How Investments Can Stoke Inequality

Meet economics-math major Shisham Adhikari ’21

September 29, 2021

Major: economics–mathematics

Hometown: Kathmandu, Nepal

Thesis adviser: Prof. Jasmine Jiang [economics]

Thesis: “Inequality in Ramsey Growth Model with Heterogeneous Rates of Return: Are Rich Getting Higher Returns on Investment than Poor?”

What it’s about: My thesis theoretically and empirically demonstrates that the same amount of investment results in different returns for rich and poor, further exacerbating the capital inequality gap.

What it’s really about: Richer households get higher returns on investment than poor households.

In high school: I was extroverted, a public speaker, curious, ambitious, optimistic, and friendly.

Influential class: My freshman year, I took intro to economics with Prof. Kimberly Clausing, and trust me, economics did not come naturally to me. I was ready to reconsider my major. I remember the day Prof. Clausing handed me Mankiw’s textbook and asked me to practice some assigned problems and come directly to her if I needed any help. I was surprised that she believed in me more than I believed in myself, but that genuinely was one of the most influential moments in my life.

Influential book: Radical Markets: Uprooting Capitalism and Democracy for a Just Society by Eric A. Posner and E. Glen Weyl inspired me to rethink some traditional economic theories about markets and critically consider ways of bringing equity into the equation while restructuring markets.

Concept that blew my mind: Faraday’s law of electromagnetic induction—changing magnetic flux generates electricity.

Cool stuff I got to do: I went on SO many Gray Fund trips (surfing, snorkeling, ziplining, kayaking, rafting, hiking, floating), worked as a tutor, had up to eight jobs in a semester, and did a fellowship project every summer.

New ability developed at Reed: I learned to navigate existing resources and to feel comfortable advocating for the creation of needed resources if they don’t already exist.

Award, grants, fellowships: Evan Rose Fellowship, Public Policy and International Affairs Fellowship at Carnegie Mellon University, Economics Summer Research Award, Girls Who Invest Intensive Scholarship, and Davis Projects for Peace Award.

Challenges I faced: As an international student from Nepal, I experienced a steep simultaneous learning and unlearning curve: communicating in English at all times, homesickness, navigating finances, visa issues, different social etiquette, different academic styles. I realized that it is not always easy for Americans to see things from an international perspective. The cultural shock was real, but getting through it made me both open minded and confident in navigating different perspectives. The International Student Services office and other international student communities played a significant role in navigating those obstacles.

Help I got along the way: I would not have been able to attend Reed without its generous financial aid. I’m grateful they give financial aid to international students. I used the tutoring and advising services pretty extensively, both at the receiving end and the giving end.

What’s next: To pursue a PhD in economics at UC Davis.