2023 Economics PhDs in Development and Trade

Sheng (Charles) Cai has focused on the growth impact of international and spatial knowledge spillovers. Charles will join the City University of Hong Kong as an Assistant Professor.

I am grateful for my time at Yale. This is where I grow as a researcher. I greatly benefited from the knowledge spillovers from the amazing faculty members and colleagues. – Sheng (Charles) Cai

Charles’ dissertation models the role of multinational firms in spreading technological know-how, promoting foreign innovation, and driving economic growth around the world.  A unique feature is that his analysis (in collaboration with Wei Xiang) combines multinational production with international trade in a dynamic model.  The analysis can speak to issues such as the short-run and long-run effect of sanctions, such as those on Russia, that have greatly curtailed multinational activity there.  A bottom line is that the short-run effect on economic activity is typically limited, while the long-run effect can be devastating. – Samuel Kortum, James Burrows Moffatt Professor of Economics

Zara Contractor has focused on dimensions of wage inequality. Zara will join Middlebury College as an Assistant Professor in the Economics Department.

My time at Yale was an incredible experience, and I am extremely grateful to have been part of such a collaborative and supportive research community. – Zara Contractor

Zara’s dissertation breaks genuinely new ground on an extremely salient and timely topic, the impact of software in the workplace.  The combination of micro data of unprecedented scope and detail on job openings, creative causal identification, and a novel theoretical framework of task-based production with hard skill requirements, move the research frontier beyond the generic notion of skill-biased technical change, and provide a compelling and concrete analysis of its main manifestation. Software causes upskilling and raises inequality in labor demand and earnings among workers, even within the same occupation. The resulting effects on employment reallocation, within and between employers, are profound. We have much to learn from Zara’s exciting research agenda. – Giuseppe Moscarini, Philip Golden Bartlett Professor of Economics

Lucas Conwell has applied development and trade tools to study the government role in the provision of transportation. Lucas will join University College London as a Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in Economics.

Without EGC’s very generous Ph.D. grants, convincingly quantifying the supply side of informal transit markets and commuter preferences for different policy interventions would have been almost impossible, given the paucity of existing data on these networks.  The technical guidance provided by my EGC advisors and the capable administrative support offered by EGC staff allowed me to put these funds to use hiring a local firm to track minibus operations and conduct a commuter survey. – Lucas Conwell 

Rapidly urbanizing cities are engines of growth, and many people flock to cities to earn a better living, but many neighborhoods within those cities, especially those served by any existing public transit, are expensive to live in. As a result, many low-income workers commute long distances but live in neighborhoods not well served by public transit.  To serve these workers’ demand for commutes, a system of privatized shared transit has organically developed. The system may appear chaotic, but it may also be efficient, if the “invisible hand” of the market connects minibus operators to commuters. Conwell combines spatial modeling with primary data collection on Cape Town’s informal, decentralized privatized public transit sector to ask whether any government interventions could improve productivity and welfare in this privatized public transit market. – Mushfiq Mobarak, Professor of Economics and Management

Lucas Finamor has worked at the intersection of labor economics, public finance, and development economics. Lucas will serve as a Post-doctoral Fellow at the Institute for Fiscal Studies in London for the 2023-2024 academic year then join the São Paulo School of Economics from Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV) as an Assistant Professor in August 2024.

My years in the Ph.D. program at Yale were outstanding. I received sharp academic training, which was essential for developing my research agenda. The formative components were not restricted to the first years of courses. I learned much from each conversation with faculty, students, and visitors. Attending seminars and conferences, many of each sponsored by the EGC, I could learn from being exposed to cutting-edge research and observing the interactions and discussions. All this professional development was achieved in a respectful and nurturing environment that I will greatly miss. – Lucas Finamor 

In his thesis Lucas studies how features of pension and unemployment insurance systems affect labor supply decisions in countries with widespread informal employment (i.e. jobs where workers do not pay taxes and do not accrue social insurance benefits and where employers do not necessarily abide by employment regulations). His work develops new insights into the likely effects of recent reforms to the Chilean pension system, reforms that are very similar to those under consideration in many other countries. Certain policies designed to extend working lives may do so, but only part of those extra years are likely to be spent working in the formal sector. The work in this thesis has important implications for our understanding of the effect of policies being debated as governments wrestle with challenges associated with aging populations. – Cormac O'Dea, Assistant Professor of Economics

Matthew Gordon, a development-focused PhD student at the Yale School of Environment, has focused on the distributional consequences of environmental policy in low-income countries using structural econometrics, causal inference, and machine learning. In fall 2023, Matthew will be starting as an Assistant Professor at the Paris School of Economics.

