Ke Shi

Ph.D. Candidate

Welcome! I am a Ph.D. candidate in Economics at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Prior to Caltech, I received my B.A. in Economics and Mathematics from New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD).

My research fields are industrial organization, finance, and economic history. I study innovation, entrepreneurship, and antitrust regulations.


[CV ]

Email: keshi@caltech.edu


Working Papers

  1. The Impact of Privacy Protection on Online Advertising Markets
    EC '23: Proceedings of the 24th ACM Conference on Economics and Computation
    revise and resubmit to The Review of Economic Studies

    Online privacy protection has gained momentum in recent years and spurred both government regulations and private-sector initiatives. A centerpiece of this movement is the removal of third-party cookies, which are widely employed to track online user behavior and implement targeted ads, from web browsers. Using banner ad auction data from Yahoo, we study the effect of a third-party cookie ban on the online advertising market. We first document stylized facts about the value of third-party cookies to advertisers. Adopting a structural approach to recover advertisers' valuations from their bids in these auctions, we simulate a few counterfactual scenarios to quantify the impact of Google's plan to phase out third-party cookies from Chrome, its market-leading browser. Our counterfactual analysis suggests that an outright ban would reduce publisher revenue by 54% and advertiser surplus by 40%. The introduction of alternative tracking technologies under Google's Privacy Sandbox initiative would recoup part of the loss. In either case, we find that big tech firms can leverage their informational advantage over their competitors and gain a larger surplus from the ban.

  2. Buying Public Offices, Bureaucratic Diversity, and Economic Development

    I show that socioeconomic diversity in the government could contribute to the development of private enterprises. I study the institution of selling public offices during late imperial Qing and show that it had a positive impact on early industrialization in China. In traditional Chinese society, merchants had relatively low social status and their businesses were frequently subject to government extortion and appropriation. By taking advantage of the office-selling program, the merchants were able to gain increased representation within the imperial bureaucracy. This, in turn, had a positive spillover effect on the private sector and early industrialization. I argue that changes in bureaucratic composition did not necessarily enhance the institutional environment for businesses. Instead, a more plausible mechanism is that purchasing officials had more progressive ideologies, preferences, and relationships with business interests, ultimately reducing the occurrences of arbitrary government interference and extortion.

  3. Venture Capital: A Tale of Three Networks

    Networks play a key role in enabling information flow and improving fund performances in the venture capital (VC) industry. However, the often-used coinvestment networks do not reflect the true social connections, i.e., the informal and personal ties between VC partners. In this paper, I connect three VC networks—coinvestment, past, and social—and study their impact on VC performances with a structural network model. To address the endogeneity issues in this setting, I exploit exogenous variations in VC partners' past connections through professional and alumni networks. Furthermore, to incorporate social networks, I endogenize network formations and structurally recover the unobserved, underlying social connections from VCs' equilibrium performance outcomes. I find that social networks have a significant effect on VC performances. Counterfactual experiments suggest that the industry suffers in terms of both welfare and equality from this reliance on personal connections.

  4. Self-Control and Commitment in Consumer Credit Markets
    with Yi Xin
    draft coming soon

    We analyze the effect of commitment devices designed to mitigate self-control problems in consumer credit markets. We draw on data from a large peer-to-peer (P2P) lending platform that introduced a "direct-pay" disbursement method for debt refinancing. Instead of dispersing cash, the direct-pay option transfers the loan directly to the borrower's existing creditors, with the goal of curbing impulsive, discretionary spending and screening for creditworthy borrowers. We find that borrowers who choose the direct-pay option exhibit lower default rates compared to those who received cash, suggesting success in attracting creditworthy borrowers and promoting responsible financial decisions. To analyze the complicated dynamics in this setting, we further develop and estimate a dynamic structural model of borrowers' loan choice and repayment behavior. We find that self-control problems account for 10% of the defaults in the market and that introducing the direct-pay option reduces default rates by 8%. We conduct several counterfactual simulations and explore alternative strategies for alleviating self-control problems in consumer lending.


Teaching (TA)