From bare feet to academic accolades

From bare feet to academic accolades: Lamar professor
receives prestigious award in St. Louis


In 1904, the St. Louis World’s Fair exhibited a contingent of the indigenous Igorot tribe from the northern part of the Philippines as an example of a dog-eating, primitive people.

Nearly a hundred years later, the Federation of Business Disciplines and the Southwestern Society of Economists awarded the prestigious McGraw Hill-Irwin Distinguished Paper Award for 2001 to a member of that tribe.

That Igorot honoree is Andrew Bacdayan, a professor of economics at Lamar University. It wasn’t the first time Bacdayan was so honored. He also received the award in 1991 and 1996. In March, he became the only member to win the award three times in the professional group’s 29-year history.

While the 1904 exhibition of primitive peoples from the then-new and first American colony is seen by some as a manifestation of the worst abuses of capitalism and American imperialism, Bacdayan proudly disagrees. While acknowledging that the exhibition was demeaning, Bacdayan considers it only a minor blemish on an otherwise highly successful American colonial experiment.

Bacdayan began his journey to the halls of American academia as a bare-footed lad in an American Episcopal mission school deep in the heart of the Philippine Cordilleras. His journey, and thereby his recent successes, are made possible in large measure by the decision of the Americans to keep the Philippines as a colony after the Spanish-American War in 1898.

A similar journey has been taken by many other Igorots, Bacdayan said, who are now nurses, doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers and preachers in the United States, Canada, England and Australia. The education they have received from the American colonial government and the missionaries that came provided the opportunity to choose between modernity and tribalism.

The Americans accomplished a lot more in fewer than 50 years, than the Spaniards did in almost 400 years of colonial rule. Under Spanish colonial rule the Igorots were demonized for resisting the Iberian nation’s attempt to subjugate the northern Philippine mountain peoples.

As an American citizen, Bacdayan said that despite incessant claims by leftists and nativist elitists, the American brand of colonialism was not all that bad. In fact, the rare academic thinks it was a singularly good example of the benevolent exercise of power by a strong nation.

Bacdayan is now director of the College of Business Center for Economic Education at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. Before coming to Lamar, Bacdayan was a professor of economics and holder of the Noble Morrison Endowed Professorship of Business at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana.

Bacdayan holds a Ph.D. in economics from Utah State University, earned in 1973, and a master’s degree in resource development from Michigan State University in 1961. He earned a bachelor’s degree in forestry from the University of the Philippines in 1959. Born in Bangaan, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines, he and his wife immigrated to the United States in 1965 and became American citizens in 1978. His wife is the former Virtud Covar from Majayjay, Laguna, Philippines, also a University of the Philippines graduate. They have three grown children.

The distinguished paper award is sponsored by the McGraw Hill-Irwin Publishing Co. for the Federation of Business Disciplines and the Southwestern Society of Economists. McGraw Hill-Irwin is one of this nation’’s major publishers of business and economics textbooks and the Federation is this country’s largest professional group serving as an umbrella organization for all of the functional divisions found in a typical college of business in the United States. These divisions include accounting, business law, economics, finance, information systems, management and marketing.

This year’s winning paper which Bacdayan lead-authored is titled, “A Quantitative Analysis of Workable Competition in the Life Insurance Market.” His co-authors are Robert Elliott and Robert Jones, both of Northwestern State University. In the paper, the authors construct an econometric model of the life insurance market and fit it to data collected from 800 insurance consumers from five Southern states to determine if the market is operating efficiently.

To economists, a market is efficient when it produces and consumes the right kinds of goods or services in the right amounts. The estimated results from their model indicate the U.S. life insurance market is inefficient. In the paper, they cite the severe underinsurance of the average American as a symptom that not enough of the service is being consumed.


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