Our Faculty

headshot of Plamen Nikolov

Plamen Nikolov

Assistant Professor



Professor Nikolov is a Research Fellow of the IZA Institute of Labor Economics, a faculty affiliate at The Harvard University Institute for Quantitative Social Science, The University of Chicago's Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Global Working Group, and a Research Fellow of the Global Labor Organization.

His expertise is in the design and execution of randomized control trials (RCTs) and cohort studies in resource-limited settings and low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Professor Nikolov is a development and labor economist whose current research broadly focuses of the social and economic consequences of human capital accumulation in LMICs. Using experimental and quasi-experimental methods, his research is in a wide range of three major topics:

  • the causes and consequences of better educational attainment and better health in developing countries,
  • the role of credit constraints in low-income settings, and
  • the causes and consequences of higher productivity and better labor market outcomes, with emphasis on insights from the behavioral sciences, in developing countries.

Mentoring Philosophy:

I welcome both undergraduate and graduate students in my economics research lab. The overarching mission of my research lab is to understand the key determinants and consequences of improvements in human capital, productivity in developing countries, and to develop policies that empower individuals in low-income settings to rise out of poverty. As a mentor, I not only lead by example, but I am also actively involved in my mentee's development. I do so by being mindful of the mentee's background and future academic goals. I try to foster valuable skills for ongoing projects and for their planned academic or career trajectories. Through study and research experience, undergraduate and graduate students in my research group will learn to apply the scientific method to research questions applied to important social policy issues and accelerating their trajectory to confident, thoughtful, and independent social scientists. Under this mentorship model, trainees will develop a multi-faceted investigational approach and master cutting-edge experimental and quasi-experimental techniques for causal inference that will lead to the design, execution, and communication of sound, innovative and policy-relevant research. My past mentees have placed at the very best doctoral programs in economics or economics-related fields at schools, such as Stanford University, MIT, Harvard University, and Columbia University.


  • PhD, Harvard University
  • MA, Johns Hopkins University
  • BA, Ohio Wesleyan University

Research Interests

  • Development Economics
  • Labor Economics
  • Field Experiments
  • Behavioral/Experimental Economics
  • Public Economics
  • Economic Demography and Health

Teaching Interests

  • Development Economics: Microeconomic Issues
  • Experimental and Quasi-Experimental Research Methods

More Info

Nikolov's Economics Research Lab:

Personal Website

Sample Publications:

  1. One Step at a Time: Does Gradualism Build Coordination? (with M. Ye, J. Zheng and Sam Asher). 2019. Management Science (Behavioral Economics section) 65(11). doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.2018.3210. [Published Paper] [PDF of Preprint] AEA RCT Entry. Brief Blurb
  2. Vocational training programs and youth labor market outcomes: Evidence from Nepal. (Lead & corresponding author for this study; with S. Chakravarty, M. Lundberg and J. Zenker). 2019. Journal of Development Economics 136(1):71-110. doi.org/10.1016/j.jdeveco.2018.09.002. [Published Paper] [Copy]* [PDF of Preprint] AEA RCT Entry Brief Blurb
  3. Do Public Program Benefits Crowd Out Private Transfers in Developing Countries? A Critical Review of Recent Evidence. (with M. Bonci) (Accepted/Forthcoming, World Development) [PDF of Preprint]
  4. Do Private Household Transfers to the Elderly Respond to Public Pension Benefits? Evidence from Rural China (with A. Adelman). 2019. The Journal of the Economics of Ageing 14C(Fall):100204. doi.org/10.1016/j.jeoa.2019.100204.[Published Paper] [PDF of Preprint] Brief Blurb
  5. Cognition and Labor Market Consequences in Sub-Saharan Africa (with N. Jimi). 2020. (Accepted, Labour Economics)