The James C. Bonbright Center for the Study of Regulation is expanding its research activities, adding new support for faculty scholarship and research opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Georgia.
Housed in the Department of Economics, the Bonbright Center was established in 1990 to host an annual conference on the regulation of public utilities. The center was rededicated in 2016 with a broadened scope to study regulatory economics across a range of market sectors and to provide funding support through faculty research grants, conference travel and a seminar series.
“Support of academic research is essential to our expanded vision for the work of the Bonbright Center,” said David B. Mustard, the center’s director. “Building on the legacy established by James and Martha Bonbright, we are excited to expand the center’s research mission to advance our understanding of the role that regulatory economics plays in shaping policy and influencing markets.”
Earlier this year, the Bonbright Center received pledges totaling $1.6 million from Angie and Leo Wells, Randy and Ken Kendrick, Yancey Bros. Co, and the Charles Koch Foundation that will be fulfilled over the next four years.
"These generous gifts will be put to quick use to support research projects that our faculty and students find compelling,” Mustard said. “It is exciting to be given the means to support a wider view of regulatory economics. These resources will invigorate the center’s work as we branch out from public utilities to research concerning health care, education, crime, industrial organization, intellectual property and other areas with important public policy implications."
Mustard, a UGA economics professor since 1997, was named director of the Bonbright Center in 2016. A graduate of the University of Chicago, his research deals with a range of economic policy questions, including crime, casino gambling, lotteries, education and merit-based aid. Among his many teaching awards, he was appointed a Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor – the university’s top teaching honor – in 2014. Mustard is a fellow of the Institute of Higher Education at UGA, an adjunct professor in UGA’s Department of Public Administration and Policy, and served on the editorial board of Education Finance and Policy.
The Bonbright Center supports graduate education through assistantships and funds for graduate students to acquire data and present their research at academic conferences. Fourth-year economics PhD student Meghan Esson is the first recipient of a graduate research assistantship from the center. Esson’s research analyzes policy questions related to health care and insurance. She studies how some regulations induce people to inefficiently use hospital emergency departments for non-emergency medical care.
The Bonbright Center also provided the funds to purchase a secure computer server to access Georgia public schools data through GA-AWARDS, which will allow faculty and graduate students to conduct research on educational policies in the state.
“Additionally, the center is funding an initiative to promote research opportunities to undergraduate economics students, including a research class that we will offer this fall,” Mustard said.
He added the Bonbright Center will sponsor more campus visits by well-known regulatory scholars like MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, an architect of the Affordable Care Act. Gruber gave a lecture at UGA last fall to an audience of 250 students, faculty and community members, presented his current research to Terry College faculty and graduate students, and met with health policy researchers from across UGA.