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New Faculty Focus: Jean-François Houde

He returns to the Economics Department, focusing on the detection and measurement of market power.

by Katie Vaughn September 25, 2018

Jean-François Houde

Title: Associate Professor of Economics 

Hometown: Trois-Rivières, Québec, Canada

Educational background: 

I attended college at the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (business economics). I then completed a master in applied economics at HEC-Montréal and a PhD in economics at Queen’s University in Kingston.

Professional background

My first job after graduate school was as an Assistant Professor of Economics at … University of Wisconsin-Madison. I then spent four years as an assistant professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, moved to Cornell in 2016 and finally back to Madison in 2018. Full circle!

How did you get into your field?

In my research, I am interested in the detection and measurement of market power. In have studied a wide range of industries and markets: gasoline, mortgage, banking, e-commerce, electricity generation. Recently I have partnered with a team of development economists to improve the functioning of a satiation market in Dakar, Senegal. NPR’s Planet Money did a very entertaining podcast based on our research: the poop cartel.

I came to “pure” economics research somewhat late, after several hesitations between economics and business strategy. I’ve always been more interested in understanding how markets work, and how economic theory can help make sense of firms’ strategies. The field of Industrial Organization offered the best alternative. Research in I.O. is conducted via almost anthropological analysis of the interplay between market institutions and outcomes, and rely on rigorous statistical methods to explain behavior. In other words, I.O. is the field that puts economic models to work!

What’s one thing you hope students who take a class with you will come away with?

That economics is more than predicting aggregate statistics and the stock market. It is about understanding behavior, and that economic theory can be very useful to make sense of people and firms’ interactions. 

Do you feel your work relates in any way to the Wisconsin Idea? If so, please describe how.

Absolutely. The Wisconsin Idea is about producing teaching and research can have an impact beyond the boundaries of academic circles. In my research I am interested in very applied questions that are directly related to our everyday life. Earlier in my career, I worked on gasoline price movements and collusion, and my research was instrumental in building a class-action law suit in Quebec against oil companies. More recently, I have been working on Amazon’s dominance in the retail marketplace, and developing market-based solution to improve sanitation in Senegal. In my teaching, I am also constantly trying to incorporate new cases and examples in the classroom, in an effort to help students apply their knowledge to real-life situations.

Hobbies/other interests:

I love to cook, bike and hike and read about architecture. Next project: building our new house!