IAS: Think Macro, Act Micro


IEMS’ Rachel Ngai shared some of her insights on research and life experiences in the HKUST Institute for Advanced Study’s February 2016 newsletter.

As quoted in the article:

My research is driven by observation. I was born in China and moved to Hong Kong when I was six. The first time I noticed the striking differences in the economies of different places was in high school. I was a tutor in Hong Kong and my salary was HK$100 an hour, which was so much higher than that of my father, who was a pharmacist earning HK$300 a month in China.

When I went to the US to pursue a PhD, I saw another big jump in the development level and income difference. A number of influential studies in economics have documented that the income gap between the top 5% of developed countries and the bottom 5% of undeveloped countries is about 40 times. In terms of work hours, laborers in poorer countries have to work for a whole year to earn the same amount as those in richer countries earn in a month. This inspired me to seek a more in-depth explanation, and that finally became my dissertation, in which I argued that poorer countries are undergoing a huge transition. Later on, when I started working at LSE, I shared my ideas about structural transformation with Professor Sir Christopher Pissarides. From then we started our joint project on structural change and economic growth. We found that the key process associated with economic growth is that a country transforms itself from an agricultural to a manufacturing and then a service economy. This has occurred in all developed countries, and developing countries such as China are experiencing it.

Read the full article here: Institute for Advanced Study

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