Q + A with Linda Tran

Linda completed her Honours in Economics at the University of Auckland in 2015 and worked as a graduate at the New Zealand Transport Agency. In 2017, she left NZ to do her OE and worked two ski seasons in America and Japan before returning in 2019. She worked as an economic consultant, a data analyst and had plans to move abroad again before they were foiled by COVID-19. She joined NZWRI in April of 2021 and officially began her doctoral studies evaluating the wellbeing impacts of housing intensification in NZ using the IDI. We asked Linda to give us an insight into her career history and life outside of work, here is what she said:

1.  What made you choose a career in economics?

I actually fell into economics! All throughout high school I had taken science and maths and I continued down this path to graduate with a bachelor’s in science. But I also felt like a business degree would give me future career options. I didn’t know much about it, but I went in with an open mind and realised that I had a real affinity for economics. Economics allows me to use my maths and science background and apply it to real-world people-based problems, which is something I enjoy.

2.  Describe a recent project.

I was previously in economics consulting and the projects I worked on were a blend of economics and other disciplines, such as law. One of the more recent projects was commissioned by MBIE and looked at the impact of phoenix companies in NZ. When a company goes into liquidation, by law, they can re-establish as a phoenix company with the same name and branding, just without the debt. This minimises the repercussions of risk-taking behaviour for companies. I used a game-theoretical approach to look at the possible impacts of phoenix companies on the NZ economy. I found that the administrative costs of policing phoenix companies would outweigh the potential benefits. There was almost no NZ literature on these companies, so this project was important for policy-making and an interesting project that I learned a lot from.

3.  What are you working on at the moment?

I am currently a pre-doctoral researcher at NZWRI and I am also doing a PhD in economics. At NZWRI I am looking at the impacts of COVID19 on Pacific Peoples, which I enjoy because it involves big data and lots of coding. My PhD project is similar in that I am also using big data, with my research looking at the impacts of urban regeneration on wellbeing. It looks to establish whether there are any social returns from housing intensification. I am using Treasury’s Living Standards Framework to measure wellbeing, using indicators such as employment and education, before, during and after the housing development.

4.  Why is this an important research area to you?

The government has invested billions of dollars into housing, in response to the housing crisis. But what are the realised returns to society and are people happier, the same, or worse-off when we build more houses? In a sense, I am approaching this from a cost-benefit perspective, and I think it’s important to identify areas where the policy initiative is working, and where it’s not, so that the government can channel its resources into the right places.

5.  What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I love to keep active so I enjoy swimming and running – I am training for a triathlon at the moment that I will be (hopefully) competing in next year. It’s given me a lot of motivation to stay fit! I also love rock climbing, and now that it's winter I am doing a lot of skiing as well.  I also enjoy hiking and this summer I plan to finish off the last of the great walks in NZ.

Linda Tran