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Alison Pei PhD'24

Since joining the Sanford community in 2019, Alison Pei PhD'24 has dedicated her research to the relationship between labor market dynamics and innovation, with a focus on the impact of regulations on worker outcomes.

Her work "Monopsony in the High-Skilled Migrant Labor Market: Evidence from H-1B Petition Data," co-authored with fellow Ph.D. Candidate in Economics, Seohee Kim, has contributed to the current heated debate on the topic of monopsony (a situation where there's only one buyer but many sellers, which gives the buyer a lot of control over prices for goods or services) in both policy and research circles. Their study explored wage effects of employer concentration on college-educated foreign nationals working in specialized roles within the U.S.

More recently, Alison worked on a year-long research grant awarded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, collaborating with Dr. Matthew Johnson, a professor at Sanford. The research, which explored innovation and noncompete agreements was cited in the U.S. Federal Trade Commission's ruling on April 23rd, announcing a ban of non-compete agreements.

Following graduation, Alison plans on relocating to pursue a career aligned with her expertise at a leading economic consulting firm in Boston, with a focus on field of antitrust and competition.


Q&A with Alison Pei

How have your childhood experiences shaped who you are today?

I grew up in Huzhou, Zhejiang, a small town on the east coast of China that has picturesque natural scenery and abundant cultural heritage. Despite being a historical product of China's one-child policy, my childhood mirrored that of countless others across the nation, mostly revolving around school. Despite being born shy and introverted, I credit my parents with instilling in me the courage to pursue my dream, even if it meant being thousands of miles away from home.

Picture this: as a kid, my dad and I played this wild game where he'd egg me on to jump off high stairs, swooping in like a superhero to catch me at the bottom. Then there were those epic moments atop construction sites with my dad, where we'd gaze out at the world below. It was exhilarating, teaching me to trust and embrace risks.

As I entered junior high, my mom encouraged me to step forward, take on leadership roles, and participate in public speaking contests. These experiences helped me become bolder and more comfortable stepping out of my comfort zone.

Can you share a proud sanford moment?

One of my proudest moments occurred recently, on April 23rd, 2024, when the Federal Tarade Commission (FTC) made a landmark decision to ban noncompete clauses. What made it even more special was receiving an email from the FTC stating that our research paper, "Innovation and the Enforceability of Noncompete Agreements" (co-written with Matthew S. Johnson and Michael A. Lipsitz), was cited in the final rule. It was a poignant realization that our academic work had a tangible impact on shaping real-world policy changes.

What's a meaningful moment with a Sanford mentor?

The journey to this moment kicked off back in my second year when we blended my co-authors' expertise in noncompete agreements with my budding interest in innovation. I was treated as a collaborator, despite my relative lack of research experience compared to them. They kept encouraging me to voice my thoughts and contribute ideas as if I were a seasoned researcher. Their trust and support fueled my growth as we dove deep into the project alongside these brilliant minds.

Now, seeing our work make waves in the actual ruling fills me with an incredible sense of pride and accomplishment. It's a testament to the impact research can have in driving real change. This experience only stokes my passion for continuing to navigate the waters where research, policymaking, and the real world collide.


Graduation Stories & Details

We will be sharing graduation stories throughout the week leading up to graduation on Sanford's website, and on our social channels. Need the graduation details? Check out the official Graduation Page to find parking info, live streams and more. 

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