Serena Canaan named 2022 Canada Research Chair

November 16, 2022

Simon Fraser University (SFU) Department of Economics assistant professor Serena Canaan’s research record has earned her a spot as a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Applied Microeconomics.

Canaan uses quasi-experimental research methods— examining the causality between an intervention and an outcome— to study topics such as the returns of different types of education, the impact of role models and peers on students' educational choices, and the implications of parental leave policies for households and firms. Some of her research also focuses on understanding the gender gap in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education.

In the coming year, several papers co-authored by Canaan are scheduled to be published. The first examines the actual cost of parental leave programs for firms. Using Danish administrative data, the researchers concluded that the costs of these programs for firms are negligible, a finding which could encourage companies to provide more comprehensive parental leave programs.

Two other projects focus on how mentors and peers impact student success in college. One project examines how targeted coaching for students on academic probation improves their academic performance, retention rate, college graduation, and even future earnings. The second paper provides some of the first causal evidence on whether exposure to peers from different religious backgrounds affects student learning and behavioural outcomes.

A key insight shared in many of Canaan’s research is that relatively modest changes in students’ educational environments at crucial decision points can have impacts that alter their educational trajectories and labour market destinies.

Canaan joined SFU in 2021, moving here with her partner and fellow SFU instructor Pierre Mouganie from their home country of Lebanon. She chose to join SFU because she valued the Department of Economics’ reputation in providing a supportive and collegial academic environment, especially for junior faculty members. She was also impressed by the department’s research output and knew it would be a great place to grow as a researcher and collaborate with other renowned economics scholars.

The CRC funding will have a huge impact on Canaan’s capacity for further research. Tier 2 Chairs are given to exceptional emerging researchers, acknowledged by their peers as having the potential to lead in their field. For each Tier 2 Chair, the institution receives $100,000 annually for five years, with an additional $20,000 annual research stipend for Tier 2 Chairs.

This funding, Canaan says, “will allow me to substantially expand my research agenda and look into new research ideas that I would have never thought about exploring without the resources provided by the CRC. It will also provide me with more time and resources to mentor and advise students—which I am quite looking forward to doing in the years to come.”

This is the second CRC held by a faculty member in the Department of Economics. Professor Arthur Robson received a CRC in Economic Theory and Evolution in 2003.

Established by the Government of Canada in 2000, the Canada Research Chairs Program invests up to $311 million per year to attract and retain diverse world-class researchers, and to reinforce academic research and training excellence in Canadian post-secondary institutions.