Hee Kwon Seo ("Samuel")
Ph.D. Economics, Chicago Booth ('20, expected)
A.B. Applied Mathematics, Harvard ('13)
About me


I am a development economist, working on topics of education, energy, and poverty alleviation.

In my dissertation, collaborating with the government of Tanzania and a multilateral partnership, I study whether providing students with both "demand-side" incentives (such as performance-based rewards) and "supply-side" materials (such as books) can generate complementary effects, and if so, why.  Please find below the abstract and link to the paper.


 Research at a Glance

 Job Market Paper

Abstract:  Providing students with either "demand-side" incentives (such as performance-based rewards) or "supply-side" materials (such as books) often produces null effects; might there be complementary effects from providing both, and if so, why?  In a three-year field experiment with 170 high schools in Tanzania, where mathematics pass rates remain below 20 percent nationally, students were provided with (1) money pegged to math test scores; (2) technologies to ease the effort costs of learning; or (3) both of the above.  Money or technologies alone make limited impact on test scores, while both together make a large, complementary effect (0.3σ), especially on the scores of students just below the top 20 percent.  I first present a pre-specified benchmark model in which heterogeneous students balance knowledge returns against strictly increasing effort costs.  I then generalize the model to allow minimum interest and knowledge thresholds: students not interested enough or prepared enough to learn have unproductive effort.  The thresholds model, structurally estimated, generates the treatment-effect patterns while the benchmark model does not.  Using the estimates, I calculate student valuations of achievement, and simulate outcomes from lowering the promotional cutoff--a low-cost policy option that would offer more students a realistic chance at promotion and, therefore, a higher expected return from marginal effort.  Results suggest that both providing the experimental technologies and incentivizing the students by doubling their chance of promotion would induce a modest but meaningful endogenous response of student knowledge, by reducing the share of students who are giving up on learning new material from 79 percent to 52.  By explaining treatment complementarities, the proposed analytical framework extends a standard model of classroom learning from the previous literature to reflect a higher degree of realism about developing community contexts.

 Working Papers
 Work in Progress
  • Do Mobile-phone-based Agricultural Extensions Deliver? Evidence from a Cluster-randomized Scale-up Trial (with Shawn Cole, Raissa Fabregas and Nilesh Fernando)
 Fellowships and Awards
  • 2018-20: Chicago Booth Ph.D. Program Research Support
  • 2017-19: Katherine Dusak Miller Ph.D. Fellowship
  • 2013-16: Chicago Booth Ph.D. Scholarship
  • 2013: James and Catheleen Stone Prize for best senior thesis in environmental and energy economics
  • 2012: PRIMO Fellowship
  • 2012: Harvard College Scholarship
 Volunteer Experience
  • 2014-Present: HOPAN (church for homeless neighbors in Uptown, Chicago), Volunteer


© 2020 Hee Kwon Seo