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Research Opportunities Spring 2020

Registration for Spring RA positions is now closed.

The following faculty members and PhD students are looking for research assistants this semester. All of these positions are for credit. Students registered for GU4996 will receive either 1 or 2 college credits and be charged for 1 – 2 credits (relevant only to students who pay by the credit). To participate in a faculty research project at no cost, GS students have the option of registering for GU4995 for 1 credit for which they will not be billed. In both cases, students will receive a letter grade on their transcript indicating that they worked as an RA. However, in the case of GU4995, the 1 credit may not be used to fulfill the minimum credit limit of a Columbia degree. Research positions typically entail 5-7 hours of work per week. Research credit may not be used as a substitute for elective or seminar requirements in the major.

If interested in a position, please contact the researcher directly at the email address provided. If you are selected as the RA then contact Susan Elmes at se5@columbia.edu. Be sure to cc the person you will be working with on your email.

When contacting the researcher regarding a position, you should include a copy of your Columbia transcript (unofficial is ok) and a CV/resumeAdditional opportunities will be posted as they arise. Check the wiki page regularly for the latest ads.



The following positions have been filled (updated February 21). Please do NOT apply to any of the positions below.


Kyle Coombs (PhD Student) – Position Closed

Catholic Scandals Effect on Education

This project explores how Catholic child abuse scandals have affected enrollment in Catholic schools and subsequently enrollment and participation of children in public and competitor private schools. The project will look at how students move from the private to the public system and the applications for student academic performance. Furthermore, I will ask how involvement in local public school funding and board elections change after an increase in public school enrollment.

I am looking for an RA to catalog and digitize various sources of public school district election and referenda data. Additionally, I am hoping an RA can help me update a series of data on Catholic scandals through the present day. The candidate should be strong in Python, Stata, and/or R and highly attentive to details.


Arpita Saluja (PhD Student) – Position Closed

Career Progression and bureaucrats in India

Exploring the relationship between social identity of the supervisor and career progression of their sub-ordinates

  1. Digitization of some pdf files
  2. Calculating distances between locations using R/python
  3. Data cleaning in excel
  4. Basic stata skills


Haaris Mateen (PhD Student) – Position Closed

Media Bias across Platforms

The project is investigating how media bias migrates from broadcast news to print news and models it as a strategic game.

There are two kinds of tasks:

  1. Replication of past results. Some basic Stata experience is needed. The task should offer a great opportunity to better understand data analysis on Stata. The work will also involve improving on the documentation of the project.
  2. Text analysis. Python experience is needed. PyTorch or TensorFlow knowledge would be great though not necessary. We’ll try to train the candidate on the best methods in this field as we go along.


Douglas Almond (Professor) – Position Closed

Natural Language Processing of China-related Tweets

We are seeking a student with experience in natural language processing to help with the analysis of text from Tweets related to China.

Natural language processing skills, interest in empirical work and China.


Sandra Baquie (PhD Student) – Position Closed

Development, Health and Environment

Different projects in the following areas: Public Health (US), Trust and Data Quality (Africa), Droughts and food security (Africa).

RA knowing Stata and/or ArcGIS (or Python or QGIS or R).


Sandra Aguilar Gomez (PhD Student) – Position Closed

Lowering the bar: the economics of air quality standards

In the past decades, public agencies have taken several measures to prevent and mitigate the large health effects of outdoor air pollution. While navigating politically complex long run solutions to improve air quality, the Mexico City Environmental Alert System, implemented for the first time in 1986 constitutes an ambitious short run pollution mitigation program that seeks to mitigate same-day health effects of very polluted days. The program not only publishes pollution warnings but also implements a series of strong measures ranging from driving restrictions to gas closing schools, government offices, gas stations and factories. Despite the potential high cost of these stringent measures, and the emergence of similar policies in China and the United States, to the best of my knowledge there is no estimation of the behavioral and health impacts of this program. Using a regression discontinuity design, and recently released high frequency data on pollution, car ridership and public transport use, I find that while the program has no impact on pollution levels, it does have behavioral consequences, such as important modal shifts of travel. In this paper, I also estimate the health benefits from avoidance behavior generated by the government communications that constitute a key part of the program.

