Research Opportunities – Spring 2022
PLEASE NOTE: ALL SPRING RA POSITIONS ARE NOW CLOSED.
The following faculty members and PhD students are seeking research assistants this semester. All of these positions are for credit.
PLEASE NOTE: Research Credit (GU4996 and GU4995) is only available to Undergraduates (CC,GS,EN and BC) and MAO students in the Department of Economics.
Selected RAs will need to register for a Research Course. Students registered for research course GU4996 will receive either 1 or 2 college credits and be charged for 1 or 2 credits (relevant only to students who pay by the credit). GS students have the additional option of participating in a research project at no cost by instead registering for GU4995 for 1 credit, for which they will not be billed. However, in the case of GU4995, the 1 credit may not be used to fulfill the minimum credit limit of a Columbia degree.
In both cases, students will receive a letter grade on their transcript for their work as an RA. However, in either case, research credit may not be used as a substitute for elective or seminar requirements in the major.
If interested in an RA position, please do the following:
1. Contact the researcher directly at the email address provided, and include a copy of your Columbia transcript (unofficial is ok) as well as your CV/resume.
If you are selected as an RA by the researcher, continue with the additional steps below:
3. You will then be sent a link to a specific RA form to fill out.
4. You will also need to join the waitlist for the Research Course GU4996 in SSOL (or the optional GU4995 for GS students). PLEASE NOTE: After the Waitlists are closed, you will need to Request to Add the course in SSOL.
Additional opportunities will be posted as they arise. Check the wiki page regularly for the latest ads.
The following positions have been filled and are now closed. Please do not contact the Researcher about these positions.
Jagdish Bhagwati (Professor) – POSITION CLOSED
Assistance with Book Manuscript
Seeking a bright undergraduate: no econometrics is involved, and the work would involve looking up sources (e.g. which year did Paul Samuelson go to Cambridge, UK, and meet with Pigou at King’s College?; the years when Pigou and Turing were Fellows of King’s College; Samuelson wrote how Turing gave him the mathematical proof of univalence wrt FPE theorem, etc).
Anyone who has an interest in these kinds of issues would be a good fit. The title of the book will be: A Magical Life: Eminent Economists I have Encountered. The undergraduate who assists me this year, like the one who assisted me a couple of years ago, will be given fulsome thanks in the Preface, of course.
No one who wants experience as an econometrician should apply, as they will be frustrated!
Qingmin Liu (Professor) – POSITION CLOSED
1) Literature review
Review of research papers in microeconomic theory and game theory from top economics journals; meeting with the professor once every two weeks to discuss papers.
Have taken a course in undergraduate game theory
2) Course assistant
Help preparing teaching materials for a course in microeconomic theory
Familiar with a latex based type-setting program such as TexWorks, overleaf, etc.
BooKang Seol (PhD Student) – POSITION CLOSED
Why Community-Driven Development Projects Often Fail to Develop Social Institutions
Community-Driven Development (CDD) is a prominent strategy for service delivery that emphasizes engagement of local communities in all phases of development. Numerous RCTs have shown that CDD projects do not improve development outcomes—such as education or health-related metrics—and often fail to create lasting, structural social change at the community-level. Why do CDD projects often fail to establish lasting social institutions and have long-term effects on development outcomes? I study this question by comparing contemporary CDDs with a series of projects conducted in rural Korea in the 1970s.
Attention to detail
Bhargav Gopal (PhD Student) – POSITION CLOSED
Do Non-Compete Agreements Hurt Workers?
Non-Compete agreements are provisions within the employment contract that prevent workers from joining competing firms. The Biden administration has taken a tough stance on enforcing these agreements, arguing that non-compete agreements stifle wage growth and job mobility. On theoretical grounds, however, we may expect non-compete agreements to enhance economic efficiency since both the worker and firm voluntary agree to the employment contract. This project analyses a nationally representative survey on non-compete usage to distinguish between these sharply contrasting views.
Ideally you are a critical thinker with a passion for learning. You will be reading published literature and presenting the strengths/weaknesses of the research design. Familiarity with statistical programming (R or Stata) is a major plus.
Palaash Bhargava (PhD Student) – POSITION CLOSED
1) Ancestral History and Climatic Preferences
This project aims to explore if climatic instability faced by one’s ancestors shape up their preferences over environmental and climatic policies and regulations. It uses a combination of Integrated Values Survey, Ethnographic Atlas and Historical Climate data to test the hypothesis mentioned above. In order to test the mechanism of socialization, the project additionally explores Folklore data.
