Mary Rigdon and Laura Razzolini go way back.

“Mary reminded me that the first time we met was when she was still a graduate student,” Laura recalled. “She applied to the National Science Foundation for a research grant, and I was at that time the economics program officer. I gave her the grant, as I saw very early on how good her research was.”

Mary, now the Freedom Center Director and Associate Professor of Political Economy & Moral Science, remembers it like it was yesterday.

“Laura awarded me my first grant, a Small Grants for Exploratory Research (SGER) grant, for research I conducted on incentive contracting mechanisms[i] finishing my degree and as a postdoctoral fellow in the Center for Basic Research and Social Science (Now, the Institute for Quantitative Social Science) at Harvard University. I am incredibly grateful for that initial funding and Laura’s mentorship throughout my career,” Mary shared.

Laura Razzolini and Mary L. Rigdon in front of Old Main on the UArizona campus in Tucson

The latest chapter in this collaborative friendship is Laura’s visit to UArizona as a Freedom Center Visiting Fellow. Mary created this program to bring scholars to campus for short visits where they could focus on their research, engage with faculty and graduate students, and give talks at seminars.

We caught up with Laura at a UArizona Eller College of Management Economic Seminar (Theory), where she was previewing a forthcoming paper she co-authors with Shakun D. Mago, Professor of Economics at the University of Richmond, and Jennifer Pate, Professor of Economics at Loyola Marymount University. (Note: Dr. Pate is also an FC Visiting Fellow.)

Laura’s talk was called “Lying Out of Obligations: Cheap Talk in an Ultimatum Game with Outside Obligations” and detailed new research, supported by a grant from the International Foundation for Research in Experimental Economics, about how sharing information about outside obligations impacts wage negotiations.

“We got the idea for this experimental economics research in 2017,” Laura told the seminar. “A male professor was telling graduate students how to negotiate. He told the men to share that they had a wife and kids, but he told the women not to share. The assertion was that men disclosing outside obligations would help them get a higher salary, but the same disclosure would hurt women. We wanted to find out, and the lab was the perfect place to do so.”

Laura and her colleagues discovered that wage offers increase with obligation amounts when the level of the obligation is known. However, they did not find evidence of gender bias in wage offers. Still, they do provide a potential explanation for some of the gender wage gap and show how seemingly equitable policies may perpetuate inequities among employees.

Another linkage between Laura and Mary’s research comes from a shared focus on gender competitiveness. Mary’s research discovered that women are as competitive as men, just motivated differently[ii]. Laura’s research found that once women enter a competition, they exert significantly greater effort only when competing against other women[iii]. Their work is critical to closing the gender wage gap.

In addition to Laura’s research, she is also the Department Head of Economics, Finance, and Legal Studies at the University of Alabama. This responsibility also provides her with the opportunity to set a vision and use her years of experience to support the scholars working in the department.

“Using experimental economics to understand human behavior will always be my passion, and I have enjoyed the opportunity to set a vision for the Department of Economics, Finance, and Legal Studies at the University of Alabama,” Laura notes. “Having the opportunity to be a Freedom Center Visiting Fellow is the perfect complement. Being on campus here at UArizona allows me to focus on research, reconnect with Mary and other scholars, and recharge in a wonderful environment.”

Before joining the University of Alabama, Laura was a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University from 2004 to 2017, Program Director with the National Science Foundation, Economics Program from 2001 to 2003, and a professor at the University of Mississippi from 1994 to 2001.

A native of Italy, Laura earned a Laurea (Baccalaureate) in Economics from the University of Florence and a Dottorato di Ricerca (Research Doctorate, Ph.D.) in Political Economics from the University of Bologna. She earned an M.A. and Ph.D. in Economics from Southern Methodist University. Her husband is a professor of Operations Management and also head of his Department at the University of Alabama. They met in Belgium and have three daughters.

“Laura is a great friend and has been a tremendous asset to the Freedom Center and UArizona community. Her energy and ideas produce synergies that drive new questions, ideas, and opportunities for scholarship. That’s what the Visiting Fellows program is all about,” Mary concluded.

[i] Mary Rigdon, Trust and reciprocity in incentive contracting, Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Volume 70, Issues 1–2, 2009, Pages 93-105

[ii] Cassar, A., & Rigdon, M. L.  Prosocial option increases women’s entry into competition. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2021 

[iii] Shakun D. Mago, Laura Razzolini, Best-of-five contest: An experiment on gender differences, Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Volume 162, 2019, Pages 164-187