Data cleaning, analysis and visualization (stata or R), proficient in Spanish, spatial analysis skills are a plus.


Ye Zhang (PhD Student) – Position Closed

Elicit Preferences of Venture Capital Investors and Entrepreneurs: Evidence from Experiments

Venture capital(VC) industry has cast a transformative impact on the modern entrepreneurial landscape and contribute to the innovation and economic growth in the globe. This project works closely with startups and VC investors to understand what factors play an important role for entrepreneurial financing process. This project will last for at least two extra years. Our team warmly welcome those who are passionate about this topic.

Research assistants just need to have one of the following skills, we will hold extra training sessions if you need to use other skills in your assigned task:

  1. Proficient English writing and communication skills
  2. Javascript, Python, VBA(macro), Qualtrics
  3. Stata or R
  4. Understand some machine learning algorithms
  5. Website building, poster making and video editing Being familiar with VC or startup community is a plus but not required. If you are interested in startups and entrepreneurial financing, feel free to contact Ye at yz2865@columbia.edu at any time.


Charles Taylor (PhD Student) – Position Closed

1) The Economic Impact of Land Use: Quantifying the Value of Wetlands for Flood Mitigation

Flooding is the most common disaster globally, causing global economic losses of $50 billion per year. Floods will increase in frequency and intensity due to rising sea levels and more frequent and extreme precipitation events. But there is a lack of agreement on the best way to mitigate flood damages, including around the extent wetlands can reduce flood damages. Drawing on landscape ecology and economics, I develop a set of spatial wetland measures and novel instrumental variables to assess the causal impact of wetlands on flood damages in the US.

About me: PhD student, Sustainable Development / Environmental Economics; website: www.ca-taylor.com

Primary tasks will involve data assembly, cleaning, and analysis. Econometric analysis (R is my preferred program, but Stata also OK). Familiarity with Google Earth Engine (java) and GIS/spatial data is useful (but not necessary), and machine learning experience is a nice-to-have. Some basic background research will also be required.

2) The Downstream Cost of Agriculture: The Economic Impact of Fertilizer Runoff and Aquatic Dead Zones

Fertilizer is critical to agricultural productivity, but its use results in a negative externality downstream in the form of algal blooms and aquatic dead zones. However, the full economic cost to water reliant-segments of the economy (fishing, tourism, hunting, recreation) has yet to be quantified at a large-scale. This study uses novel satellite measures of algal blooms and climate-based exogenous shocks to evaluate the economic impact of fertilizer use.

About me: PhD student, Sustainable Development / Environmental Economics; website: www.ca-taylor.com

Primary tasks will involve data assembly, cleaning, and analysis. Econometric analysis (R is my preferred program, but Stata also OK). Familiarity with Google Earth Engine (java) and GIS/spatial data is useful (but not necessary), and machine learning experience is a nice-to-have. Some basic background research will also be required.

José Scheinkman (Professor) – Position Closed

When a Master Dies: Speculation and Asset Float

For a project on economics of the arts, need RA to help collect provenance data from auction houses.

No special skills needed. Interest in topic is sufficient.


David Rosenkranz (PhD Student) – Position Closed

Entry barriers in US dialysis markets

Regulators have created entry barriers in some states to limit the supply of health care services. Their goal is to reduce unnecessary costs. This study aims to evaluate the effects of such entry barriers in US dialysis markets.

The ideal RA will be able to effectively conduct searches for publicly available documents; neatly organize their findings; and precisely summarize their findings. The ideal RA will also be able to perform simple-to-moderate data processing tasks in Stata.

In the course of assisting with this project, an RA will develop writing, data processing, and project management skills useful in a variety of professional settings.


Florian Grosset (PhD Student) – Position Closed

Cash for my Taxes: Taxation and Structural Development

A traditional view of development sees the transition from a subsistence-based, rural economy to a formal, urban economy as primarily driven by agents attracted to higher wages and productivity in the formal sector. Anecdotal evidence suggests otherwise. Some colonial powers introduced a formal tax, to be paid in cash on each male colonialized individual. The latter were then obliged to engage with the formal sector – not because it improved their living conditions but because they needed a way to collect cash. If validated, this hypothesis would imply a re-evaluation of our view of structural development – which might actually have reduced the overall productivity of the economy. It would also shed new light on current proposals and attempts to implement or broaden formal income tax system in developing countries.

