2008 Faculty Excellence Awards: Reagan Baughman, Outstanding Assistant Professor
By Carrie Sherman
January 14, 2009
Reagan Baughman, assistant professor of economics. Perry Smith photo
We've all heard about the nursing shortage, but little attention has been paid to the direct-care workforce, which is critical to the care of an aging American population.
Direct-care jobs—nursing aide, home health aide, and personal/home care aide—are now among the nation's fastest growing occupations with demand for workers projected to increase until at least 2012. But these jobs are poorly paid and high turnover lowers the quality of patient care.
Reagan Baughman has brought her expertise in labor economics and health policy to bear on this subject. In a recent article published in the Monthly Labor Review, Baughman and UNH Carsey Institute family demographer Kristin Smith show that turnover in this profession is 40 percent a year and that high turnover is associated with low wages. In a related study, they identify a public policy that appears to boost wages: Medicaid wage "pass-throughs."
Baughman earned her doctorate in economics with a focus on both labor economics and public finance. Subsequently, as a research fellow in health policy research with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Baughman set the stage for a policy-oriented career. Within economics, her reputation is growing with a strong list of publications that include papers in the Journal of Health Economics and National Tax Journal.
At UNH, this sought-after professor teaches both undergraduates and graduates. Her favorite course is Labor Economics. "We talk about families, taxes, income inequality, and health care—real-life economic issues," says Baughman.
She also resurrected the honor society in economics and runs the graduate seminar. Her philosophy is simply to "try and make the world a bit better." It's a modest approach that has yielded significant results.
"Reagan's direct-care research is pioneering. She has raised our research profile," says Karen Conway, professor of economics. "She is everything you could hope for in a colleague, and more."