The Virginia Tech College of Science’s J. Mark Sowers Distinguished Lecture Series will host its first talk of 2023 on March 1 with Matthew Jackson, the William D. Eberle Professor of Economics at Stanford University.

Jackson’s talk, titled “Divisions in Social Networks and Implications for Inequality and Immobility,” will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 1, at the Quillen Family Auditorium in Goodwin Hall.

Registration is encouraged. It is free and open to the public.

“We [will] examine the extent to which the presence of various forms of social capital predict whether children in poor families rise economically,” Jackson said of his topic. “A network measure of connections across economic class lines is highly predictive of economic mobility. We discuss why such economic connectedness should matter as well as corresponding policy implications including algorithmic fairness in job referrals. We then take a deeper look into the determinants of homophily (the lack of connections across groups) and discuss some new observations about patterns of homophily in networks and their consequences.”

Jackson, who is also an external faculty member of the Santa Fe Institute, earned a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University in 1984 and a Ph.D. from Stanford in 1988. Jackson's research interests include game theory, microeconomic theory, and the study of social and economic networks, on which he has published many articles and the books "The Human Network" and "Social and Economic Networks."

“Matt Jackson is possibly the most well-known researcher working in the economics of networks,” said Sudipta Sarangi, professor and head in the Department of Economics, part of the College of Science. “His talk grapples with the key problems of inequality and social mobility facing the American economy through the lens of economic connectedness in society. It will offer solutions that will be of interest to a wide range of researchers from economists and sociologists to computer scientists.”

Jackson also teaches an online course on networks and co-teaches two others on game theory. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a fellow of the Econometric Society, a Game Theory Society Fellow, and an Economic Theory Fellow. His other honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship; the Social Choice and Welfare Prize; the von Neumann Award from Rajk Laszlo College; an honorary doctorate from Aix-Marseille University; the Jean-Jacques Laffont Prize from the Toulouse School of Economics; the B.E. Press Arrow Prize for Senior Economists; the BBVA Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Economics, Finance, and Management; and teaching awards.

He has served on the editorial boards of Econometrica, PNAS, Games and Economic Behavior,  and the Review of Economic Design as well as served as the president of the Game Theory Society. Before joining Stanford’s faculty, he taught at Northwestern University and Caltech.

The J. Mark Sowers Distinguished Lecture Series in the College of Science at Virginia Tech is a forum for the exchange of new and innovative ideas in scientific fields. The series began in February 2017.

It has attracted national and world-renowned scholars, including a laser physicist, a nanoscientist, an astrophysicist, an applied mathematician, the director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute, and a statistician who specializes in machine-learning. Discussions have delved into brain sciences, speech and hearing development, black holes, and more. Generously supported by Mark and Debi Sowers, this series provides opportunities for the university community and general public to interact with and learn from eminent scholars and industry experts.

Sowers is a Richmond-based businessman and developer and longtime supporter of the College of Science. He sponsors the series to share with others his fascination with the sciences.

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