Uh, words... (Michael D Beckwith)

Research Philosophy

My dissertation research focused on the policy, economic, and social effects of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and the Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) programs. The NFIP is a $1 trillion Federal insurance program that provides flood insurance in the United States, where private flood insurance is rarely available. The NFIP itself is subject to risk from extreme weather and global climate change. Because the NFIP is a government program, it is ripe for policy, economic, and social welfare analysis.

My dissertation applied benefit-cost analysis to the NFIP and FMA programs as implemented from 1996 to 2010. I initially developed a sufficient statistic for the total welfare change due to the NFIP and incorporates different datasets to calculate the net social benefit. In addition, I estimated the consumer benefit from the NFIP using censored regression analysis. The analysis also included distributional analyses to find the redistributive effects of the NFIP and the effect of the program on government revenues. The analysis provided a baseline for analyzing the NFIP and the model framework can adapt to analyze other publicly managed risk insurance programs.

My research agenda extends my previous work on the NFIP. First, I have revised my dissertation for publication. Springer has awarded me a contract for publication in the SpringerBriefs series as Socioeconomic Effects of the National Flood Insurance Program, with publication scheduled for May of 2016. As I completed these revisions, several related topics for research came forth.

The first of these proposes a standard for estimating the social discount rate for retrospective evaluations. I will be presenting my draft results at the 2016 Joint Statistical Meetings. Beyond this, I plan to research the effects of flood mitigation grants on NFIP losses. Both of these research questions will enable policymakers to better understand the effects of the program and target changes that can benefit policyholders and taxpayers at the same time. Following these projects, I plan to investigate long-term and multigenerational valuation problems and risk management, both especially with respect to global climate change.

I am also fortunate to have diversified interests. Having taught undergraduate mathematics since 2010, I occasionally explore ways of improving the online delivery of mathematical education, usually by creating new material for classroom use. I apply what I learn here to the public affairs classroom. As mathematics underlies most economic and decision-making at the core of public administration, improved teaching methods can enable public administrators to make better decisions based on better analysis.

My primary research benefits the NFIP and policyholders by addressing policy questions around flooding. For instance, it can be used to help price flood insurance, where the government currently sets prices, more effectively. The models themselves can be potentially extended to study other hazard mitigation programs, such as the proposed wind insurance program. Scholars may also be interested in the models to extend other studies of the NFIP or FMA, such as studies on individual-level effects and behavioral finance questions around the decision to purchase insurance. Accordingly, my research should benefit scholars and policymakers in a time when water policy issues are coming to the political forefront.

Image by Michael D Beckwith / Flickr.