The RA would assist in gathering, cleaning and streamlining data from the Folklore literature. Additionally, he / she would help in exploring some other datasets such as GSS which may contain information on climatic preferences. Folklore data might have to be classified and ranked by the intensity of environmental expression / coverage. Most of the coding would be done in STATA and Python. Therefore, basic coding skills and knowledge of text analysis are preferred but not required. Knowledge of ArcGis is also a plus (not required). The RA should be open to meeting weekly and should be eager to pick up the relevant skills needed.
2) Textbooks, Xenophobia and National Identity
This project aims to explore the role of textbooks and curriculum in shaping an individual’s national identity, ideology, religiosity and preference towards members of another group. The context of analysis is Indian curriculum prescribed by different state and the central government. The analysis would focus on the material prescribed in middle and high school to students under subjects related to literature and social sciences.
The RA would help gather, organize and analyze information on textbooks prescribed both by the national board and state board of education. The work prescribed to the RA would include downloading the curriculum from different ministry websites and PDFs of textbooks prescribed. Once the information is organized, the RA may be required to help with text analysis. Therefore, a knowledge of text analysis is preferred but not necessary. Most of the coding will take place in Python and STATA. Basic knowledge of the same is preferred but not necessary. The RA should be eager to learn and open to meeting weekly.
Michael Best (Professor) – POSITION CLOSED
Fighting Corruption in Peru
Governments around the world rely on citizens to assist in the fight against corruption. Governments have limited capacity to monitor all aspects of government activity, and so citizens volunteering their information and their time can potentially drastically increase the arsenal at the government’s disposal. However, citizens have their own interests and may not possess the same training and capabilities as government workers. The Contraloría General de la Republica (CGR), the Peruvian government’s auditing agency, is the main organism undertaking large-scale actions to combat corruption. The CGR has been undergoing a massive reform focusing on strengthening its presence outside major cities and incorporating modern technologies in its auditing processes. In this effort, the CGR partnered with Columbia University and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to undertake and empirically evaluate the impact of two large-scale policy innovations. Our first project asks how best to delegate the monitoring of public works projects to citizens, accounting for heterogeneity in their motivations and their ability to perform complex audit-related tasks. Ultimately, though, only governments can investigate and sanction public officials, but they have limited resources at their disposal with which to do this. Therefore, governments need to process citizens’ reports of malfeasance and rank them by priority. However, when capacity to prioritize citizens’ reports is limited, this can lead government anti-corruption efforts to be misdirected. Our second project asks how technology can be leveraged to process large volumes of incoming citizen reports and triage them.
The Research Assistant will work closely with the Senior Research Assistants to:
- Assist in data cleaning and data analysis
- Assist in survey design and programming
- Assist in the creation of reports to government partners
- Assist in the preparation of literature reviews and qualitative research
- Assist in project related logistics tasks
- Perform other tasks assigned by the supervisors The ideal candidate is an undergraduate student majoring in Economics or related fields with interest in early exposure to economics research and available to work for 5-7 hours a week for an amount of letter grade credits determined by the department during Winter 2022, with possibility of extension into Spring 2022. Qualifications
- Strong oral and written Spanish communications skills
- Self-starter, resourceful and detail-oriented with excellent organizational skills
- Demonstrated ability to work independently
- Demonstrated ability to work successfully handling various tasks
- Eager to learn, and gain experience
- Familiarity with randomized controlled trials is a plus
- Prior knowledge of quantitative data analysis packages is a plus (ideally Stata)
- Knowledge of the Peruvian context is preferred
Krzysztof Zaremba (PhD Student) – POSITION CLOSED
Racial disparities in reproductive health / price transparency in health care
I am looking for help with two projects: 1. The first projects documents and analyze the causes of racial disparities in reproductive health. In addition to analyze current differences in health outcomes among pregnant women, it aims to understand when these outcome started to diverge. 2. The second project leverages recent law on price transparency in hospitals to understand how complex pricing and uncertain costs affect decision to access health services and subsequently health outcomes.
- First project: the goal is to use machine learning techniques to programmatically read and analyze data on reproductive health from historical documents. RA would build on previous work in python, hence knowledge of python is necessary. Knowledge of machine learning or OCR is not necessary but appreciated.