The faculty in the Yale development group taught me what it means to ask and answer important questions. It sounds very simple, but I think it is much harder than teaching methods or statistical tools – although I learned those too. Defending my research in the development seminar more than prepared me for the job market. – Matthew Gordon

Relief distribution after natural disasters is often targeted based on damage assessment: if a hurricane or earthquake or flood visibly damages a home, then the relief agency provides support to its owner. Gordon’s key insight is that how a disaster affects each household’s welfare depends more on how vulnerable that household is, rather than how much property it lost. That would in turn depend on the level of informal insurance the household possesses – e.g. does it have a member in a different location who sends them remittances? This vulnerability or “consumption smoothing ability” is very difficult to observe while physical damages from disaster are visible and verifiable, so it’s easy to understand why disaster relief agencies focus more on the property damage assessments. Matt’s research clarifies that this is not the correct way to go about relief targeting. The paper provides rigorous guidance on how we can improve welfare through alternative targeting methods. His paper is an excellent example of the value of careful, deep economic analysis to clarify issues that are important for policy, but those issues were not obvious until you bring rigorous theory and data to bear on the question. – Mushfiq Mobarak, Professor of Economics and Management

Antonia Paredes-Haz studies political economy and development, focusing on identity politics, which represents a threat to the ability of democracies to provide inclusive governance, particularly in low-income settings.  Antonia is joining the University of California, Berkeley Haas Business School as a postdoctoral fellow.

EGC exposed me to scholars conducting research in numerous countries and contexts. Having professors who understand both the Latin American context and how my research can be generalized to other regions of the world was extremely beneficial. – Antonia Paredes-Haz

Antonia’s dissertation addresses classic questions in political economy like how citizens’ trade-off preferences across different dimensions of candidate identity when voting, how electoral institution design affects this trade-off, and how voter behavior impacts legislator identity and policy outcomes. Women the world over remain remain underrepresented in politics. Gender quotas on party candidate lists have been a significant policy response, but we know very little about how these quotas affect voter behavior. For instance, if citizens simply continue to vote for male candidates, women elected due to gender parity requirements may not fully represent voter preferences – and the lack of voter support for them may also constrain their effectiveness as legislators. Antonia’s research on the impacts of gender parity rules in Chilean constitutional convention elections sheds light on these questions. – Rohini Pande, Henry J. Heinz II Professor of Economics and Director of the Economic Growth Center

International and Development Economics (IDE) Masters Students

This year’s graduates of the International and Development Economics Master’s program will go on to PhD programs at Harvard; fellowships at the University of Chicago; and a range of policy jobs. We highlight just a few of their exciting pathways below and congratulate each of the 2023 class on a successful year.

Ottavia Rigazzi will be working at Compass Lexecon in their Paris office as a Research Analyst focusing on antitrust and the energy sector. 

I really enjoyed the flexibility and openness of the program - hard core courses that could be combined with electives from finance, computer science or environment,  basically from any sphere. This made the program a 360° experience. – Ottavia Rigazzi

Eu-Wayne Mok will be joining the Harvard Economics PhD program.

My time at Yale has been full of opportunities to explore and widen my academic interests  -- from thinking critically in IDE classes to sharpening my research skills as an IDE-RA, I have learned much from the program.– Eu-Wayne Mok


Yunqing Huang will serve the Ministry of Education in Singapore as a scholarship recipient. .

