I focus on research that can help improve the design and implementation of taxation and social insurance systems to further both fairness and efficiency objectives. One specific theme of my doctoral work to-date is how misperceptions, imperfect information, and cognitive constraints shape how people and firms interact with tax and transfer programs.

Research Description

In broad terms, I focus on research that can help improve the design and implementation of taxation and social insurance systems to further both fairness and efficiency objectives. One specific theme of my doctoral work to-date is how misperceptions, imperfect information, and cognitive constraints shape how people and firms interact with tax and transfer programs. Pivoting slightly, my upcoming projects leverage large administrative datasets to study long-term drivers of demand for transfer programs and how access to such programs affects recipients' behavior, health, and well-being.

What does being a Public Scholar mean to you?

Ultimately, the goal of my colleagues and I is to generate new insights that can inform policymaking and to effectively communicate those insights to non-academics. Pursuing those goals is what epitomizes a “public scholar” in my mind.

In what ways do you think the PhD experience can be re-imagined with the Public Scholars Initiative?

I view PSI as striving to make Ph.D. training less insular and more collaborative, under the core philosophy that doing so will create more societally-useful research and researchers. In particular, many of the PSI initiatives target two common shortcomings in standard Ph.D. training and academia. The first shortcoming is the lack of career incentives to disseminate research outside of narrow academic audiences. PSI improves on this by providing incentives and training to PSI fellows to present their findings widely and with clarity. The second shortcoming is that academics (including Ph.D. students) very rarely collaborate with, or simply talk to, people outside their own narrow disciplines. As one step towards remedying this, PSI brings together an interdisciplinary network of researchers to learn from each other and perhaps even collaborate.

How do you envision connecting your PhD work with broader career possibilities?

All of my supervisors and mentors -- Josh Gottlieb, Kevin Milligan, David Green, and Wei Cui – balance their academic duties with active engagement in policymaking and public discourse. I intend to follow their example throughout my career.

How does your research engage with the larger community and social partners?

My current work is in partnership with the Basic Income commission, a government-sponsored expert panel with the mandate to examine how British Columbia's safety-net programs can be improved to address poverty, inequality, and emerging labor market trends. As such, my research involves collaboration with provincial ministries, policymakers, and a broad community of researchers. This collaboration offers a unique opportunity to pursue research that is both academically novel and relevant to policy formation.

How do you hope your work can make a contribution to the “public good”?

A lot of my research has very direct relevance to the design and implementation of tax and transfer systems. My hope is that this research informs real-world policy formation. While there are practical and complex political considerations in any policymaking, I’ll consider it a success to provide even a small and useful input into that process.

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

I wanted a job that stimulates me, and this seemed like a good choice for that. While I’m here, I try to remember the privilege of having this job and to do something useful with it.

Why did you choose to come to British Columbia and study at UBC?

Primarily because it has an excellent economics department, especially in my areas of interest. Ph.D. training is largely a mentorship sport and the Vancouver School of Economics has many talented and supportive scholars offering such mentorship to students. I'm also a big fan of the outdoor amenities provided by Vancouver. Riding my bike to work year-round is a big plus.

 

The goal of my colleagues and I is to generate new insights that can inform policymaking and to effectively communicate those insights to non-academics. Pursuing those goals is what epitomizes a “public scholar” in my mind.