist Keith Sill of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, Friday, April 14. Both lectures will be held at 3 p.m. in Simon Center room 125.

Before joining the Lafayette faculty, Stifel was research associate in the Food and Nutrition Policy program at Cornell University and taught several courses there. He holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in economics from Cornell, an M.A. in international relations from Johns Hopkins University’s Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, and a B.A. in Asian Studies from Colgate University.

Averett has been honored with nine awards for her teaching excellence; she was the inaugural recipient of the James E. Lennertz Prize for Exceptional Teaching and Mentoring. She is coauthor of the textbook Women and the Economy: Family, Work, and Pay, author or coauthor of 19 journal articles, and has made more than 25 conference presentations. She is a member of American Economic Association, Population Association of America, and Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession. She earned her doctorate in economics from University of Colorado.

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