Meet Our New Faculty: Lauri Kytömaa

By: Staff
headshot of Lauri Kytomaa.

Lauri Kytömaa, assistant professor of applied economics and policy at the Nolan School

Lauri Kytömaa | Assistant Professor of Applied Economics and Policy | Nolan School

Meet Lauri Kytömaa, assistant professor of applied economics and policy at the Cornell Peter and Stephanie Nolan School of Hotel Administration and one of the newest faculty members in the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business. Kytömaa earned his PhD in economics from the University of Texas at Austin and his MSc in economics from the London School of Economics.

Learn more about Kytömaa’s areas of expertise, research focus, courses he is teaching, and other interests in this Q&A.

What are your research and teaching areas of focus?

In research, I’m interested in improving the design of consumer debt markets and thinking about market failures that cause or exacerbate financial crises. My work thus far focuses on problems that can arise due to information asymmetry in household debt markets, in which a lender or borrower may know more than their counterpart in any market transaction. My work relies on a combination of statistical analysis and economic theory to explore issues that are not always directly observable in data. I believe that this sort of “structural modeling” provides a powerful tool for exploring policy design in situations where experimentation is challenging or impossible.

 In teaching, I focus on real estate, game theory, and econometrics techniques. I’m also an avid proponent of Python and other computational tools for approaching problems in finance and economics.

What class(es) will you be teaching this year?

I will be teaching two sections of Principles of Real Estate (HADM 4200) in the spring 2024 semester.

What attracted you to the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business and to the Cornell Peter and Stephanie Nolan School of Hotel Administration, specifically?

The Nolan School houses a terrific real estate group with numerous professors that share similar interests to my own work. Given this, the school has built up an impressive set of data resources and research expertise that will help me to advance my research agenda for years to come. More widely, Cornell has nurtured a diverse community of economists across the different schools of the SC Johnson College of Business, as well as the university’s other departments.

What first sparked your interest in economics, finance, and real estate?

I’ve been interested in financial crises since the end of my undergraduate studies. The COVID-19 pandemic really got me thinking about real estate and household finance because borrower defaults spiked dramatically around this time. The massive wave of defaults created numerous interesting policy design questions that have yet to be answered. Some of these questions include: 1) Were national moratoriums on both eviction and foreclosure effective and did they last an appropriate amount of time?  2) Could the government have assisted more borrowers that were struggling at this time? 3) What share of borrowers were taking advantage of federal/local programs?

How did you know you wanted to teach? What do you like best about teaching?

I personally began to value the lessons from economics when I realized how effectively it can marry statistical analysis, theoretical modeling, and logical reasoning. I take a lot of pride in explaining how complicated theoretical or mathematical concepts relate to real world situations. The opportunities to run review sessions and hold office hours as a PhD student were invaluable for learning about teaching and I realized it was something I enjoyed. My favorite aspect of teaching is getting to see students learn difficult concepts in real time and then take their new tools to solve problems away from the classroom.

When did you know you wanted to be a professor?

My journey to becoming a professor has been a long, deliberate process. I first decided that I’d be interested in pursuing a PhD in economics as a sophomore in college. Following my undergraduate studies, I completed a one-year master’s degree to get a flavor of graduate work in economics, and then also worked for three years as a consultant to learn more about an alternative career path. Undeterred by these experiences, I finally enrolled in a PhD program. My doctoral studies were very informative about the nature of research and teaching at an academic institution. While there were certainly moments when I questioned whether I wanted to become a professor, I’m incredibly excited to continue pushing my research agenda forward and further engaging with the academic community.

What do you do to recharge?

I’ve played ice hockey throughout the course of my PhD studies and look forward to skating up in Ithaca. I’ll make sure to catch a few Cornell varsity team games too!

Learn more about Kytömaa on his personal website and follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.