Camila Orozco Espinel, 2019-20 HOPE Center Fellow


Did someone say alligators?

Well, yes, if you venture out to Cajun Country, as Camila Orozco Espinel recently did, and take a swamp tour on Lake Martin.

“The Spanish moss, the cypress trees. It was unlike any landscape I’d seen before,” Camila says.

But alligators. Did she see any alligators?

“Didn’t see any alligators,” Camila reports. “Which was a disappointment--and a relief.”

Camila, now safely back in Durham and at least a hundred miles from any swamp creatures, is a 2019-20 HOPE Center fellow working on three projects. One involves a 1957 book by the Dutch-American economist Tjalliing Koopmans and how it shaped the views of economists about mathematics. The book, titled Three Essays on the State of Economic Science, argued that theory and empirical work ought to be separated through the use of what he called “the postulational or axiomatic method.”

The second project explores the experiences of women economists who became connected with the Cowles Commission, an institution that in its early days sought to link economic theory to statistics and mathematics. In the 1940s, Cowles wanted to attract women to its team of researchers and thus offered fellowships to two graduate students in economics at the University of Chicago: Selma Schweitzer (latter Arrow) and Sonia Adelson (latter Klein). Both women, however, quickly married to two economists who were also at Cowles and abandoned their academic careers. Why?

Last but not least, Camila, with her colleague Rebeca Gomez Betancourt, is constructing a history of feminist economics as a subdiscipline of economics.  As a first step in the research, she and Rebeca are in the midst of interviewing former presidents of the International Association for Feminist Economics.

This is Camila’s second visit to Duke. In 2014, she attended the HOPE Center’s Summer Institute, extending her stay by two weeks to work in the Economists’ Papers Archive at the Rubenstein Library for her dissertation.

As before, Camila is making extensive use of the archive in her current research.

Camila, who was raised in Colombia and has spent most of her graduate years in France, marvels at the fall colors in North Carolina. “There is no fall in Colombia. In Paris, there are parks. But here, the colors are everywhere.”