Anthropology | Communication | Economics | History | Linguistics | Philosophy | Political Science | Psychology | Sociology


Roshanne Bakhtiary

I used the award for travel to the Society for California Archaeology meetings in March of this year in San Diego, CA. Specifically, I used the money for gas to travel down to San Diego and pay for hotel accommodations while down south. Here is the abstract for the paper I presented:

“Shellfish. It’s What’s for Dinner… Because Mom Said So: Seasonal Clam and Mussel Harvesting in the Prehistoric San Francisco Bay Area” 

Stable oxygen isotope analyses of archaeological shellfish remains have allowed for a better understanding of the seasonal shifts in the importance of shellfish in hunter-gatherer diets. This study focuses on the seasonal harvesting of Mytilus sp. and Macoma sp. at two prehistoric sites in the Green Valley area of the Northern San Francisco Bay. Shellfish seasonality profiles from Late Period CA-SOL-356 contrast that of Middle Period CA-SOL-364, indicating that exploited shellfish patches varied through time due to the changing freshwater in-flow into the San Francisco Bay from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Women’s time allocation and scheduling conflicts with other subsistence pursuits are examined as possible factors contributing to these differing foraging strategies. 

Awards were also presented to Nicholas Hanten and Whitney Larratt-Smith.



Awards were presented to Saifuddin Ahmed, Teresa Gil-Lopez, and Yining Zhou Malloch. 



Chuan He

My project, In the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time? The Long-Run Effects of the Send-Down Movement in China, investigates the long-run consequences of being displaced during adolescence, with a focus on health and family structure. The Chinese Send-Down Movement during the Cultural Revolution compulsorily sent youths of secondary-school age to live and work as peasants in the countryside. I conduct a regression discontinuity design using across-cohort variation in the probability of being sent down, and extend the discussion on the causal effects of the Send-Down Movement with a two-sample method. The results suggest that the sent-down individuals, who encountered this sudden displacement in their adolescence and early adulthood, are more likely to have health issues, are less likely to have successful marriages, have children later in life, and grew up to have less trust in other people, including family members, irrespective of the socioeconomic status of the sent-down cohorts as adults. In addition, there is evidence of gender-asymmetric effects, with women being worse off in physical health and marital matching, and men being affected in mental health and fertility.

The generous support from the Institute for Social Sciences helped me to travel the West Economic Association International 92nd Annual Conference to present my research. The great feedback I received from the audience helped me improve my research. 

Chenghao Hu

My dissertation, titled “Bank Competition and Trade Volatility: Theory and Evidence”, shows that lower levels of banking sector competition may generate higher levels of output volatility in the export sector, with an especially strong effect in more financially dependent sectors. I use a stylized model to connect export volatility with the need to pursue higher-return but riskier projects in response to high costs of financing when banks have greater market power. I verify model predictions empirically and find strong supports for the model. My findings are quantitatively significant: for one standard deviation decrease of bank competition it can lead to a roughly 10 percent increase in export volatility relative to the sample mean, an effect increasing in the borrower’s level of financial dependence. The ISS Dissertation Improvement Award facilitates my dissertation process by providing me financial support during the summer, which saves me a lot of time of being a teaching assistant. Meanwhile, for me it also makes it possible to present my work at an academic conference and get valuable feedbacks from my peers. Thank you so much for the award and it really helps a lot. I do hope this award can continue and keep helping more doctoral students like me who need help with their research. 

Yuzuru Kumon

My dissertation attempts to answer the question of why pre-industrial Japan was so poor. Japanese pre-industrial living standards have been shown to be one of the lowest in the world, with peasants earning as little as one third of English peasants. This fact sits uncomfortably with the highly sophisticated economy of Japan at the time, with high rates of urbanization, robust financial markets, and high literacy rates. What caused the emergence of such a highly developed, yet also a poor economy?

The ISS Dissertation Improvement Award allowed me to travel to Japan to collect significant amounts of original sources to be used in the dissertation. Among these are village registers, listing all individuals within the village and their asset holdings. I have managed to collect over 300 villages worth of this data. These sources have allowed me to construct the first pre-industrial wealth inequality series for pre-industrial East Asia. A surprising finding from these has been the general equality in wealth distributions. Most European countries had Gini Coefficients ranging from 0.7-0.9 by 1800, whereas Japanese villages had Gini Coefficients averaging 0.5. Moreover, most peasants owned some land, whereas the European peasant was typically landless. These findings indicate a very different economic structure in Japan, compared to Europe, and I argue in my dissertation that this caused these economies to develop across very different trajectories in the period leading up to the industrial revolution. 

