Searching for Truth with Numbers

What do heart murmurs, housing prices during the Obama administration, and migration flows into Europe have in common? For Culverhouse econometrician Dr. Daniel Henderson, the answer is in the numbers, and his research centers on the ways that numbers can explain and predict complex relationships. That means that he might write a paper about the distribution of wealth between populations, and find it cited in an article about brain imaging.

This summer, Henderson and his colleague Alexandra Soberón were awarded a joint grant from the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation and the European Union to study the effects of European Union environmental policies on companies. To regulate companies that pollute, especially carbon dioxide pollution, the European Union sells allowances to companies in a “pay to pollute” system.

Some fear is that this system reduces the European Union’s competitiveness in the world market because companies might just relocate to other places where there is less regulation. But another school of thought is that these policies might actually encourage innovation, that stricter codes and laws will encourage companies to innovate, find ways around the pollution problem, and ultimately increase revenue.

At this stage, there is no way to prove which train of thought is correct, and that is where Henderson and Soberón come in. They are developing a model to understand the relationship between those things, and predict outcomes.

The grant, which expires in 2024, awarded the researchers 115,000€ for the project, or a little over $126,000.

Henderson explained, “We usually start with an economic problem because I’m an economist first. And we develop something, but somehow, sometimes it works other places. And so if they’re willing to help fund our research, we’ll study what they’re doing.”

“And I have no agenda. I’m not here to like push climate change or anti-change,” he went on. “I have no right. I’m just trying to uncover truth.”


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