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Undergraduate Research Assistant openings

The Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR) has many openings throughout the year for undergraduate research assistants. Undergraduate RAs are often responsible for helping faculty with data management and analysis.

Due to the type of funding, this program is available only to current Stanford undergraduates. For questions about the program, contact Jessica Vo at jmvo@stanford.edu

Project Title: Key Data for Understanding the Economics and Policy Context for Energy, Environmental and Natural Resource Economics

Faculty Leader: Charlie Kolstad

Project Description: he purpose of this project is to develop a set of tabulations (tables or graphs) that illustrate key empirical findings in environmental, energy and natural resource economics and policy. The goal is to produce a SEEPAC “Chart Book,” similar to the SIEPR Chart Book which has been produced every March for the past few years. The goal is to develop the data (and fully document the data source) to underscore key theoretical and empirical results. (An example might be a graph of the use of different fuels for generating electricity over the past century. Or per capita gasoline consumption vs. price of gasoline over time. Or maximum levels of pollution in US cities over past 50 years.) The project will involve two students who are well versed in environmental and resource economics and who also know the policy context. The students along with supervising faculty (Prof. Kolstad and one other) will meet every week to discuss proposed inclusions in the chart book. By the end of Spring quarter, we should have collected a reasonable set (eg, 50). The project could continue beyond June 2017.

Responsibilities: Students will have the primary responsibility for proposing charts and developing the data for the charts, in consultation with the faculty advisors.

Qualifications: Requires a knowledge of public policy and economics associated with resources and the environment (for US and globally) plus facility with data management programs, including Excel.

Details: We are looking for two RAs to work on this project for 10-15 hours per week at $16/hour for spring quarter.

Contact: Please send your CV to ckolstad@stanford.edu and copy Jessica Vo (jmvo@stanford.edu).

Project Title: Understanding the Economics of the Deinstitutionalization Revolution: the Efficiency and Welfare Effects of Providing Support to Americans with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Faculty Leader: Alison Morantz

Project Description: The project in which the RA primarily will be involved examines the effects of the “deinstitutionalization revolution” on individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (IDD) from an economic perspective. Given the enormous economic impacts – on individuals with IDD, on their families, on their caregivers, on potential employers, on the Medicaid program, and on the taxpayers who spend more than $50 billion per year on IDD-related services – one might expect the trends in the provision of support services to individuals with IDD to the have attracted a great deal of interest among policy-oriented economists. Surprisingly, however, very little applied economic literature exists on the subject. Therefore, numerous questions of interest to economic policymakers are ripe for empirical investigation, such as whether cross-state disparities in welfare outcomes, such as self-reported choice-making and participation in integrated employment, can be explained by state differences in leadership, per-capita funding (total, for mental health, etc.), characteristics of consumers (e.g., racial/ethnic, dual diagnoses), local economic conditions, or the way in which DDS services are delivered to consumers (i.e., directly, through “regional centers,” etc.). The insights derived from the project will bring to light reforms that may improve the efficiency or distributional impacts of state and federal programs governing the provision of support to those with IDD.

Responsibilities: The RA will play a critical role in and gain valuable experience with the conception and framing of a new research project. Day-to-day responsibilities will include:

  • conducting reviews of existing empirical research on this topic
  • investigating datasets in this field (particularly those that have been relied upon in previous literature)
  • communicating with key stakeholders in the field (including researchers, government employees, and advocacy groups).


    Depending on their experience and skills, the RA may also assist with database management or statistical modeling. This position should be of particular interest to those considering a career in legal, policy-making, or applied economic research fields.

    Qualifications: A strong interest in economic policy and painstaking attention to detail are required. Some prior exposure to econometrics or statistics, and some proficiency in Stata or R (or other programming languages) are preferred but not required.

    Details: The RA will work full-time (40 hours per week) at $16/hour for up to 10 weeks over the summer holiday. Beginning and end dates are flexible and will be arranged by mutual agreement. There may be an opportunity for the RA to continue working part-time (up to 15 hours per week) for one or more quarters during the 2017-18 academic year.

