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Tobin Pre-Doctoral Fellowship

Research in Economic Growth and Technological Change



Michael Peters and Fabrizio Zilibotti



We are looking for a pre-doc to work with us on two projects in the area of Economic Growth and Technological Change.

In the first project we aim to understand the consequences of tertiarization, that is the rise in the service sector, for the future of economic growth and mankind’s impact on the environment. In the US, services have been growing rapidly in the past decades and currently account for more than three quarters of employment. Interestingly, the same trend occurs in most developing countries, where service employment is on the rise, despite their low levels of income per capita. For policy-makers this trend is often a source of concern, because technological progress is traditionally thought to mainly take place in the manufacturing sector. At the same time, services are also comparably clean in that they generate much lower emissions per dollar of value added than the manufacturing sector. For example, preliminary empirical work suggests that US counties that saw their service employment share rise, experienced much faster declines in emissions per capita since the late 1990s. Does the US face a trade-off whereby rising service employment reduces economic growth but also offers improvements in terms of the environment? Or could a shift towards services even induce technological progress in the service sector and lead to a situation where environmental damages decline without sacrificing economic growth?

The second project studies differences in the efficiency of innovation across countries. A large empirical literature highlights that differences in productivity account for the lion’s share of differences in economic development across countries. And because aggregate productivity is the result of firms’ innovation decisions, countries presumably differ substantially in how good firms are, to convert current resources into innovation and hence future growth. To learn about such differences, we rely on cross-country data on firm-dynamics and theory. This allows us to infer whether firms in the US are simply better in improving productivity or whether market frictions in poor countries do not allow efficient firms to live up their potential. It also offers a rich laboratory for economic policy. Is the recent growth slowdown in the US a reflection of lower innovation efficiency? Do industrial policies that support particular firms have the potential to increase economic efficiency? Do these policy considerations differ across countries and hence along the development path? Answers to these questions seem to us pivotal to think about both domestic and international economic policy.



  • Strong quantitative background: This could include Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in Economics, Data Science, Computer Science or other degrees with substantial quantitative coursework
  • Strong computer skills including programming in Stata and/or R and MATLAB and/or Julia
  • Strong academic record and interest in pursuing a PhD in economics
  • Ability to work independently

Prior experience as a research assistant in Economics or a related field is preferred but not required.