The Research Assistant would engage in the following tasks:

  • Perform a review of the academic literature, both in economics and history, to identify potentially similar papers.
  • Through this review of the literature, and additional research work (in the library and on-line), precisely document the various episodes in which formal taxation on individuals has been implemented/removed – to understand the background, and find sources of identifying variation.
  • Search for potential data sources (on-line).

Taken together, those tasks will serve in choosing a specific setting in which to study the research question.

  • Basic data gathering, cleaning and analysis of Stata might also be performed – either for this project (conditional on success) or for other on-going projects.
  • Conditional on success of this project, similar background work might be performed for another project, on urban and development economics.

Special skills:

  • Beyond English, knowledge of additional official languages from African countries (French, Arabic, Swahili, etc.) is a plus, but not required.
  • Basic working knowledge of Stata is a plus.
  • Knowledge of impact evaluation methods (DiD, IV, RDD) is a plus.


Silvio Ravaioli (PhD Student) Position Closed

Choice over sources of information

Information collection is an important stage of the decision process. Final decisions are effected by implicit and explicit costs required to collect useful information. When information seeking is an active process, it can suffer from different biases. We explore choice over sources of information and how these biases are influenced by the choice context.

The RA will run simulations about how different agents would collect information and act in different scenarios, and analyze experimental data about choice over sources of information. Applicants with programming skills (preferably Matlab or Python) and interest in behavioral economics will receive priority.


Lucas Husted (PhD Student)  Position Closed
The Economics of Opioids
An analysis of supply side interventions on the availability of prescription opioids, and concurrently an analysis of the economic roots of the opioid crisis. RA would assist with collecting primary evidence of supply side interventions and/or scraping public websites for data.

High reading ability and/or data scraping abilities


Miguel Urquiola (Professor, Chair) Position Closed

Miguel Urquiola, Chair of the Economics Department, is seeking an undergraduate research assistant who can begin work immediately.

The project would involve documentary research. An interest in education and history, and a familiarity with scraping and text analysis would be useful.

If you are interested, please send Prof. Urquiola (msu2101@columbia.edu) one or two paragraphs describing your experience and availability.


Yi Cheng (PhD Student) – Position Closed

Inconsistency in Hospital Facility Reporting: Evidence from NICU Beds

Hospitals need to report their facilities in their annual Institutional Cost Report (ICR). However, their self-reported facilities sometimes differ from the numbers registered under Department of Health (DOH). Starting from 2010, New York State DOH started auditing hospitals’ ICR. This project aims at 1) evaluating the effect of DOH audit on hospitals’ facility reporting behaviors, and 2) investigating whether the changes in hospital reporting behavior differ across hospital characteristics/categories.

The New York State Department of Health provides digitalized Institutional Cost Report (ICR) data since 2009. The 2004-2009 ICR data are provided in PDF format. The RA is expected to 1) digitalize 2004-2009 ICR data from PDF using Python; and 2) using 2009 official digital ICR data to cross validate self-digitalized ICR data. It will be highly helpful if the RA has prior Python programing experience, especially in scraping data from PDF.


(RC) Xi Zhi Lim (PhD Student) Position Closed

Experiments, Risk / Sequential Choice

This is a behavioral economics project consists of lab/online experiments. The topic is TBD, either on risk preference or on sequential choice, but funding is already approved (i.e., we will run this experiment Spring 2020). For the former, we study how people’s risk aversion changes when risk is avoidable than when it is not. For the latter, we study how choices in the past affect choices in the future. In both studies we use lotteries as the objects of choice, which makes this a good project to be on whether the RA is interested in academia or the finance/consulting industry.

The main tasks consist of literature review and coding in Matlab/Stata for the experiment and for the analysis of its findings. You will learn how to code up an experiment, but fear not, this project has two PhD students on it, one of whom (not me) is extremely competent in this respect. In fact, the main body of the code is done. The RA will also do some literature review on behavioral economics literature, which in my opinion is very helpful, as they will add to your knowledge base cool experiments and their findings concerning economic agents’ behavior; this is useful for academia, but is also useful if you are trying to look smart in a private industry interview.