    Contact: Please send a resume, cover letter summarizing your interest in the position, and unofficial transcript to morantzgroup@gmail.com. Please also cc Alison Morantz (amorantz@law.stanford.edu) and Jessica Vo (jmvo@stanford.edu).

    Project Title: Understanding the Economics of the Deinstitutionalization Revolution: the Efficiency and Welfare Effects of Providing Support to Americans with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

    Faculty Leader: Alison Morantz

    Project Description: The project in which the RA primarily will be involved examines the effects of the “deinstitutionalization revolution” on individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (IDD) from an economic perspective. Given the enormous economic impacts – on individuals with IDD, on their families, on their caregivers, on potential employers, on the Medicaid program, and on the taxpayers who spend more than $50 billion per year on IDD-related services – one might expect the trends in the provision of support services to individuals with IDD to the have attracted a great deal of interest among policy-oriented economists. Surprisingly, however, very little applied economic literature exists on the subject. Therefore, numerous questions of interest to economic policymakers are ripe for empirical investigation, such as whether cross-state disparities in welfare outcomes, such as self-reported choice-making and participation in integrated employment, can be explained by state differences in leadership, per-capita funding (total, for mental health, etc.), characteristics of consumers (e.g., racial/ethnic, dual diagnoses), local economic conditions, or the way in which DDS services are delivered to consumers (i.e., directly, through “regional centers,” etc.). The insights derived from the project will bring to light reforms that may improve the efficiency or distributional impacts of state and federal programs governing the provision of support to those with IDD.

    Responsibilities: The RA will play a critical role in and gain valuable experience with the conception and framing of a new research project. Day-to-day responsibilities will include:

  • conducting reviews of existing empirical research on this topic
  • investigating datasets in this field (particularly those that have been relied upon in previous literature)
  • communicating with key stakeholders in the field (including researchers, government employees, and advocacy groups).


    Depending on their experience and skills, the RA may also assist with database management or statistical modeling. This position should be of particular interest to those considering a career in legal, policy-making, or applied economic research fields.

    Qualifications: A strong interest in economic policy and painstaking attention to detail are required. Some prior exposure to econometrics or statistics, and some proficiency in Stata or R (or other programming languages) are preferred but not required.

    Details: The RA will work part-time (15 hours per week) at $16/hour over spring quarter. Beginning and end dates are flexible and will be arranged by mutual agreement. There may be an opportunity to continuing working on a full-time basis (40 hours per week) for up to ten weeks over the summer holiday.

    Contact: Please send a resume, cover letter summarizing your interest in the position, and unofficial transcript to morantzgroup@gmail.com. Please also cc Alison Morantz (amorantz@law.stanford.edu) and Jessica Vo (jmvo@stanford.edu).

    Project Title: Marriage, Labor Supply and the Social Safety Net

    Faculty Leader: Luigi Pistaferri

    Project Description: In this project we develop a dynamic model of marriage, labor supply, welfare participation, savings and divorce under limited commitment and use it to understand the impact of welfare reforms, particularly the time-limited eligibility, as in the TANF program. The goal is to use variation provided by the introduction of time limits in welfare benefits eligibility following the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996 to provide reduced form evidence of the importance of these reforms on a number of outcomes relevant to our model (welfare participation, employment, family formation and dissolution).

    Responsibilities: The RA will work closely with faculty leader to construct a dataset that codes the rules governing welfare programs before and after the reform across US states.

    Qualifications: Experience with Stata (or Excel) strongly preferred.

    Details: We are looking for an RA to work on this project for 10-15 hours per week at $16/hour for spring quarter.

    Contact: Please send resume and statement of interest to Luigi Pistaferri (pista@stanford.edu) and copy Jessica Vo (jmvo@stanford.edu).

