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Lee Branstetter - Carnegie Mellon University. Pittsburgh, PA, US

Lee Branstetter

Professor | Carnegie Mellon University


Lee Branstetter's research interests include the economics of technological innovation, and economic growth in East Asia.


Lee Branstetter joined the Heinz College faculty in 2006 as a tenured associate professor. He has a joint appointment with the Department of Social and Decision Sciences (SDS).

Branstetter is also a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research and nonresident senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. From 2011-2012, he served as the Senior Economist for International Trade and Investment for the President's Council of Economic Advisors. Prior to coming to Carnegie Mellon, he was the Daniel J. Stanton Associate Professor of Business and the Director of the International Business Program at Columbia Business School. Branstetter has also taught at the University of California, Davis, where he was the Director of the East Asian Studies Program, and at Dartmouth College. He has served as a consultant to the OECD Science and Technology Directorate, the Advanced Technology Program of the U.S. Department of Commerce, and the World Bank. In recent years, Branstetter has been a research fellow of the Keio University Global Security Research Institute and a visiting fellow of the Research Institute of Economy, Trade, and Industry in Japan. Branstetter holds a B.A. in Economics and Mathematical Methods in the Social Sciences (MMSS) from Northwestern University, and he earned his Ph.D. in Economics at Harvard in 1996.

Branstetter's research interests include the economics of technological innovation, international economics, industrial organization, and economic growth in East Asia, with a particular focus on China and Japan. His papers span a wide range of topics, including the effects of patent laws on international technology transfer, the role of multinationals in the diffusion of technology across national boundaries, the impact of research consortia on the research productivity of participating firms, and the evolution of trade and investment policies in the People's Republic of China. His work has appeared in leading journals including the American Economic Review, the Quarterly Journal of Economics, the RAND Journal of Economics, and the Journal of International Economics.

Areas of Expertise (6)

East Asia and the Global Economy

International Economics

Business and Economics


Technological Innovation

Industrial Organization

Media Appearances (5)

Does China Really Pick Winners?

The Wall Street Journal  online


Many in Congress believe industrial policy is China’s economic secret, but what if that’s not true? That’s the lesson in a notable new paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research, which finds that China’s government subsidies for business have little positive effect, and sometimes the opposite.

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The World Is Upside Down

National Review  online


A recent paper in this category, by Lee Branstetter, Guangwei Li, and Mengjia Ren, is titled “Picking Winners? Government Subsidies and Firm Productivity in China.” The authors examine the extensive array of subsidy programs in China — the existence of which is the excuse many U.S. legislators use for supporting similar American subsidies — and their impacts on the productivity of subsidized firms.

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How best to bring back manufacturing

The Economist  online


ttitudes to manufacturing were a small but telling split in the cold war. The Soviet Union had such a focus on industry that its statisticians kept services from the country’s measure of national income. A year after the conflict ended, Michael Boskin, then the White House’s chief economist, is said to have joked it did not matter whether the “chips” America produced were made from semiconductors or potatoes. There are echoes in the present geopolitical face-off. Xi Jinping, China’s president, is so focused on hard tech that he has cracked down on consumer-tech firms.

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A bigger role for venture capital

The Economist  online


o understand what was a risky venture in 19th-century America, visit the Whaling Museum in Nantucket. The industry thrived on this Massachusetts island, now transformed from an outpost for coarse sailors into a swanky beach spot. Two centuries ago, whales were valuable because of the lucrative oil in their head-cases. Captains amassed fleets of sloops and dozens of men armed with harpoons to hunt them. For lucky crews that found their “white whales” the rewards were enormous, but so were the risks of losing ships and souls in the hunt. In “Moby Dick” Herman Melville admonishes the reader: “for God’s sake, be economical with your lamps and candles! Not a gallon you burn, but at least one drop of man’s blood was spilled for it.”

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The Workforce Training Swamp

Pittsburgh Quarterly  online


“Even though billions of dollars are spent on workforce training programs every year across the country, we really don’t have the data or the high-quality studies to understand what the effects are in the long run in the majority of cases,” said Lee Branstetter, professor of economics and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University.

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Lee Branstetter on the Future of Work Lee Branstetter discusses Abe’s election victory and possible third term A Dedication to Shared Prosperity: Lee Branstetter – Can AI Make Education Great Again?



Industry Expertise (3)

Public Policy



Accomplishments (3)

Abe Fellowship (professional)

2001 Social Science Research Council

Chazen Innovation Prize for Innovative Teaching in International Business (professional)

2002 Columbia Business School

Thomas Mayer Distinguished Teaching Award (professional)

2000 UC-Davis Department of Economics

Education (2)

Harvard University: Ph.D., Economics 1996

Northwestern University: B.A., Economics and Mathematical Methods in the Social Sciences

Articles (5)

The Challenges of Chinese Industrial Policy

National Bureau of Economic Research

2023 This essay presents a historical overview of the extensive evolution of Chinese industrial policy, while summarizing the limited yet expanding body of literature on the effectiveness and impact of such policies. Additionally, it provides concise descriptions of three industry case studies—shipbuilding, semiconductor, and electric vehicles—that highlight significant trends in recent Chinese industrial policy. The evidence regarding China's success in this regard is a complex mixture.

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Picking winners? Government subsidies and firm productivity in China

Journal of Comparative Economics

2023 Are Chinese government subsidies making the targeted Chinese firms more productive? Alternatively, are efforts to promote productivity undercut by efforts to maintain or expand employment in less productive enterprises? In this paper, we attempt to shed light on these questions through the analysis of previously underutilized microdata on direct government subsidies provided to China's publicly traded firms.

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Who gains and who loses from more information in technology markets? Evidence from the Sunshine Act

Strategic Management Journal

2023 We consider the context of a technology market where participants (in particular, sellers) differ in reputation, and sellers observed participating in the transactions might suffer a reputation loss. Our theoretical model predicts that low-reputation idea sellers, thanks to the improvement in information disclosure, are more likely to be involved in technology transactions; at the same time, high-reputation idea sellers, to protect their reputations, might prefer avoiding any transactions. This shift in seller composition might affect the quantity and quality of collaborations.

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Educational Equity Through Combined Human-AI Personalization: A Propensity Matching Evaluation

Artificial Intelligence in Education

2022 Recent developments in combined human-computer tutoring systems show promise in narrowing math achievement gaps among marginalized students. We present an evaluation of the use of the Personalized Learning2, a hybrid tutoring approach whereby human mentoring and AI tutoring are combined to personalize learning with respect to students’ motivational and cognitive needs.

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Why Has China Overinvested in Coal Power?

The Energy Journal

2021 In spite of ambitious investments by the Chinese government in renewable energy sources, the country’s investment in coal power accelerated in recent years, raising concerns of massive overcapacity and undermining the central policy goal of promoting cleaner energy. In this paper, we ask why this happened, focusing on policies that incentivized excessive entry in the coal power sector and using a simple economic model to illustrate the policies’ effects.

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