Challey Spotlight: Dr. Oudom Hean

The Challey Institute for Global Innovation and Growth is highlighting the impact of our faculty and students at NDSU and in the community. This month, we are shining a spotlight on Challey scholar Oudom Hean.

Challey Spotlight: Oudom Hean, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Finance

Oudom Hean is an assistant professor of finance in the NDSU Department of Transportation, Logistics, and Finance and a scholar of the Challey Institute for Global Innovation and Growth. He is an applied economist whose interests lie at the intersection of regional economics, urban economics, and public economics. His current research focuses on the causes and consequences of diverging economic growth across U.S. urban and rural areas. Oudom received his Ph.D. in agricultural, environmental and development economics from Ohio State University in 2020. 

Research and outreach highlights: 

It’s been a year since you moved to Fargo and joined the Challey Institute – during a pandemic. What are you most proud of from your first year at NDSU?

Due to a great opportunity provided by the Challey Institute and the NDSU College of Business, I have been able to conduct my research despite the challenges of the pandemic. I just published a new paper, and I’m working on several other papers related to technological innovation, offshoring, minimum wage, and digital inequality. So I am really proud of the research I have been able to do. In addition, I am really proud that faculty members, students, and colleagues came together as a community at NDSU to thrive and help each other cope and succeed through this crisis.

You mentioned your recent paper published in Regional Studies. That paper explored the impact of urban technology on rural labor markets. Can you talk a little bit about what you and your co-author found and the implications of your research?

Briefly speaking, the economic impact of technological progress is uneven across urban and rural regions in the United States. Specifically, innovation in urban areas could have differential impacts on rural regions; some rural places can benefit from this progress, while others might not be able to grab that benefit. On average, we find that there is a significant negative impact of technological progress in metropolitan areas on the rural labor market performance.

In terms of policy implications, it is important that our policymakers consider these effects, especially when trying to increase the rate of progress in metropolitan areas. For example, to maintain the welfare of rural communities, policymakers may consider different programs to counteract the negative impact of metropolitan technological progress.

Much of your research looks at the divergence in economic growth across urban and rural areas. What inspired you to study these questions, and why do you think it’s an important area for us to understand?

The U.S. economy today thrives through technology and innovation, but, unfortunately, not every place has seen the same benefit from technological progress. We can see that some places thrive and become bustling communities, while other places have been described as a “ghost town.” As an economist, I’m interested in why this is happening and what policymakers, especially local policymakers, can do to help their community prosper.

You were one of four new Challey Scholars last year. Next year, we will have ten scholars. What have you enjoyed most about being part of the Challey Institute?

It was an unusual year, with everything mostly being done through Zoom. But, to be honest, I’m really enjoying the academic conversation with other scholars here at the Institute. I also really enjoyed the seminars we hosted, especially all of the speakers in the Menard Family Distinguished Speaker Series. They were amazing! I’m looking forward to meeting everybody in-person.

How has philanthropic support helped you?

Without philanthropic support, I would not be able to conduct my current research or present my findings to have an impact. Also, the Challey Institute uses some of its resources to support our great students by providing scholarships. So, from the bottom of my heart, I would like to thank all the donors for their support.

The Sheila and Robert Challey Institute for Global Innovation and Growth aims to advance understanding in the areas of innovation, trade and institutions to identify policies and solutions that enhance economic growth and opportunity. Learn more at
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