I really enjoy the amount of flexibility given in the IDE program. We get to engage in discussion and attend seminars that are of interest. We are also given a safe environment to experiment and make mistakes when we are doing our research. The encouragement and guidance given by the mentors are more valuable than anything else. – Yunqing Huang


Funmilayo Ajayi will be joining the Development Innovation Lab, University of Chicago as a Research Professional for Professor Michael Kremer.

My experience in the IDE program has been a life-changing voyage that has furnished me with the expertise and abilities to adeptly navigate the complexities of global economic systems while making significant contributions to sustainable development. The IDE program has not only enriched my understanding and passion for development research, but it has also equipped me with the necessary tools to thoroughly comprehend and conduct research on pertinent real-world challenges.” – Funmilayo Ajayi 

Akash Uppal will join the Tobin Center for Economic Policy and the Economic Growth Center at Yale University as a Postgraduate Associate for Rohini Pande, Director of the Economic Growth Center.

With the confidence to ask complex economic questions and the competence to credibly answer them, IDE graduates are well prepared to serve in academic, policy, and private-sector positions. Whether in Gary Gorton’s PhD class on financial crises or as part of a research assistantship with Andrew Metrick, I bore witness to the ways in which leading scholars jointly leverage theoretical models, statistical software, and econometric methods to enhance our understanding of the world. – Akash Uppal

Romil Pandey will join the Global Poverty Research Lab at Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University as a Research Analyst for Professors Dean Karlan and Chris Udry.

I’ve always been interested in the field of economic development, and the IDE program, particularly Professor Mike Boozer’s mentorship, has affirmed my pursuit of a research and policy based career in development. – Romil Pandey

Alex Philip will be working at Harvard Business School as a predoc for Professor Amitabh Chandra.

I came into IDE not sure about what my next steps would be, but the program let me explore my academic interests and have meaningful conversations with economic experts, allowing me to make informed decisions about my career and feel more prepared to conduct impactful research. – Alex Philip 


Six predocs smiling for the camera
EGC Postgraduate Associates (back row L-R) Hema Balarama, Viyaleta Farysheuskaya, Fikremariam Gedefaw, (front row) Diana K. Perez Lopez, Marie-Rose Tonguino, and Sarah Danner

EGC Postgraduate Associates

Sarah Danner served as a Postgraduate Associate at EGC from September 2021 to May 2023, working with Professor Rohini Pande on the governance portfolio based in Nepal. Sarah will start her PhD in Public Policy at Berkeley Haas this fall.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to gain experience in conducting policy–relevant research as well as the guidance and mentorship received by my PIs in sharpening my research interests and navigating a career in academia. I also want to extend my gratitude to a wonderful group of EGC predocs who created a very supportive environment and from whom I have learned a lot. –Sarah Danner 

Working with Sarah was a privilege and pleasure. She enthusiastically supported multiple streams of work, including survey design and implementation and the analysis of complex data. I am excited to see all that she will do in her career! – Soledad Artiz Prillaman, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Stanford University

Fikremariam Gedefaw has been a Postgraduate Associate at EGC since August 2021, working on a portfolio of projects with a focus on state capacity and public service delivery in South Asia. Fikermariam will start his PhD in Public Policy at Berkeley Haas this fall.

This predoctoral fellowship has been an incredible learning opportunity. I got a good sense of frontier topics of research in the political economy of development; I learned about the methodological ingenuity that is required to establish causal links, as well as the patience and attention to detail needed to make scientific progress. –Fikremariam Gedefaw

It's been great having Fikre as part of our research team for the last couple of years. He always had a strong interest in learning about the entirety of the research process from idea generation through paper completion, so we're excited to see him go on to start his PhD. – Yusuf Neggers, Assistant Professor of Public Policy, University of Michigan

Diana Perez Lopez served as a Postgraduate Associate at EGC from August 2021 to July 2023. She worked with Professor Attanasio and Meghir on projects related to early childhood development interventions, measurement in economics, and inequality. Diana will start her PhD in Economics at Yale University this fall.

