University of Michigan: U-M Surveys of Consumers marks leadership change

Joanne Hsu, a principal economist at the Federal Reserve Board, will succeed Richard Curtin as director of the University of Michigan’s Surveys of Consumers, which provides closely watched indexes of consumer sentiment and inflation expectations.

Curtin has served as the director of the Surveys of Consumers in the Survey Research Center at the Institute for Social Research since 1976, after receiving his Ph.D. from U-M in 1975.

Since then, he has authored more than 1,200 monthly and quarterly reports on consumer behavior and attitudes, many of which have been widely referenced by national and international media. Curtin’s findings have been cited as many as 100,000 times per year, generating more citations than any other research project at U-M in that span.

“Richard Curtin is a giant in the field of consumer sentiment,” said Matthew Shapiro, director of the Survey Research Center and the Lawrence R. Klein Collegiate Professor of Economics at U-M. “Under his leadership, the University of Michigan Index of Consumer Sentiment continues as a key national indicator. It is closely followed by policymakers, financial market participants and the media.

“He made unique and distinctive contributions based on blending statistical analysis of key indicators with nuanced interpretation of the concerns consumers described to the Survey Research Center’s interviewers.”

Curtin also wrote or edited six books during his career, in addition to publishing or editing numerous academic papers and presentations. His most recent book, “Consumer Expectations: Micro Foundations and Macro Impact,” was published by Cambridge University Press in 2019.

In 2020, Curtin received the Isaac Kerstenetzky Lifetime Scholarly Achievement Award for his achievements and contributions to the field of consumer surveys. The award was conferred at the September 2021 conference of the Centre for International Research on Economic Tendency Surveys, the leading international association for business cycle research based on business and consumer surveys.

“For more than four decades, Richard Curtin’s scholarly work has deepened our understanding of economics and economies, contributing to the development of rigorous survey research around the world,” said Susan Collins, U-M provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.

“Through the Consumer Sentiment Survey, he has provided data and analysis, integrating the perspectives of many disciplines, to illuminate the nature and role of consumers’ decisions about and investments in the economy. This work is of critical importance to business decisions and to the development of public policy.”

Hsu assumes leadership of the Surveys of Consumers after serving in a variety of positions with the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, including her most recent role as a principal economist. While there, she worked in the Division of Research and Statistics, overseeing a policy portfolio that included the administration of the Survey of Consumer Finances.

Hsu also worked as a consumption analyst, contributing key information on consumption to the GDP forecast. She received the Special Achievement Award from the Federal Reserve Board of Governors in 2018.

“I am honored to lead an endeavor that has been so critical to our understanding of the economy for over 75 years,” she said.

Hsu received her Ph.D. in economics from U-M in 2011. Her research to date has focused on consumer behavior, including the roles public policy and cognition play in consumer decisions. Her work has appeared in top academic journals in economics, finance and survey methodology journals, including the American Economic Review, Review of Financial Studies and Public Opinion Quarterly. She has also served as a visiting professor at the Department of Economics at Howard University.

“We are delighted that Joanne Hsu has joined the Survey Research Center as its new
director of the Surveys of Consumers,” Shapiro said. “She brings a wealth of experience to the Surveys of Consumers. Through her work on the Federal Reserve Board Survey of Consumer Finances, she is an established scholar of consumer behavior and practitioner of survey methods.

“Dr. Hsu will lead innovations on how the Survey Research Center collects consumer data while maintaining continuity of its widely used measures of consumer sentiment and inflation expectations.”

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