Events, TEDxColumbus

Meet the Speakers: Professor Trevon Logan

On Friday, November 16, 2018, fourteen Columbus area residents will become part of the TEDxColumbus community when they present their talks for On the Edge.


Meet Professor Trevon Logan:

Back to the future, in real life


It’s simply how progress works. In order to move forward, we have to look back. For one Ohio State University economics professor, it’s about more than tracing the roots of today’s policies or conditions. It’s about applying that historical data to benefit all communities—including those living on the edges.


By Cheryl Forcina


Trevon Logan loves Legos. There’s just something about the idea of building from the ground up to understand it better, he said.


Which doesn’t seem to quite click with his chosen profession: an economic history professor at Ohio State University. Or maybe it does—by illuminating his work as a contrast to his childhood passion.


“As scholars, we do the exact opposite [of Legos],” Logan explained. “We try to break things down to the basic level to understand why the system works the way it does.”


Which means that Logan examines and measures past economic trends, including living standards, to see their impact on today’s policies, processes and even a population’s well-being.


“People think big data is contemporary, but there’s historical big data,” Logan explained. And it can be applied to everything today from residential patterns and housing discrimination to business development and racial disparities in health—all seen through the lens of economics.


Take gas stations and their historical pattern of development, Logan said. Filling stations in low-income communities tended to be built closer to residential areas than their middle-class suburban counterparts. The problem: leakage of underground gasoline tanks into groundwater, which provides many of us with drinking water. Its contamination has been associated with, among other things, infant mortality. Years later, those rates were shown to be higher in low-income neighborhoods, Logan said.


As he talks about his work, it’s clear that the St. Paul, Minn., native’s fandom goes way beyond Legos. And he owes it to mentors and academic advisers who helped shape his interest along the way, taking Logan from his University of Wisconsin and UC Berkeley alma maters to stints at Princeton University and University of Michigan. Then, finally, here to Columbus.


“It’s an interesting mix of people here,” Logan said of his current city. “Columbus is well positioned to lead in the 21st century and to thrive.”


What concerns Logan, however, is who ultimately benefits from the city’s growth.


“[Progress] needs to be distributed evenly,” he urged. “People in power need to look at communities not as opportunities and investments. It’s definitely a different way of thinking.”


St. Paul, Minn., native Trevon Logan is Ohio State’s Hazel C. Youngberg Distinguished Professor of Economics. His extensive work in the field once scored him a White House meeting, advising officials on measuring living standards among different households.


Want to know more? Purchase tickets through Ticketmaster or by calling the CAPA Box Office at 614-469-0939.