I am grateful for my time at EGC. The mentorship and training I received were invaluable in broadening my scope of research topics and developing useful skills. –Diana Perez Lopez

Diana has been working hard on constructing appropriate measures of child development from a variety of different tests to obtain a metric that can be compared across contexts. More generally she has contributed in an important way to a project on how to measure the impact of interventions. – Orazio Attansio, Cowles Professor of Economics

Marie–Rose Tonguino served as a Postgraduate Associate at EGC from July 2021 to June 2023, working with Professor Nicholas Ryan on projects at the intersection of development economics and energy/environmental economics. Marie–Rose will attend Northwestern University as a post–baccalaureate student in Applied Mathematics with plans to apply to PhD programs this fall.

Working at EGC has been a great learning opportunity and Nick Ryan has been a wonderful PI to work with. It has also been great meeting and engaging with an amazing group of peers who will likely be my colleagues in the future. –Marie-Rose Tonguino

Marie-Rose Tonguino has been an excellent Tobin Fellow. She has contributed to an incredible range of projects — from economic history to energy markets — and brought clear thinking and analysis to each one.  I wish her luck in graduate school! –Nick Ryan

Corey Vernot is a Y–RISE Postgraduate Associate and coauthor of several publications. Corey will be joining the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy as a PhD student. 

Working as an RA for Professor Mushfiq Mobarak at Yale has been an incredible growth opportunity for me. Of the many things Prof. Mobarak has given me, the most valuable has been his trust and the freedom to make and learn from mistakes. –Corey Vernot

Corey Vernot has worked as a pre–doc at Y–RISE after graduating from Duke University with degrees in statistics and public policy. He matured as a researcher during his time at Yale, and has co–authored six articles published or revise-and-resubmit in the Journal of Monetary Economics, European Economic Review, Science: Advances, Nature: Medicine, PLOS: Medicine, Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy. He continues to coauthor other papers with Yale and Y-RISE researchers. He shifted from taking on research assistant responsibilities to an independent researcher mindset over this period, and has gained the confidence to design new research projects independently. He won a highly competitive NSF Graduate Research Fellowship and will use it to matriculate at the Ph.D. program at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy. –Mushfiq Mobarak, Professor of Economics and Management 

Satish Wasti served as a Postgraduate Associate for the Inclusion Economics initiative from July 2022 to July 2023 helping implement a randomized evaluation of flood alerts dissemination in Bihar, India. Satish will join the Economics PhD program at the University of British Columbia beginning August 2023.  

My experience with development economics research at EGC has been beneficial in my growth as a researcher and in gaining clarity about my research interests. I am grateful to my colleagues, including those based out of Patna, for their kindness and camaraderie. –Satish Wasti

Satish has been a tremendous asset to the GFA team over the past year or so. Good luck as you start your PhD in Economics at UBC, Satish! – Maulik Jagnani, Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Colorado Denver

EGC interns and undergraduates focusing on development

Aintzane Aboitiz Braun graduated from Yale with a BS in Economics and Cognitive Science in December 2022, and worked for EGC during the Spring 2023 semester as a Research and Program Assistant. She assisted with a wide range of EGC operations, particularly connected with new research initiatives. Aintzane will join Evercore Partners in New York as an Investment Banking Analyst. 

During my time at EGC I had the opportunity to work on exciting initiatives led by Yale economists and researchers. I focused most of my work on the newly launched Gender & Growth Gaps Project, but also on several administrative tasks that helped the center run smoothly. It was great to see the coordination and synergy between various research efforts, and I was thrilled to contribute my part to cutting–edge research in economic development. –Aintzane Aboitiz Braun

In her short time working with us, Aintzane moved a number of key EGC projects forward, including reviewing existing metrics that track gender gaps in the economy for the Gender and Growth Gaps project and setting up a new series of articles called ‘Perspectives’ on the EGC website that showcase commentaries by the EGC community. She learned new skills quickly and applied herself to a wide range of tasks, including archival research for the EGC History Project. It has been great to have her here and we wish her all success as she begins work as an analyst. I hope some of the research and the researchers she has encountered here will inspire her own work in the future. – Aishwarya Lakshmi Ratan, Deputy Director, Economic Growth Center


"Chandra at graduation"
Photo by John Hassett.

