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What led Noemi Peters to a career in Groningen?

Date:17 March 2017
Noemi Peters, Assistant Professor at the Department of Economics, Econometrics and Finance.
Noemi Peters, Assistant Professor at the Department of Economics, Econometrics and Finance.

Noemi Peters joined FEB in the fall of 2016 as Assistant Professor at the Department of Economics, Econometrics & Finance. Her interest in microeconomics and microeconometrics led her to a tenure track position in Groningen.

Could you tell us more about your career so far?

"I started studying economics in Hungary, at the Corvinus University of Budapest, where I obtained my master’s degree and I got very interested in research. So, right after finishing my studies in Hungary, I went to Amsterdam and did a Master of Philosophy in economics at the Tinbergen Institute. I graduated from that program Cum Laude, and became a PhD student at the University of Amsterdam, under the supervision of Hessel Oosterbeek. Towards the end of my PhD, I became a research associate of the University of Bern. I worked for the University of Bern for about one and a half years and then I moved to Groningen."

Why did you choose Groningen?

"Adriaan Soetevent, who is now a Professor of Microeconomics at the RUG, was the Director of Graduate Studies at the Tinbergen Institute when I graduated there. He was also a faculty member at the University of Amsterdam, where I subsequently did my PhD. Thus, I knew him well and I have to say I found his research very inspiring. His move to Groningen raised my interest in the RUG. I saw that both microeconomics and microeconometrics are important research fields there, which are my main fields of interest. In addition, I also knew that Adriaan wants to strengthen experimental economics at the RUG, which is one of the areas that I am focusing on. When I saw that a position had opened, I applied. In addition to these professional reasons, I had some personal ones as well. I like the Netherlands and the general attitude of the Dutch people, so I was happy to find a position here. Also, my son was born in Amsterdam during my PhD, he is fluent in Dutch so I thought that he would adjust easily to a move to Groningen."

Which issues are dealt with in your research, and what is their societal relevance?

"Most of my projects examine factors that could affect 'individuals’ educational and labour market choices and outcomes. One of my aims is to get a better understanding of the role of family background. Another question that I find particularly interesting is why people with the same cognitive skills make different study choices. It is clear that cognitive measures such as grades are important predictors, for example, those with worse math grades typically choose less math-intensive study fields. However, grades cannot explain everything.
For example, if we take only students who have very good math grades, we still see a lot of differences in their choices; many of these students choose specialisations that contain hardly any math. Focusing only on ability measures such as grades will leave a large part of the variation unexplained. I mentioned math intensity here just to give an example; the phenomenon is actually more general, it holds for many other aspects of study choices as well.
I believe that incorporating behavioural insights, noncognitive skills and preferences could help us understand a substantial part of the unexplained variation in study choices. For example, I would like to know the role of competitiveness, time preferences and locus of control. I am also very interested in the potential that these factors have in explaining gender differences in study and career choices.
As for the societal relevance, I think it is clear that a better understanding of educational and career choices means that we will know more about the human capital accumulation process, which is an important factor in the growth of countries. To stay at the example of math-intensive specialisations: such specialisations are required for many so-called STEM jobs, that is, for jobs in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. The shortage of STEM professionals is a recurring theme in policy discussions, and having qualified people in these fields is often viewed as a key to innovation and economic progress."

What can we expect of you in the future?

"I am currently preparing for a presentation that I will give in January, at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the American Economic Association/Allied Social Sciences Associations. This will be on a research project that focuses on the math dimension that I mentioned above. Together with my coauthors, Thomas Buser and Stefan Wolter, we examine the specialisation choices of Swiss Baccalaureate school (high school) students. We link an experimentally elicited measure of competitiveness to these choices, and find that it predicts whether students specialise in math. We also show that there are gender differences in these choices, that is, boys are more likely to specialise in math than girls. Boys are also more likely to compete and this gender difference in competitiveness could partially explain why girls are less likely to choose a math-intensive specialisation. Among my plans is to follow up on this and examine whether similar patterns hold for other students and other types of study choices. I would also like to examine the origins of competitiveness and the gender gap therein. In addition, my future plans include research on other kind of individual outcomes, in particular consumer and organisational behaviour. In terms of methodology, my plan is to strengthen the presence of experimental economics at the RUG."

Profile page Noemi Peter
Key publication

Buser, T. & N. Peter (2012), Multitasking. Experimental Economics, 15(4), pp. 641-655.