Ceyhun Elgin (Professor) Position Closed

Measuring the Shadow Economy using Twitter

This project aims to measure the extent of informal economic activities using Twitter. To this end, the undergraduate TA will collect data from Twitter or fixed time periods searching for terms similar to informal sector or shadow economy in national languages.

Data collection in social media, basic MS Office skills


Pablo Warnes (PhD Student) – Position Closed

The Distributional Effects of Urban Transit Infrastructure in the the City of Buenos Aires

I am studying the effects of a large change in the transport infrastructure in the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina. This project involves statistical analysis using large amounts of data.

To start, the work would involve cleaning data, categorizing the cleaned data, and doing simple statistical analysis using the categorized data. I am looking for a motivated undergraduate student who can read and interpret tabulated data in Spanish. Some knowledge of econometrics and Stata, R or Python is preferred, but not required.


Joseph Saia (PhD Student) – Position Closed

High frequency identification of monetary shocks

The goal of this project is to set up a public database of various measures of monetary shocks popular in the literature. We’re in the process of purchasing a large set (50GB+) of historical data that we will use to create a database of these shocks and compare their properties. Finally we plan on expanding these shock series to new ones that we have derived.

We’re looking for an RA to do the following tasks.

  1. Visit the Bloomberg terminal and retrieve data about once a month, but perhaps more frequently. We’ve written ourselves a guide on how to do this already so it should be straight forward (15 mins a month).
  2. Run Python scripts to clean the data and add it to the historical data. We’ve also already written this code so it too should be straight forward, but may require a small amount of tinkering.
  3. Run Julia code to estimate updated shocks and tables. We’ve also already written this code so it too should be straight forward, but may require a small amount of tinkering.
  4. Work on small ad-hoc projects to test properties of shock series.

We use Python, Julia, SQL, and Git for this project. We’re looking for someone with at least some familiarity with Python or Julia, but if you have more experience or want to expand your skill set there’s plenty of work in (4) to do.


Daniel Deibler (PhD Student) – Position Closed

What’s in a Name? The Effect of Changing Definitions of “Employee” on Worker Outcomes

Whether or not a worker is an employee changes their access to legal rights. Workers who are independent contractors cannot unionize and can be more easily let go. This project examines the role of changing legal definitions of “employee” on worker outcomes including wages, unionization rates, employment, and inequality. We seek to collect and classify all legal cases in which workers were declared “employees” or “independent contractors”, and use that to understand what effect changing the definition of employee can have.

RAs will be primarily responsible for reading the relevant legal opinions and classifying (i) the decision that was made, and (ii) the set of workers who were affected. RAs may also be asked to write code to help link specific judges to case decisions, and help edit/review work. Some familiarity with R or Stata is helpful but not required.


Seyhan Erden (Professor) – Position Closed

Time Series and Panel Data Applications

Gathering macro economics data and applying to time series and panel analysis.

RA must be fluent in time series commands in Stata, we will do Stata application with macro data


Louise Guillouet (PhD Student) – Position Closed

The social quality of goods

In the developing world, imported goods often sell for a price premium. This project aims at investigating where this import premium comes from, focusing on a mechanism that has not been extensively been studied so far: social interactions (social learning, social signaling, shared utility). It is difficult to do this with observational data, so I collect my own data in Myanmar, where imports have doubled since the 2011. I implement a lab-in-the-field experiment to test my hypothesis.

I would like to hire an RA to help me prepare survey material for my next field trip. This will get them good exposure to research in development economics. I use surveyCTO but it’s a very easy software to learn.

1022 International Affairs Building (IAB)
Mail Code 3308  
420 West 118th Street
New York, NY 10027
Ph: (212) 854-3680
Fax: (212) 854-0749
Business Hours:
Mon–Fri, 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.

1022 International Affairs Building (IAB)

Mail Code 3308

420 West 118th Street

New York, NY 10027

Ph: (212) 854-3680
Fax: (212) 854-0749
Business Hours:
Mon–Fri, 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
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