WKU Professor trains students to think like economists—a skill commonly desired by large companies

Economics professor Dr. David Zimmer enjoys working with promising economic-minded students and helping connect them with large companies to become valued employees.

Today more than ever, large corporations are looking to hire employees with skills in data analytics and cost/benefit intuition.  Companies desire numeric, data-rich answers to future cost and earnings questions, and thinking like an economist is a vital skill that can propel students to obtain highly sought-after positions.

Dr. Zimmer received his B.S. from the University of Evansville in Mathematics, his M.A. from Indiana University in Economics in 2001, and his Ph.D. from Indiana University in 2004. His research focuses on using statistical copula functions to model microeconomic phenomena. His areas of expertise are Health Economics, Labor Economics, and Applied Microeconomics.

Published work

His primary area of research focuses on copulas, which are statistical tools used to connect or link seemingly-unrelated phenomena. His book on copulas, entitled “Copula Modeling: An Introduction for Practitioners,” is a standard graduate-level reference. He has authored more than 50 articles in academic journals, including Journal of Business and Economic Statistics, Review of Economics and Statistics, Economic Inquiry, Econometrics Journal, Health Economics, and the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society.

Below are two links to peer-reviewed publications authored by Dr. Zimmer using copula functions:



His research is cited in the most widely used PhD-level econometrics textbooks, and his work on education reform has been profiled in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He has served as a consultant for the British National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Prior to joining the WKU faculty, he worked as a staff economist at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission in one of its antitrust enforcement units.

Dr. David Zimmer

Co-authoring articles with his students

In addition to connecting his students with employers, Dr. Zimmer is also actively engaged in empowering his students to share their findings via publication in academic journals and books.  “An Introduction to the U.S. Medicare Program,” is a chapter contained in the book “American Middle-Class Economic Encyclopedia” which was co-authored by Dr. Zimmer and his student Khoa Nguyen, and published in 2015.

You can find the link to the book here: https://www.amazon.com/American-Middle-Class-Economic-Encyclopedia-ebook/dp/B071CLRXQY)

Inspiration via mentoring

Dr. Zimmer received a great deal of personal mentoring from several professors during his studies at Indiana University.  He says “I’m extremely fortunate that my mentors were selfless, spent a great deal of time with me, and cared for my outcomes in life.  The chance to pay that back to a younger generation means the world to me, and I certainly hope they will in turn pass it on.  It’s my belief that that’s how a healthy society functions. Mentoring exceptional students is truly the best part of my job!”


Dr. Zimmer’s significant work has been recognized across the region. He has received numerous distinguished awards throughout his career including:

Faculty Research and Creativity Award, Gordon Ford College of Business, Western Kentucky University, 2020
Faculty Research and Creativity Award, Gordon Ford College of Business, Western Kentucky University, 2016
Gordon and Glenda Ford Award of Faculty Excellence, 2015
Faculty Teaching Award, Gordon Ford College of Business, Western Kentucky University, 2013
Hayes Watkins Research Fellow, Gordon Ford College of Business, Western Kentucky University, 2011
Faculty Research and Creativity Award, Gordon Ford College of Business, Western Kentucky University, 2009
Mark Berger Award for Best Paper, Kentucky Economic Association, 2008 (with J. Cress)

Current and Future projects

At this time, Dr. Zimmer is turning his attention to study healthcare spending models, which, as one would imagine, he has found to be quite complicated. In particular, the link between health insurance and medical spending can be particularly vexing, due to the ambiguous cause/effect relationship. Does health insurance boost spending, or do people who anticipate high spending seek out insurance? Economics in general, and health economics in particular, is ripe with chicken-or-the-egg problems such as these.

Looking ahead, Dr. Zimmer plans to turn his attention to issues of fertility—especially in first world nations.  He says, “Those countries are not reproducing rapidly enough to sustain long term population growth. Why are people having less offspring in first world countries? No one seems to understand why.”  He is anxious to continue researching the current data on the subject, study the published data, and identify questions that have not yet been answered.  In this manner he intends to begin to develop strategies for future exploration on the subject.