SPIA is excited to introduce Joseph Ornstein!

Joseph Ornstein earned his PhD from the University of Michigan in 2018. His research interests focus on statistical methodology, computational social science, and urban politics. Dr. Ornstein grew up in Charleston, South Carolina and when he’s not working, he makes the most of his Disney+ subscription with his two young children. 


Q: What are you working on that you’re most excited about?

JO: A paper where we estimate the percent of public officials (members of congress, state legislators, city council members) that are homeowners vs. renters. Unsurprisingly, most are homeowners, but what is striking is the magnitude of that descriptive representation gap. The vast majority of big city public officials are homeowners, despite the populations they serve being majority renter. These kinds of personal experiences subtly influence the types of policies that you pursue in office, and cities with more robust representation of renters have made notable advances in eviction protection and promoting housing affordability.


Q: What was your favorite part of your college experience?

JO: The best parts of college are the things you get to do as an amateur that they would never let you do out in the real world unless you’re a professional. I played drums in the pit orchestra for musical theater productions, DJ’ed a radio show, published papers with professors…seek out opportunities like that while you can!


Q: What is your favorite food?

JO: All things East Asian. Sushi, Thai, pho. I would just eat an entire meal of banchan. Very pleased to have discovered some excellent restaurants in Athens. 


Q: Please tell us one fun fact about you.

JO: I play bluegrass banjo, and met my wife while playing a gig at a yogurt shop in Washington, DC (no, not a frozen yogurt shop; a yogurt shop. It has since closed on account of being a weird business model.)


Q: What are you looking forward to in the coming year?

JO: Antibodies. 


Q: What is one goal you have for yourself for the next year?

JO: Write something every day. I’ve always struggled a bit with writing. I enjoy the product, but not the process. So I just need to make it a regular, predictable habit, achieving incremental progress each day. That’s the only way we get anything done.


Q: Do you have any pets? If so, what kind(s)?

JO: A little gray Jack Russell / Shih Tzu (Jack-Tzu) named Myrtle. She is the best dog. 


Q: If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

JO: Time manipulation. I just want to Groundhog Day myself at will and use that extra time to learn Bayesian statistics, or, you know, something cool.


Q: What advice do you have for SPIA students?

JO: Go to office hours! There’s no more surefire way to boost your grade by half a letter than to regularly talk with your professor about the class. Plus, we’re all starved for human connection right now, and all the office hours are virtual, so don’t even have to go outside! Really no downsides here.