Mu-Jeung Yang, a first year graduate student in Economics, has been named the 2006 Shapiro Fellow for 2006.
Yang, 24 has lived at the intersection of two diverse cultures and plans to explore the crossroads of economics with education, politics and law. He wants to know how culture influences economic decisions.
In the 1970s, Yang's mother, a nurse, immigrated to Germany, part of a wave of workers from Southeast Asia who arrived to work in the booming health care, coal and steel industries. His brothers, sister and father followed, and the family settled in Germany, where Yang was born. He recalls his father leading dinner table conversations critical of the anomaly of having lived under the dictatorship (in South Korea) under the protection of the United States. “He advocated the possibility of offering one's opinion without restraint.” His parents' generation has ambiguous feelings about the harshness of the dictatorship years, because the quality of life did change when economic success for South Korea arrived after the 1988 Olympics in Seoul and continued into the 1990s as Korea transitioned from dictatorship to democracy.
Yang completed his undergraduate work at the University of Bonn, spent 2004 2005 as a visiting student at Berkeley, and in 2006 has a summer fellowship in the economics department at Seoul National University in South Korea. After taking the opportunity to participate in PhD program at Berkeley, including the first year Econometrics sequence (with Paul Ruud, James Powell and Guido Imbens) and first year courses on Macroeconomics (David Romer and Chad Jones) as well as General Equilibrium (with Robert Anderson) and Contract Theory (Ben Hermalin), Yang said, “I feel more confident than ever that I want to pursue research in Economics.”
“From my year as a visiting student, I knew the faculty I wanted to work with: On questions of growth and development, Chad Jones is one of the most prominent and challenging researchers I know of. At the intersection of Sociology and Economics, in particular the comparison and performance of culturally different economic systems, George A. Akerlof is still one of the most innovative, original and inspiring economists. With respect to Financial Economics, I knew Adam Szeidl from a graduate lecture on Asset Pricing. Some of his work is on how we can motivate empirically successful macro models of asset pricing with microeconomic phenomena.”
It was not only the quality of specific faculty that led Yang to Berkeley but the scope of strengths in the Economics Department that clinched the deal. Yang studies under David Card on labor economics because “one of the most challenging questions in growth is the implication of skill bias in technological progress. Technological innovations like the computer favor high income, highly educated people. As a result, training and education of low skilled workers becomes essential for tackling unemployment and poverty even in the industrialized countries.”