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Statistically, Ahead of the Field

Denis Sargan Econometrics Prize-winner Ulrich Hounyo stands outside the Department of Economics offices in Building 25. (Photo by Brian Busher)

ALBANY, N.Y. (February 1, 2018) — The Department of Economics’ strength in the field of econometrics is affirmed when budding young talents in that specialty choose UAlbany over other offers in higher education. It’s upheld all the more when those recent additions to the faculty win major prizes in the field.

Such is the case with Assistant Professor Ulrich Hounyo, an expert in the field of econometrics, which, in brief, is the application of statistical methods to economic data. The native of Benin, who arrived at the University in the fall of 2017, is the recently announced co-winner of one of the leading awards in the field: the Denis Sargan Prize, for the best article by young economists published in the Econometrics Journal.

Hounyo co-authored the winning article, “Validity of Edgeworth expansions for realized volatility estimators,” with Bezirgen Veliyev, a former postdoctoral colleague and now assistant professor at the Center for Research in Econometric Analysis of Time Series (CREATES) in Denmark’s Aarhus University.

Edgeworth expansions, developed by Francis Ysidro Edgeworth in the late 19th century, apply probability theory to improve models of predicting economic outcome. Hounyo and Veliyev extended the validity of the Edgeworth expansions by “bootstrapping” — a series of re-samplings applied to a model — Edgeworth expansions to smaller sample sizes of economic variables than had been achieved previously.

The latest Sargen Prize actually covers articles written in 2016, since it takes a good part of a year for the prize’s referees to decide a winner. One referee assessed Hounyo and Veliyev’s article as “a very ambitious paper in that the higher order distributional results are difficult to prove due to the limitations in the probability tools we currently have.”

Hounyo noted the assessment and said, “I am happy to say that, with my co-author, we successfully do prove the higher order results.”

A specialist in both econometrics and financial economics, Hounyo received his bachelor’s in statistics from Benin’s national university in 2003 and worked one year as a statistician for Benin’s Department of Microfinance and National Statistical Institute and then for the UN’s Economic Commission for Africa. He received his master’s in statistics and economics (named the top graduating student) from ENSEA University in the Ivory Coast.

He honed his skills in teaching and research at the University of Montreal, where he received his Ph.D. in 2013. From 2012-2015, he was also a postdoctoral fellow at CREATES in Denmark and England’s Oxford University.

More than one university offered Hounyo faculty positions, but he found in UAlbany a clear choice. Adrian Master, chair of Economics, notes that the faculty’s publishing record in leading theoretical and applied econometrics has been “particularly strong” for some years, led by now Distinguished Professor Kajal Lahiri.

“I was looking for a great research university in the U.S.A.,” said Hounyo. “Currently in the economics department here, we have a strong group of talented econometricians. I was hired here in 2017 along with another, (Assistant Professor) Daiqiang Zhang. This level of strength in econometrics is quite unusual for an economics department. So, I am very grateful to be a faculty member at the University at Albany.”

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