    Project Title: Agricultural Productivity and Input Misallocation – Evidence from 6 Sub-Saharan African Countries

    Faculty Leader: Marshall Burke

    Project Description: This development economics project seeks a better quantitative understanding the world most common type of firm: the family owned farm. In particular, we will use detailed household surveys from six African countries to study agricultural productivity dispersion and its persistence over time. Our goal is to inform researchers and policymakers why some rural firms are so much more productive than others, and inform how to reduce poverty among the rural poor.

    Responsibilities: RA’s will work closely with Burke and his graduate students to develop and analyze household datasets from six Sub-Saharan African countries. This will include writing code to merge and analyze complex datasets, and participation in weekly meetings to discuss results.

    Qualifications: Experience with quantitative analysis. Experience with Stata and/or R required and some econometrics coursework strongly preferred.

    Details: We are looking for 2 RAs to work on this project for 10-15 hours per week at $16/hour for spring quarter. This position has the potential to extend into summer.

    Contact: Please send resume and statement of interest to Marshall Burke (mburke@stanford.edu) and Casey Maue (cmaue@stanford.edu) and copy Jessica Vo (jmvo@stanford.edu).

    Project Title: Pricing Audit Risk

    Faculty Leader: Colleen Honigsberg

    Project Description: Lead audit firms routinely refer up to 49% of the audit work to other audit firms. Although investors are currently unaware that these other firms participate in the audit—only the name of the lead auditor is disclosed to the public—the participation of these additional firms will be disclosed for the first time in July 2017. Our project has two goals. First, we seek to understand how this information is disseminated to the market (e.g., through equity analyst reports, short-selling, etc). Second, we seek to understand how this information changes investors’ perception of the quality of the reported financial performance.

    Responsibilities: Assist with data management and analysis, including data collection, cleaning, merging, regression analysis, and textual analysis.

    Qualifications: Experience with Stata required and some econometrics coursework strongly preferred. Ability to work with python and experience with textual analysis preferred.

    Details: 10-15 hours per week for summer. Opportunities may arise to continue work on other projects in subsequent quarters.

    Contact: Please send your resume and current transcript to Colleen Honigsberg (colleenh@law.stanford.edu) and copy Jessica Vo (jmvo@stanford.edu).

    Project Title: Reducing Waste in Public Spending

    Faculty Leader: Michael Best (with Oriana Bandiera, Adnan Khan and Andrea Prat on project 1, and with Joana Naritomi and Evan Kresch on project 2)

    Project Description: Governments in low and middle income countries face urgent needs to spend on public services but with very limited resources. Project 1 conducts a field experiment to encourage bureaucrats to reduce waste in public spending in Punjab, Pakistan. Project 2 combines experimental and quasi-experimental methods to study what types of firms choose to sell to government and how the government can encourage competition in procurement in Amazonas, Brazil.

    Responsibilities: Preparing and summarizing data from the two projects. Developing methods to analyze big data from government (project 2). Writing up reports and results (project 1).

    Qualifications: Experience with statistics software (Stata or R) required. Urdu or Portuguese a plus, but not required.

    Details: 15 hrs/week April-June. Possible extension into the summer. The hourly rate is $16/hour.

    Contact: Please send your resume and if available, an example of work you've done using data, to Michael Best (mbest@stanford.edu) and copy Jessica Vo jmvo@stanford.edu.

    Project Title: The Effect of Communication in Bargaining

    Faculty Leader: Brad Larsen

    Project Description: This project studies the effects of communication on the outcome of price negotiations using an experiment on an online bargaining platform.

    Responsibilities: A research assistant is needed to write a web-crawler/screen-scraper to submit information to a website and collect the output from the website into a CSV file for later data analysis.

    Qualifications: Knowledge of web-crawling/screen-scraping packages is required. The research assistant may use any language he/she prefers (Pythong, PHP, Java, C++, etc.)

    Details: The research assistant will work approximately 10 hours per week during the Spring quarter, at a rate of $16 per hour.

    Contact: Please send your resume to Brad Larsen (bjlarsen@stanford.edu) and copy Jessica Vo (jmvo@stanford.edu).