- Second project: RA would help to read, build a database and visualize data on price transparency published by hospitals. Knowledge of R is necessary.
Krishna Kamepalli (PhD Student) – POSITION CLOSED
Financial Heterogeneity and Transmission of Monetary Policy
I study the role of financial frictions and firm heterogeneity in determining the channels of monetary policy transmission. I provide identification using a natural experiment that varies a key financial friction – the strength of creditor rights. I also study if the investment dampening of financial frictions is amplified in the presence of aggregate shocks that affect firms’ marginal costs and marginal benefits of investment.
RA should be looking forward to performing tasks using STATA or any programming language. The work includes the review of literature and data analysis. RA should be able to work independently and creatively to solve problems.
Douglas Almond (Professor) – POSITION CLOSED
The Impact of Fossil Fuel Industry Educational Propaganda
Research by 3rd Year SDEV PhD Student Anna Papp, whose dissertation is supervised by Almond.
What are the long-term impacts of exposure to educational materials prepared and distributed by the fossil fuel industry? Recent reports have documented the multitude of science and social science educational projects firms and trade groups have invested in over the past decades to portray the oil & gas industry positively and undermine climate action. Examples include materials aimed at schoolchildren such as Exxon and Disney’s “Micky Mouse and Goofy Explore Energy” comic books from the 70s and the American Petroleum Institute and DuPont’s 1954 “Magic Barrel” show-and-tell program. High school students have also been targeted, for example with Phillips Petroleum sponsored firm series “American Enterprise.” These efforts continue today, with fossil fuel-funded educational programs abundant in many states (e.g. Oklahoma’s oil and gas funded Oklahoma Energy Resources Board). While anecdotally these projects have been an important part of the fossil fuel industry’s campaign in shaping the public’s views on energy and climate, there is little prior work quantifying the impacts of these efforts on students and society. The goal of this project is to 1) find detailed data on the roll-out of fossil fuel industry educational materials (e.g. schools or counties targeted by the industry) and then 2) investigate the long-term impacts of exposure to the materials (e.g. outcomes such as climate change beliefs, energy use, green preferences, career choices, etc.).
The RA would assist in researching educational programs and information on their distribution across American schools as well as finding and cleaning outcome data. General research skills, data analysis, and some coding skills (either Stata, R, or Python) would be helpful. Depending on progress on the project, the RA may have an opportunity to work on other projects as well (related to costs of cronyism, impacts of plastic pollution, etc.), if interested.
Shaoyu Liu (PhD Student) – POSITION CLOSED
University relocation and education outcomes
This is a project looking at long-run consequences of historic university relocation and local spillovers on education/innovation/economic outcomes.
Data collection, cleaning and plotting; literature review. There are also tasks available for large scale data parsing, scrapping and standardization which may demand stronger programming/data skills. Fluency in Chinese or knowledge in Python programming are preferred.
Nadia Ali (PhD Student) – POSITION CLOSED
Regional Inequality and Transport Infrastructure
I am broadly interested in studying regional inequality in developing countries. My research question for this project is: is there evidence of illegitimate favoritism in transport infrastructure in Tunisia? Do we see any shifts following the Arab spring?
Ideally the RA will assist in verifying data sources and doing exploratory analysis of the data using Stata or a language of their choice.
Reka Juhasz (Professor) – POSITION CLOSED
The Role of Industrial Policy in East-Asia’s Miracle Economies
This project re-examines the question of how industrial policy contributed to growth in East-Asia’s miracle economies in the post-war period. The project will assemble a novel cross-country dataset on sectors targeted by industrial policy using primary and secondary sources, as well as data on policy measures used (tariffs, subsidies, loans etc.). We will use these data, in combination with novel data on countries’ trading patterns, to estimate the contribution of industrial policy to growth.
We are looking to hire a team of undergraduate RAs interested in understanding the historical experience of industrial policy in these countries. The ideal candidate will have an interest in the region and in industrial policy. Tasks will involve searching the literature for sources, constructing a database of industrial policy based on qualitative and quantitative sources and digitizing trade data. A working knowledge of one or more of the region’s languages is an advantage, but not required. The team will work with Professors Reka Juhasz (Columbia) and Nathan Lane (Oxford).