Mingzhi “Jimmy” Xu

My paper "Riding on the New Silk Road: Quantifying the Welfare Gains from High-Speed Railways" studies the aggregate and distributional impacts of high-speed railways (HSR) in an economy with producer-supplier linkages. HSR connection generates productivity gains by improving firm-to-firm matching efficiency and leading firms to search more and better suppliers. We first provide reduced-form evidence that access to HSR significantly promotes exports at the prefecture level. This effect is stronger in regions closer to the HSR hubs. Then, we construct and calibrate a quantitative spatial equilibrium model to perform counterfactuals, taking into account trade, migration, and outsourcing. The quantitative exercise reveals that the construction of HSR between 2007 and 2015 increased China’s overall welfare by 0.46%, but was also associated with an increase in national inequality. However, the rising inequality could be alleviated by reforms with the goal of reducing internal migration costs. In addition, we find gains from HSR are larger when labor migration costs are higher, implying HSR project is an ideal policy for countries like China which feature high internal migration barriers.

The award enabled me to attend an academic workshop and present my paper.

Vasco Yasenov

My dissertation centers around two research questions: the impact of immigration on wages among workers in the and the effect of school scheduling on the students' academic performance. A common theme throughout is the use of cutting-edge econometric techniques with a strong focus on getting causal estimates in an attempt to improve on previous studies. On the former topic, in two separate projects I (i) re-examine the labor market effects of possibly the largest, sudden, concentrated inflow of foreign workers on American soil, the Mariel Boatlift of 1980 and (ii) apply recent advances from the econometrics literature to obtain the largest possible effect immigration can have which is compatible with the data. In joint work with Lester Lusher we analyze a school scheduling system in which middle and high school students alternated between morning and afternoon shifts. We are particularly interested in the effect on students' performance and in possible gender differences in response to this volatile schedule. 

The generous ISS Dissertation Improvement Award allowed me to travel and present my research in various academic departments. This ultimately resulted in expanding my professional network, improving my disseration and getting it published in higher ranked academic outlets. 

Tingting Zhu

Fiscal policies have come into the frontier since the Great Recession, as the conventional monetary policies are constrained at the zero-lower bound. My project, “Collateral constraint amplification of fiscal policies across business cycles”, explains the nonlinear effects of fiscal policies. A tighter household financial condition in downturns leads to a bigger effect of fiscal policies. It supports a greater use of fiscal policies in bad times. The award helped me attend a conference to present my work. It was a good chance to exchange ideas with other talents in the field.

Awards were also presented to James Archsmith, Anna Ignatenko, and Joe Kopecky.



Renzo Aroni

Aroni’s dissertation project “An Avenged Massacre: The Indigenous Peasant Counter-Rebellion and the Fall of the Shining Path in the Peruvian Andes” focuses on the 1992 indigenous peasant massacre and its aftermath in Huamanquiquia, a small Andean town of Ayacucho, the region where the Maoist Shining Path initiated its guerrilla war in 1980 against the Peruvian government. He historicizes that tragic event in which the Shining Path murdered eighteen indigenous peasants, analyzing the experiences recounted by multiple actors and first-hand witnesses, including indigenous peasant leaders, widows, former guerrilla militants, and peasant supporters of Shining Path. By understanding the micro and macro level dynamics of violence and its complexity around the massacre and its implications for diverse actors, Aroni elucidates the 1992 collapse of the Shining Path’s war from experiences of their former and active rank-and-file members.

The ISS Dissertation Improvement Award helped him to conduct archival research at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Archive in Lima and intensive ethnographic fieldwork in Huamanquiquia. He plans to continue his work on Huamanquiquia, interviewing surviving victims (in Quechua and Spanish) and perpetrators, many recently freed from jail. His project will underline the victims’ and the victimizers’ accounts of that event as lived and remembered experiences, and provide a systematic analysis of violence and its impact on indigenous communities in Peru. 

Awards were also presented to Matt Casey, Sean Gallagher, Michael Haggerty and Stacy Roberts.



Awards were presented to Gabriella Notarianni Burk, Emily Moline, Ryan Redmond, and Caitlin Tierney.   



An award was presented to Ceth Lightfield.


Political Science

An award was presented to Nahrain Rasho.



An award was presented to Matt Miller. 



An award was presented to Bridget Clark.