California State University, Long Beach
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Economics' Trio Receives $120K Grant

Economics’ Lisa Grobar, Joe Maggadino and Kristen Monaco recently received a $120,000 grant from the Port of Long Beach for a year-long research project involving 12 CSULB students doing coursework and research. 

The CSULB Forward Linkages Project will trace the economic impact of imports entering the country through the Port of Long Beach. “Most of the academic literature has been on the impact of exports,” said Grobar, a member of the university since 1989 and the project’s principal investigator. “But the Port of Long Beach handles more imports than exports. Unfortunately, the economic impacts of imports are harder to measure. We know what exports mean in terms of economic impact. What do imports mean?”

The project’s research targets include such semi-finished goods as steel and paper imports. “We want to know where they go when they enter the economy,” said Grobar. “What kinds of jobs are created? What value-added chain of events is set in motion? To discover this, we’ll select four categories of imported goods to research. It’s labor intensive because it involves tracking the flow of goods but that’s where the students come in.”

A dozen CSULB economics majors will participate in the project. This fall they will participate in a seminar related to the research topic that will cover topics in trade theory and policy, as well as transportation economics. Next spring semester, the students will begin the research, earning a modest stipend for their participation. “It was decided early on that this project would have a research component,” said Grobar. “We also decided that the students would receive course credit for their participation. After all, this represents a year-long commitment from the students. Each one of four student groups will select an import commodity to track. If they follow steel, they will examine patterns of steel trade and issues of trade policy and will make a presentation to the rest of the class. But the nice thing about this project is the $30,000 earmarked for the students so that they will be paid for their work.”


Student research is as essential as it is unglamorous. “The students will be on the phones like detectives,” she said. “When they look at a particular group of imported goods headed to Factory A where workers change it to something else before it goes to Factory B, students will use economic models at each step to calculate associated employment or payroll impacts.”

Location is a key to the Forward Linkages Project. “Long Beach is an exciting place to be. None of this would be possible without the cooperation of the Port of Long Beach,” she said. “By being in Southern California, we have the opportunity to develop relationships with organizations like the port, that give rise to research opportunities like this.”

Grobar received her bachelor’s degree from Smith College and her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1989. She is best known for the annual CSULB Economic Forecast for the Southern California Region presented with Magaddino and published by the Southern California Association of Governments. Monaco joined the faculty in 2001 and much of  her research has been in the area of transportation economics. 

By pooling their areas of expertise, participating faculty will develop a clear picture of how imports affect the regional and national economies.