Megan Regan

Assistant Professor of Economics On leave for 2018-19

Dr. Megan Regan is from Hilton Head, SC. She has chosen to teach at Salem because of the many amazing and inspiring students, the quality and diversity of faculty, and the mission of the College. She believes that a women’s college allows for an empowering and transformational educational experience. It opens up numerous leadership opportunities and it has created an exceptional legacy of producing female leaders across many disciplines.

Before coming to Salem she had ten years of experience working with small businesses and social entrepreneurship. She ran a small local business consultancy and served as the director for a business alliance. Internationally, she has worked directly with small and large businesses and she has also worked to secure grant funding, coordinate micro-financing, and teach business skills to entrepreneurs in rural settings such as Gujarat, India, and Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua.  

She believes that it is important for everyone to have a basic understanding of economics and students who choose to major in economics will gain professional development and skills that are transferable to any discipline and applicable in their personal life. Students will receive excellent preparation for many graduate programs in and out of business.  

Dr. Regan’s research focuses on questions regarding the role of idiosyncratic versus aggregate risk in poverty and the role of self-insurance in incomplete markets. To address these questions, I have used primarily development microeconometric and spatial statistics methods.

Income Inequality & Poverty

I am currently creating a multi-layer poverty map using US Census and other datum for Forsyth County. While national and state-level poverty maps exist, a detailed-county level poverty map does not exist for Forsyth County. This map will provide important information for researchers, policy makers and community constituents towards a better understanding of Forsyth county’s poverty profile and appropriate policy and planning responses. As part of this project, we used US Census data to compute relative and absolute poverty measures using the Foster-Greer-Thorbecke class of decomposable poverty measures. This will allow a more dynamic view of Forsyth County’s poverty profile, rather than the current static headcount measure (number of persons in poverty), in that the depth of poverty (how far from the poverty line) will be modeled. Forsyth County, North Carolina, ranks in the bottom 10% of counties nationally for income equality, while also being one of five counties in the state to have above average income, implying a very unequal distribution of income. Forsyth County has the highest rate of concentrated poverty (13.56%) of all the urban counties in North Carolina, and this rate exceeds the state average. Additionally, 17% of children under the age of 18 in Forsyth County live in a concentrated poverty area (US Census Data, 2014). Children who grow up in poverty-stricken neighborhoods are much more likely to be in poverty as adults.

As interdisciplinary research, this project melds Social Disorganization Theory (Shaw and McKay) with Spatial Econometrics (Anselin) through the theoretical lens of structural determinants of poverty (present in both rural sociology and development economics). Our spatial analysis of poverty, identifying spatial correlates and dependencies, will yield a better understanding of the nuances of poverty in Forsyth County. This study contributes to the broader literature regarding structural determinants and spatial clustering of poverty.

Risk & Insurance

To understand the role that risk plays in many households, I used a decomposable risk model (Ligon & Schechter) to separate individual versus aggregate risk to natural disasters and used a consumption-based poverty measure. Using a decade of household surveys in Indonesia, my research found that self-insurance mechanisms – such as owning land, animals, and gold – were more important in households remaining out of poverty during repeated natural disasters as compared to aggregate risk pooling. By using a consumption-based measure of poverty, rather than income based, this research better reflects the local realities of Indonesian households, which garner consumption outside of the formal market through own-production and informal markets. Outcomes of this research further support the role of the individual household, rather than formal aggregate insurance, in the presence of frequent economic shocks.

Risk & Institutions

Natural Disasters and Institutional Strength: A Longitudinal Analysis of the Small Island Developing States in the Caribbean Basin estimates a fixed-effect negative binomial model for a panel of 13 countries from 1970-2000.  The findings reveal subtleties in the relationship between the income and disaster losses and uphold previous findings that while the wealthier suffer greater absolute economic losses from natural disasters, the poor lose a greater percentage of their resources.  We find that institutional strength – not the strength of the event – determines a country’s vulnerability to disasters. This research followed three years of working for the Florida Public Service Commission, via PURC, as a research coordinator for a consortium of utility providers seeking a better understanding of determinants of infrastructure failure, outage time, and disaster recovery.

Research with Students

An important part of my research agenda is training students to be researchers. While I am open to topics of the student’s preference, the research process must include data collection and econometric model estimation. This offers a learning opportunity for me through the creative lens of student topic choices, and challenges students to present in various professional settings, such as conferences. Students interested in economics are encouraged to talk with Dr. Regan about their research interests. Current student research projects include labor market impacts of increased use of robots, equity-based poverty alleviation strategies, and the impact of credit unions on communities with limited access to capital markets. Dr. Regan has worked with students to secure Salem and state-based research grants.

A Community-Based Approach

From the rural fields of Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua to the south side of Highway 52 in Forsyth County, the heart of my research is on improving local communities in their allocation of resources and pro-market reforms. In Nicaragua, I consulted a group of women business owners and assisted them in securing and managing microfinance – and engaged students in the research. In Florida, I worked with the State of Florida and utility providers to better understand their infrastructure investments and decision-making framework through cost modeling simulations, improved data collection methods, and research collaborations with competitors in adjacent markets. In Forsyth County, I have been researching aspects of inefficient income allocations since 2013. The first phase of this research examined the local labor market’s competitiveness and pricing through qualitative data collected from small business owners; next we conducted an empirical analysis of efficiency wage ordinances in North Carolina, leading to the current phase – the poverty map of Forsyth County, expected completion is August 2017.  My research has two synchronized goals, to advance the field of economics concurrent with improving my local community. 

Favorite Books:

How to be Human….Though an Economist by Deirdre McCloskey 

Incorporating Women: A History of Women and Business in the United States by Angel Kwolek-Folland

Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution by Paul Hawken and Lovins

The Idea of Justice by Amartya Sen

Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty by Ester Duflo and Abhijit Banjeree 

Favorite Quote:

 “Aim above morality. Be not simply good, be good for something.” Henry David Thoreau

  • BSBA, MEd, PhD, University of Florida