A recently retired Eastern Kentucky University professor is the 2018 Kentucky Distinguished Economist, as selected by the Kentucky Economic Association.
Professor Emeritus Dr. Frank O’Connor, who taught economics at EKU from 1989 until completing the University’s retirement transition program earlier this year, was honored at the association’s recent conference at Centre College.
In recent decades, O’Connor’s work outside the classroom focused on the quantitative study of the economy of Kentucky, its regions, and those of neighboring states. The work includes regional macro-econometric models and models of regional variation in income level, poverty and income distribution. Other research topics have included economic factors in the outcome of presidential elections, the potential of dedicated energy crops in central Kentucky and, most recently, mortality rates at mid-life. He has also served as a member of Kentucky’s Consensus Forecasting Group since 1999.
“Since the early ’80s, most of my work has involved empirical econometric studies of economies and regions,” O’Connor said. “These were designed to provide an improved understanding and enable policy makers to answer questions of interest.”
He developed macro econometric models of western North Carolina, Kentucky, southeast Kentucky and the Bluegrass region.
“These models have been used to provide forecasts and answer policy questions for a variety of public agencies,” explained O’Connor, who also studied regional variation in income, poverty, income distribution, the potential of switchgrass for biodiesel, mortality rates for non-Hispanic whites, gaps in regional incomes, and feasibility of projects.
O’Connor’s work has been published in a number of journals, including the American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Econometrica and the Journal of Human Resources.
O’Connor is a graduate of the National University of Ireland (Dublin) and received his master’s degree from Pennsylvania State University and his doctoral degree from the University of Minnesota. Prior to joining the EKU faculty, he taught at Penn State, the University of Iowa and Western Carolina University, among other institutions.
At EKU, he also chaired the economics department from 1989 until 1997. Looking back at his nearly three decades at Eastern, he proudly declared, “The success of our graduates speaks for itself.”