My name is Robert Dur and I am a Professor of Economics at Erasmus School of Economics where I teach and do research. I teach three different courses: I teach Applied Microeconomics for second year bachelor students in Economics and a seminar for the Master Economics of Markets and Organisations. This seminar is the final seminar, where students work on research. They present research and discuss research, so the students are super active in that class for a full block. I also teach the course Experimental Economics in the research master programme of the Tinbergen Institute.
Most of my research is in the area of organisational and personnel economics. For instance, I study what aspects of a job people find important. Do people work mainly for the money, or do they find it more important to have a meaningful job? In my most recent study, we find that people differ quite a bit in this respect. Part of these differences can be explained by the macroeconomic conditions people faced when they entered the labour market. Those that searched for their first job during a recession, put higher priority on income for the rest of their lives. Those that enter the labour market during a boom, find job meaning more important. These shifts in job preferences are very persistent and remain important after controlling for current income and labor market status.
'I remember when I was still a teenager in high school that the first time I got an economics course I was very, very excited'
Going to university
My teaching is concentrated into blocks, so I teach four months and then the remaining eight months are devoted to research for at least 90% or so. During this period, I also advise Master and Bachelor students on their thesis, but otherwise everything is focused on research. I remember when I was still a teenager in high school that the first time I got an economics course I was very, very excited. By then I actually thought that what I wanted to become was an economics teacher at a high school. My father was a glassblower at Utrecht University, and he told me that it was a really nice ambition to become an economics teacher, but perhaps rather than going to the teacher academy, I could also try and go to university and study economics there. Then you can always decide to become an economics teacher at a high school, but you also have other opportunities. I'm still very grateful for that advice, so I went on to study Economics here in Rotterdam. It seemed to me the most natural choice.
I wrote a PhD thesis about political decision-making on economic policy and in particular on macro-focused topics, like unemployment labour market institutions, fiscal policy in combination with political decision-making. Later on, I expanded my research focus a bit. I also started studying the preferences and the goals of public sector workers. I moved from politicians to the study of public sector workers and then I became interested in how these differ from people that aspire a career in business. I started studying things like: who aims for a career in the public sector and on what does that depend? And are people in the end happy about it? Are public sectors around the world run in different ways? And what does this mean for the people that want to work in the public sector? Those kinds of issues really interest me.
The energy of students
What I really like is when students come up with their own ideas. Economics can be seen as a toolbox. There are empirical methods, there are theoretical methods, and these methods can be applied to ideas to see whether ideas are actually good in the sense that they are theoretically consistent and good in the sense that they are empirically relevant, meaning that they make sense in the outside world. Students oftentimes surprise me with their ideas. When students work on their own ideas, that is when they are most enthusiastic. They want to know the answers and they have the energy and the spirit to get there.