UC Merced economics professor Todd Neumann has many things he wants his students to know, but first on his list is the difference between correlation and causality.
“Just because two things are correlated, or often happen together, does not mean one causes the other,” said Neumann, 33.
For example, although he grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of a steel worker, it was traveling to Africa and Europe that interested him in the retail industry, and ultimately, in the automobile’s role.
“I got to thinking how different retailing was in each place compared with the U.S.,” he said. “Then I started to look at what retailing looked like in the United States 70-80 years ago and found it was incredibly different from today’s American retailing. I found the spread of the automobile played a big role.”
He has also published research papers on Hispanic labor markets.
“My interest in this topic comes from an experience in the study of labor market training programs and how they may or may not help raise one’s earnings,” he said.
On the other hand, his arrival in the Central Valley did correlate with the opening of the UC Merced campus and a chance to help shape the direction of a new research university.
Neumann, who received a B.S. and an M.A. from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, before completing his Ph.D. at the University of Arizona in 2006, may also have to admit there is some causality between his hobbies - biking in the summer and skiing in the winter - and the selection of UC Merced.
Neumann is married and also enjoys cooking in his spare time. And while he is serious about his teaching, he definitely has a sense of humor.
He once told his macroeconomics class at the University of Arizona: “I was going through the homework and saw a name that wasn’t on my list as registered for the class, so I added him to my grade book. But later I noticed that the name was ‘Due Wednesday.’ So if you are ‘Due Wednesday,’ make sure to see me after class.”