Hope Corman is professor emerita of economics at Rider University, an editor of the journal Review of Economics of the Household, and a widely published researcher of how factors ranging from crime to welfare reform impact the health of children and adults. An NBER Research Associate for more than 40 years, she is affiliated with the Economics of Health Program.
Corman’s early interests were neither health nor economics. But living in New York City as a female liberal arts graduate of the University of Illinois, she says, “I realized that I needed to focus — that I wasn’t going to go far with an undergraduate liberal arts degree…. I was interested in urban problems and looking for something that resonated with me.”
The search led to classes at Columbia University and the City College of New York, where “the logic behind economics is what appealed to me most — the approach [of] looking at cost and benefit, decision-making at the margins, more positive, less normative analysis.” She began an economics PhD program at the City University of New York and was one of the first students to have Professor Michael Grossman as a dissertation adviser. Her thesis was on crime and crime control, but under Grossman’s guidance she became a health economist.
“I cannot praise Michael Grossman enough for his mentorship,” she says. “Health production and birth outcomes was my first project with him, studying infant mortality and morbidity. I have continued to look at child health to this day.”
Soon after, Corman gave birth to her first child — a daughter with Down syndrome. “This has very much influenced the way I approach things and given me insights beyond what you can learn in academic journals,” Corman says. Receiving and managing support programs for the disabled as a caregiver taught her some of the realities of navigating the various systems.
To illustrate, she points to getting a letter from the Social Security Administration stating that her daughter’s benefits would cease because her daughter, who had a job, was no longer disabled. “Someone receiving this in the mail has to figure out how to deal with it,” she says. “Social Security has a very different definition of disability than the medical community. People who only look at laws and regulations and don’t experience how they are implemented wouldn’t necessarily understand.”
Since “retiring” in 2019, Corman has been working on several research grants, editing, and teaching part-time at Princeton University. She is a “yoga aficionado” who loves travel, mysteries, and theater, and continues to coach a unified Special Olympics bowling team — a mixed group of people with disabilities and those without — as she has for the past 20 years. She has been married for many years to NBER Research Associate Hugh Rockoff.