Alumni Profile: Kathryn Edwards

Dr. Kathryn Anne Edwards is an economist at the RAND Corporation and a professor at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. Her research spans diverse areas of public policy, including unemployment insurance; the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education pipeline and labor market; women’s labor supply; the challenges in retirement facing older Americans; and labor market issues for workers without a college degree. She has worked on projects for the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe program and the recovery efforts in Puerto Rico, as well as on research grants funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Aging.

Who did you work closely with at CDE? Do you still collaborate with anyone at the Center?

Jenna Nobles, Marcy Carlson

Were there any special projects, experiences, etc. that you participated in during your graduate training at CDE?

Having an interdisciplinary environment that was tilted away from economists made me a better researcher. My PhD provided excellent and rigorous training in research, but CDE gave me perspective. The professional development aspect of CDE was much appreciated, and it rounded out my preparation to have that extra investment, but I think the experience of understanding my point of view when looking at a problem is invaluable.

Did your training at CDE shape your career/research path?

After CDE, I put the highest value on being in an interdisciplinary environment. My job market paper, my first three publications, and my first NIH grant—all of these were ideas I got from going to seminars outside my department, primarily at CDE as well as at the poverty seminar. I was successful on the job market and had my choice of offers; I picked the one where I would be exposed to the questions, methodology, and findings of other disciplines. CDE had taught me that’s the environment in which I thrive.

What current research project you’re most excited about?

I’m currently working on a project that examines to what extent the minimum wage influences whether a worker holds more than one job or seeks informal, short-term earnings. On the one hand, if wages increase, a worker might not need a second job to support their income. On the other hand, there’s evidence that workers use informal employment to cover acute expenses if they do not have sufficient savings. A wage increase could clearly result in the former, but the latter is less certain.

Do you have any grants you’re working on?

I currently have three primary grants. Two are from the aging institute in NIH and study the income, well-being, and health of older women who experience income shocks. One project is on women whose husbands become disabled and the other is on women who get divorced. The last examines low-wage workers and workers in informal or non-standard work arrangements. Its looks at these workers from the lens of Social Security’s earnings contributions and benefit calculation; the project is funded by the Michigan Retirement and Disability Research Center. Finally, I am about to kick off a small research project on social welfare spending for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and I just wrapped a grant from the National Science Foundation on the earnings and employment of women with STEM PhD’s, and hopefully we will get the follow-on funding to extend the project further.

Recent publications by Dr. Edwards:

Ward, Jason and Kathryn Edwards. 2021. “CPS Nonresponse During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Explanations, Extent, and Effects.” Labour Economics 72 (10).