Chandra Bhandari began working with EGC's Inclusion Economics initiative in April 2020 as a Senior Research Associate for Inclusion Economics Nepal's governance portfolio. After beginning his Master in Public Policy in Global Affairs (MPP) degree at Yale's Jackson School of Global Affairs in August 2021, Chandra transitioned to the role of Senior Research Coordinator at Inclusion Economics at Yale University. 

My experience at Inclusion Economics was great opportunity for me to closely observe the data work being done by the postgraduate associates and the team in Nepal. My role as a coordinator helped me learn to communicate with different people within and across the different research teams. I highly value this experience and I'm grateful to Inclusion Economics at EGC. – Chandra Bhandari 

Chandra started working with our research team while based in Nepal, where he traversed vast and hilly distances to interview (sometimes grumpy) government officials. A few years later, he traversed oceans in order to study at Yale, and he continued work as a friend and data mentor to the entire Nepal governance-focused research team. He has contributed rigorous analysis and practical insights to numerous policy briefs, all with a trademark smile. I'll miss the opportunity to work closely with Chandra, and I wish him the best on his next professional adventure! – Jenna Allard, Assistant Director of Research and Policy at Inclusion Economics at Yale University

Rosa Kleinman studied Economics and Math at Yale. She served as an EGC Economics Research Intern in summer 2021, where she worked on the environmental clearances project. Rosa was also awarded the Ronald Meltzer/Cornelia Awdziewicz Economic Award for her senior economics essay, “Transaction Costs and the Take-up of Social Safety Net Programs: Evidence from the Combined Application Project,” supervised by Cormac O’Dea. After graduating, Rosa will work as a pre–doctoral fellow at MIT and is interested in pursuing an Economics PhD in the future.

It's truly been a pleasure to see Rosa mature as an economist and to see her interests in social and public policy take shape. We look forward to hearing about her times at MIT as a predoc and beyond! – Rohini Pande, Henry J. Heinz II Professor of Economics and Director of the Economic Growth Center

"Bomi in graduation attire at the Jackson School graduation ceremony"
Photo by John Hassett.

Bomi Okuyiga began her work as a Production Intern at the EGC during Fall 2021, initially working on the strategy and planning for the Yale Development Dialogues, the Economic Justice Virtual Symposium, and the 2022 Kuznets Memorial Lecture. As she moved into her second year working for the EGC, Bomi helped develop the EGC’s podcast series, Voices in Development, working with a diverse group of EGC staff to identify a roster of impactful speakers and development topics. She graduates with a Master in Public Policy in Global Affairs (MPP) degree from Yale Jackson School of Global Affairs.

Working at the EGC allowed me to join a new community of international development students and professionals at Yale. From the diverse group of EGC staff to the welcoming economics pre-docs, I’m really grateful for the networks I built while working at the EGC and the flexibility I had to get involved in all aspects of the Center’s work. – Bomi Okuyiga  

Whenever Bomi is on a task, you can feel confident not only that it will get done, but that she will exceed all expectations! That's been the case with the Yale Development Dialogues, a series of interdisciplinary webinars bringing together perspectives from history, economics, and policy, and more recently EGC's Voices in Development podcast. I am so grateful for Bomi's hard work, smart input, and great attitude. She has been an incredibly valuable part of the EGC team. While Bomi will absolutely be missed, I can't wait to follow what she'll do next. – Catherine Cheney, Senior Reporter at Devex, and host of EGC's Voices in Development Podcast

It was a real luxury having Bomi on the communications team. Everything she put her hand to went well – from writing research-based articles and interviews, to planning podcasts and webinars, corresponding with faculty and development leaders, and assisting with events. During her two years with us she's become a valued friend, and I will really miss her! – Vestal McIntyre, EGC Communications Director 

"Rada Pavlova in India."

