A New Professor’s Inclusive Approach to Economics

Felix Rioja, Tulane University

How can better roads reduce cycles of poverty? Can greater attention to electrical grids encourage economic growth in a developing country? These questions and connections are what drive associate professor in the Department of Economics Felix Rioja’s research. Rioja, who joined the School of Liberal Arts this fall as the new Scott and Marjorie Cowen Endowed Chair in Latin American Social Sciences, specializes in international macroeconomics, economic growth, and financial economics, specifically looking at how public infrastructure—bridges, water systems, roads, and electrical networks—impacts economic growth, and vice versa, particularly in developing countries.

“Felix is a well-recognized researcher who has recently been working on how infrastructure investments affect the distribution of wealth, income, and welfare in Latin American countries like Mexico, Paraguay, and Brazil,” Professor of Economics and Department Chair James Alm commented. “We in the Department are absolutely thrilled with Felix’s arrival at Tulane.”

This semester, Rioja will be offering classes on world economics and the principles of macroeconomics. While students will use textbooks and special readings as a foundation of their classes, Rioja will also encourage students to engage with podcasts, such as NPR’s “Planet Money,” that offer personal perspectives and alternative applications on the topics discussed in class.

Excited to join an outstanding team at Tulane, Rioja is also eager to explore these links between infrastructure and the economy in New Orleans with his students. Additionally, he plans to work closely with Tulane’s Roger Thayer Stone Center for Latin American Studies to develop a course on Latin American economics that will appeal to a broad range of disciplines.

As Rioja explains, “economics is all about applications, and trying to understand or solve issues you see out there.” “Economics doesn’t exist in a vacuum—it is very much related to psychology, history, sociology, political science, philosophy, and ethics. All of these are essential parts of economics, and having a liberal arts background supplies you with an expansive foundation to prepare you for future roles in the field ranging from public policy, to the private sector, and nongovernmental organizations.”