Professor Sharpens Statistical Tools Used in Economics Research
Aug. 8, 2013
Dr. Bhargab Chattopadhyay
Policymakers rely on a wide range of economic data as they consider actions that affect local, regional and national economic conditions.
Analyzing the massive quantities of data and coming up with usable information is a task that often falls on the shoulders of mathematicians and statisticians. At The University of Texas at Dallas, assistant professor of statistics and recent faculty hire Dr. Bhargab Chattopadhyay conducts research at this intersection between mathematics and economics, aiming to improve the tools that help policymakers understand trends and inform economic policies.
Chattopadhyay joined the UT Dallas faculty in the Department of Mathematical Sciences last fall after earning his PhD from the University of Connecticut. His current research focuses on applying statistics to such issues as income and education inequalities.
For example, one of the standard tools the World Bank and other agencies use to measure income distribution among a given country’s residents is called the Gini index. The index is a number between zero and 100 that is calculated by incorporating income data into mathematical formulas. At the extremes, a Gini index of zero for a country would mean that all individuals within that country have the same income, while a Gini index of 100 would indicate that one individual has all income and everyone else has zero income. In practical terms, each country’s Gini index falls somewhere in between.
Dr. Bhargab Chattopadhyay
TITLE: Assistant professor of statistics, Department of Mathematical Sciences
RESEARCH INTERESTS: Nonparametric methods, U-statistics, sequential analysis, spatial statistics, econometrics
PREVIOUS INSTITUTION: University of Connecticut
“Analysts and policymakers use the index to better understand the underpinnings of inequality and poverty,” Chattopadhyay said. “This index helps different countries devise economic policies, but the computation of the index requires data collected from the population.”
Chattopadhyay is working on statistical methods that he said could improve the accuracy of Gini index estimates and reduce the time and cost involved in gathering data. One method, called sequential analysis, involves using sample sizes that are not fixed in advance and evaluating data as they are collected.
“By incorporating my knowledge of sequential analysis into the field of economics, I’m hoping to develop a procedure for producing an inequality index with a given level of accuracy at minimal cost,” he said. In addition to economics, tools like the Gini index have other applications, such as analyzing education inequalities, Chattopadhyay said.
Chattopadhyay, a native of India, earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Calcutta. His post at UT Dallas is his first faculty appointment. In addition to his research, he teaches classes on statistics for life sciences, statistical decision making and nonparametric sequential analysis.
“While I was finishing my PhD, I decided that I wanted to work at a research university,” Chattopadhyay said. “I was acquainted with some of the UT Dallas faculty in statistics, who are very well known internationally. I had read some of their books and journal articles while I was doing my master’s degree in India.
“So when I came here to interview for a faculty position and met these people, it was like a dream come true for me.”