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Honours students receive top accolades at CEA-BoC Undergraduate Student Paper Awards

June 06, 2022

Congratulations to economics honours students Doina Rusu and Aaron Chen who swept the top prizes at the Undergraduate Student Paper Awards, jointly organized by the Bank of Canada and the Canadian Economics Association (CEA).

Rusu emerged the winner of the "Best Paper" prize while Chen received the "Best Presentation" prize together with Michelle Bronsard from Université de Montréal.  

Chen and Rusu were among the group of ten undergraduate students selected from across Canada to present at the 56th annual CEA conference's undergraduate poster session this past weekend. Their win marks a historic first for Simon Fraser University's Department of Economics and speaks to the quality of the department's honours program. 

Motivated by her interests in how people interact with digital technologies and the current state of the personal data industry, Rusu's paper explores how risk preferences factor into the extent an individual values their digital privacy.

"Presenting my research was a great opportunity to identify the key aspects of my research, as I only had five minutes to convince the audience that the topic is worth exploring," says Rusu. "I particularly enjoyed interacting with the audience during the question period as some of the feedback gave me ideas on how I could potentially enhance my paper."

Chen's paper draws inspiration from his personal observations while growing up in China. Using a fuzzy regression discontinuity design, he examines the relationship between return to university education and career prospects in China.

As Chen reflects on his experience in the honours program and the conference presentation, he has nothing but gratitude. "I really feel that my efforts have been recognized. I have a passion for economics but had never imagined this accomplishment was even possible when I first started university," says Chen. "I appreciate the support from the SFU Economics department and my supervisor Fernando Aragon, who assisted me a lot during this research project."

This fall, both students are headed off to pursue their master's degree in economics, with Rusu continuing her education here at SFU and Chen joining the University of Toronto. 

Winner of the "Best Paper" prize

Willingness to Pay for Digital Privacy: Do Risk Preferences Matter? 

By Doina Rusu

Which factors influence how individuals value digital privacy? Using primary data from two contingent valuation surveys in Canada, I explore the effect of individual risk preferences on willingness-to-pay (WTP) for digital privacy. I find that risk preferences are not generally predictive of valuation behaviour.

However, exposure to information about specific, tangible risks associated with using digital services results in different valuations among risk-averse and risk-tolerant individuals. Informed, risk-averse individuals are more likely to have a positive WTP for digital privacy than their risk-tolerant counterparts. This suggests that information frictions regarding future risks imposed by excessive data collection may be one of the reasons why people struggle to place a value on privacy, which may explain some of the heterogeneity commonly seen in studies that attempt to place a monetary value on digital privacy.

Winner of the "Best Presentation" Prize

Return to University Education in China: Evidence from Fuzzy Regression Discontinuity Design 

By Weiyu (Aaron) Chen 

In this paper, we used fuzzy regression discontinuity design to study the return to university education in China. In combined with updated data, we discovered that the university education in China today does not generate any direct wage return to their students when comparing it to college and high school education. However, having a university education in China increases the chance for an individual to obtain a permanent work contract that can benefit the individual through other nonmonetary perspectives.