COVID-19: Economist who is joining University helps launch real-time U.S. economy tracker

Michael Stepner, a public economist studying the relationship between health and economic inequality, will join U of T’s department of economics next year (photo courtesy of Michael Stepner)

With the help of colleagues at Harvard University and Brown University, Michael Stepner, an economist who is joining the University of Toronto as a faculty member, has launched a real-time tracker of the U.S. economy that’s designed to give policy-makers up-to-date data as they navigate the global pandemic.

The Economic Tracker launched recently by Opportunity Insights, a research centre based at Harvard, presents data on the latest economic trends alongside independent academic analysis, providing a well-informed live picture of the rapidly shifting American economy.

It’s designed to help policy-makers, non-profits and philanthropists better understand the dimensions of the COVID-19-induced economic downturn and identify targeted, effective recovery efforts.

“The Economic Tracker is an unprecedented collaboration between private sector businesses and academics, opening the insights that businesses are using daily to the public and gathering them in one place so that everyone can assess the state of the recovery,” says Stepner, a public economist studying the relationship between health and economic inequality, with a focus on how public policy can improve the health and financial security of low-income populations.

Stepner will join the department of economics in U of T’s Faculty of Arts & Science as an assistant professor next year.

The tracker was unveiled as the world responds to the pandemic – borders are closing, schools and workplaces are shutting down, large gatherings are a thing of the past – and global economic activity slows dramatically as a result. With typical economic indicators lagging weeks behind the current day’s economic activity, the real-time tracker aims to provide policy-makers require up-to-date information to make decisions amid a rapidly-changing crisis.

“We are very excited to welcome Michael to the department of economics”, says Ettore Damiano, chair of the department. “We are pleased to have a researcher with his energy, enthusiasm and domain expertise join our group of stellar scholars covering a wide range fields, including theory, applied data analysis and econometric methodology.”

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