Lin Tian

I am a PhD candidate in economics at Columbia University. My research interests include International Trade, Economic Geography, Urban Economics and Public Economics. I am on the job market this year 2017-2018.



My primary fields are International Trade and Economic Geography. My secondary fields are Urban Economics and Public Economics.

Job Market Paper

  • “Division of Labor and Extent of Market: Theory and Evidence from Brazil”
AbstractThis paper investigates division of labor as an agglomeration force that generates the productivity advantage in larger cities. I construct a unique micro-level dataset of Brazilian firms and document a novel stylized fact: division of labor within firms is greater in larger cities, conditioning on a number of controls including firm size. I propose a theoretical model in which this relationship is generated by both a selection effect – firms endogenously sort across space, and a treatment effect – larger cities increase the division of labor for all firms. The model embeds a theory of firm's endogenous division of labor in a spatial equilibrium model. I structurally estimate the model and find that the division of labor accounts for 16% of productivity differences across cities, half of which due to firm sorting and the other half due to the treatment effect of city size. Finally, the theory generates a set of auxiliary predictions on firm’s responses to a reduction in the cost of division of labor. I find plausibly exogenous variation in the cost of division of labor through a quasi-experiment – the gradual implementation of a new ICT infrastructure in Brazil. Using a difference-in-differences method, I present causal empirical support for these auxiliary predictions.

Working Papers

AbstractIn this paper, we show that labor-market adjustment to immigration differs across tradable and nontradable occupations. Theoretically, we derive a simple condition under which the arrival of foreign-born labor crowds native-born workers out of (or into) immigrant-intensive jobs, thus lowering (or raising) relative wages in these occupations, and explain why this process differs within tradable versus within nontradable activities. Using data for U.S. commuting zones over the period 1980 to 2012, we find that consis- tent with our theory a local influx of immigrants crowds out employment of native-born workers in more relative to less immigrant-intensive nontradable jobs, but has no such effect within tradable occupations. Further analysis of occupation labor payments is consistent with adjustment to immigration within tradables occurring more through changes in output (versus changes in prices) when compared to adjustment within non- tradables, thus confirming our model’s theoretical mechanism. Our empirical results are robust to alternative specifications, including using industry rather than occupation variation. We then build on these insights to construct a quantitative framework to evaluate the consequences of counterfactual changes in U.S. immigration.
  • “Domestic Offshoring in a Knowledge Economy”
    with Yang Jiao
AbstractDuring past decades, substantial skill and occupation relocation took place across U.S. cities: big cities attract more skilled workers and specialize more in cognitive-intensive occupations. Motivated by the empirical literature on ICT improvement and increasing offshoring, we develop a spatial equilibrium model with domestic offshoring to analyze the impact of reduction in cross-city production team formation cost (e.g., communications costs) on spatial distribution of skills and economic activities. The main findings from the model are consistent with observed empirical patterns including more spatial segregation of skilled and unskilled workers, and occupation specialization across U.S. cities over time. In contrast to findings in international offshoring literature in which there are winners and losers, we find Pareto welfare gains for all agents with heterogeneous talents, together with substantial measured labor productivity increase at the aggregate level.


Summary We study the factors that determine fiscal capacity in a low-income country context, using administrative tax return data. We develop measures of tax evasion based on information already collected by the tax authority, and study the effects of an enforcement intervention on firm behavior.
  • “Hits from the Bong: The Impact of Recreational Marijuana Dispensaries on Property Values”
    with Danna Thomas


I served as a teaching assistant for the following courses:

Columbia University

  • Economics of New York City · Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Spring 2016, Spring 2017
  • International Trade · Fall 2015, Fall 2016
  • Public Economics · Spring 2015
  • Intermediate Microeconomics · Spring 2014

Carnegie Mellon University

  • Experimental Design for Behavioral and Social Sciences · Spring 2006
  • Introduction to Probability and Statistics · Fall 2005
  • Principles of Economics · Spring 2004, Fall 2004
  • Introduction to Civil and Environmental Engineering · Fall 2003
  • Introductory & Intermediate Programming · Spring 2003


420 W. 118th St., New York, NY, 10025, USA
Economics Department
Columbia University

lin.tian [at]