Aria Golestani

Name: Aria Golestani
Year, program: 6th year economics Ph.D. student
Department: Economics
Hometown: Tehran, Iran
Previous educational institutions: M.A., Cal State LA (2015); B.A in economics, University of Tehran (2011)

What made you decide to pursue your current field of study – and why at UCI?

I work in the fields of crime and public economics, with a particular focus on gendered criminal justice and racial bias in policing. I am currently studying the consequences of nuisance property ordinances on crime reporting and domestic violence, the racial bias in policing and prosecuting drug offenses and sex work, and how specialization in domestic violence court impacts decision-making and re-victimization. I have been fortunate that in my first year at UCI, the econ department (joint with the criminology department) hired a leading scholar in field of economics of crime. Shortly after, another amazing researcher in this field joined our department, and under their guidance I was able to set up my research to work on understudied topics. I am also thankful to UCI’s criminology department for providing an inviting and welcoming environment for graduate students in other fields. 

Several reasons led me to choose UC Irvine’s Department of Economics. First, my master’s thesis adviser at Cal State LA -- who did his Ph.D. at UCI and led me to pursue doctoral research in economics-- specifically recommended UCI. Second, I appreciated that UCI’s econ program was generous in providing guaranteed funding and subsidized graduate housing and was the quickest in sending out acceptance letters. Finally, when I was deciding on which school to attend, the director of graduate admissions went out of his way to recruit me. 

What implications does your research have for the general community?

The objective of my research is to shed light on the issues related to gendered criminal justice and racial bias in policing. To this aim, I employ quasi-experimental methods to uncover the causal links and policy levers relevant to public and individual welfare. In my job market paper, I evaluate the consequences of a policy that deputizes landlords to internalize public safety externalities (nuisance property ordinances) and consider what happens to domestic assaults when these ordinances are passed. I find that this policy reduces the rate at which domestic assault is reported to the police. 

My findings are relevant to concerns raised by legal scholars that third- party policing, specifically nuisance ordinances, violates the First Amendment right to petition the government, due process guarantees, and federal and state prohibitions against housing discrimination. They are also relevant to the recent debate on the negative impact of eviction and the necessity of altering policies surrounding eviction, rent, and other aspects of tenant-landlord relations. In some cases, landlords will be able to abate crime more efficiently than police. But my paper suggests policymakers motivated to end domestic violence must reevaluate these ordinances' welfare benefit, especially when it comes to domestic violence where the cost of reporting is high and the rate of reporting is already low.

Who were your faculty mentors while here, and what impact have they had on your graduate career?

I would like to thank my committee members for their invaluable guidance: Emily Owens, professor, criminology, law & society, who inspired my interest in economics of crime through her works; Damon Clark, associate professor, economics, for instilling in me the importance of attention to detail necessary to conduct careful research; Matthew Freedman, professor, economics, for helping me navigate the numerous challenges throughout writing this dissertation; and Kerri Raissian, associate professor, public policy, University of Connecticut, for providing me with the opportunity to engage in research on domestic violence courts.

I am also grateful to faculty members and mentors outside of my committee who at various points helped me develop as a researcher. I am especially grateful to Bocar Ba, assistant professor, economics, Duke, for his compassionate mentorship and excellent advising when I needed it the most.

Are there any unique circumstances that have had an impact or played a major role in where and who you are today?

Being an international student, a non-native speaker of English, and a person who stutters, I have experienced first-hand some of the challenges that underrepresented groups can encounter in academia. Being an academic with a speech disability is challenging, but I have made an effort to be proactive, and I am committed to helping others in this journey. 

One of the highlights of my graduate career has been co-organizing a session at the American Economic Association annual meeting, “Economists Who Stutter,” for those who stutter and others interested in learning more about stuttering. In addition, I have co-organized sessions at various conferences bringing together a diverse group of junior researchers from underrepresented minorities. Finally, in the midst of the pandemic, realizing that networking opportunities for junior scholars had become limited, I co-organized online seminars to ensure graduate scholars had the opportunity to get feedback from established researchers in the field. There is still a lot to be done, and I am looking forward to showing my commitment to DEI by serving in similar capacities at my next academic posting.

What grants and/or awards have you received while in pursuit of your graduate degree?

In addition to funding provided by the department and the School of Social Sciences, I would like to thank the financial support from California Policy Lab Graduate Fellowships (2021), All-California Labor Economics Conference (Outstanding Poster Award, 2021), Graduate Division Completion Fellowship, UC Irvine (2021-2022), UCI Inclusive Excellence Ambassador Fellowship (2020-2021), Christian Werner Fellowship, School of Social Sciences (2021), and The Initiative to End Family Violence (IEFV) Graduate Fellowship (2018).

What do you plan to do after finishing your graduate degree?

I plan to graduate this summer and start as a postdoctoral research fellow at Northeastern University.

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