Rada Pavlova studied Economics and French at Yale. She served as an Inclusion Economics Research Assistant during Spring 2023, where she worked on an experimental evaluation of a flood forecasting tool in Bihar. Rada previously worked with ECG communications projects, including reproducing figures for a manuscript published by MIT Press on work by Pinelopi Goldberg.

My time in India was one of the most enriching experiences as an undergraduate. From connecting with locals, to learning about Bihar and the risks that the region is exposed to, I greatly enjoyed immersing myself in the beautiful culture and becoming familiar with the rich history. One of my favorite moments was visiting Nalanda University, considered to be the world's first residential university. I will always cherish the conversations I had with my colleagues and the attention and care with which they made me part of the team! –Rada Pavlova

Working with Rada was such a pleasure. She’s so smart, friendly, and professional, and a true wizard with Excel. Whether Zooming across oceans or tracking down data, all while balancing busy student life, she was a lifesaver. Congrats, Rada, and best of luck!  –Greg Larson, EGC Communications Consultant

Quinten Rimolde is a graduate of the Yale College Class of 2023 and served as an economic history research and communications intern at EGC during the summer of 2021. During his tenure, Quinten assisted in the reorganization of the Center’s historical archive and the creation of a new catalog system. Quinten will be pursuing his J.D. at the University of Chicago Law School.

My time at EGC gave me access to an unparalleled, hands–on experience in archival work which, without a doubt, substantially contributed to my undergraduate studies following the internship. –Quinten Rimolde

It was great having Quinten on our summer internship team. He took a mammoth project, our digital archive of historical materials, and put it in a clear order – along with many other tasks. I'm sure he'll excel in his next steps. – Vestal McIntyre, EGC Communications Director

Noah Robinson graduated with a degree in economics from Yale University in May 2023. He was an intern with the Economic Growth Center as well as the Economics Department and worked with Yale faculty to circulate their research and messages to a wider audience in an easy-to-understand style. His work included research summaries, the economics department 2022 newsletter, publication tracking, and environmental initiative monitoring. After Yale, Noah will be working as a legal analyst for Davis Polk & Wardwell in New York City before attending law school.

Working as a communication intern at the EGC simultaneously honed my communication skills as well as my fundamental understanding of economics. It was a fantastic opportunity to help transition my background in economics to a more humanities-centered career in law. – Noah Robinson

Noah's work for EGC was top-notch: he was able to see several complex writing projects from start to finish, and also did some important background research for our new environmental initiative. I know he's passionate about using law to make the world a better place, and I can't wait to see what he does. – Vestal McIntyre, EGC Communications Director

Noah began as a summer Communications intern and we were so grateful when he decided to stay on to help the Department throughout his senior year. He’s made tremendous contributions to the Department’s communications and writing projects. Notably, he was instrumental in the Department’s efforts to relaunch its website, and served a primary author and project manager for the Department of Economics 2022 Annual Magazine. It was a pleasure working with Noah over the past year - he will be missed! – Luke Strathmann

Abdoulie Sarr graduates with a B.A. in Economics, having written an excellent senior thesis on the effects of development aid on electricity access for African countries. Abdoulie will be working as an Analyst at Goldman Sachs Asset Management on the Fundamental Equities desk in Energy and Infrastructure investments. 

I am immensely grateful for the personal and professional growth Yale has fostered and the culmination of my Economics studies has truly allowed me to pursue my interest in infrastructure development on the African continent. –Abdoulie Sarr

Whereas electricity is easily accessible in the Western world, there are still hundreds of millions of people in Africa that do not have access to electricity. Electrification is a prerequisite for any other policy intended to improve the lives of Africans and to improve their productivity. In his essay, Abdoulie constructs a panel data to assess the impact of different types of international aid had on electricity access. He found that the only effective aid that helps with electricity access is aid that is specifically directed towards that goal, and it is only effective for countries in the bottom quintile of the distribution. – José-Antonio Espín-Sánchez, Assistant Professor of Economics

Information for this article was assembled by EGC Communications Interns Layla Hedroug and Atl Castro Asmussen. PhD students group photo courtesy Antonia Paredes-Haz. Predoctoral Associates group photo by Vestal McIntyre.