Pian Shu

Assistant Professor of Business Administration

Unit: Technology and Operations Management


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Pian Shu is an Assistant Professor of Business Administration in the Technology and Operations Management Unit. She teaches the Technology and Operations Management course in the MBA required curriculum. She received the Berol Corporation Fellowship from the Harvard Business School in July 2013.  

Professor Shu studies innovation, talent allocation, and productivity from a labor economics perspective. Her current research examines innovators’ accumulation of inventive human capital, top talent and the consequences of their career choices, and the impact of technology and trade shocks on innovation.

A recipient of the Kauffmann Dissertation Fellowship in Entrepreneurship, Professor Shu earned her Ph.D. in economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She graduated from Colgate University with a BA in mathematics and mathematical economics.

Featured Work


Journal Articles

  1. Asset Accumulation and Labor Force Participation of Disability Insurance Applicants

    Pian Shu

    This paper provides empirical evidence of the existence of forward-looking asset-accumulation behavior among disability-insurance applicants, previously examined only in the theoretical literature. Using panel data from the RAND Health and Retirement Study, I show that rejected applicants for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) possess significantly more assets than accepted applicants immediately prior to application and exhibit lower attachment to the labor force. These empirical results are consistent with the theoretical prediction in Diamond and Mirrlees (1978) and Golosov and Tsyvinski (2006) that certain individuals with high unwillingness to work maximize utility by planning in advance for their future disability insurance application. Because the existing empirical literature on disability insurance does not account for this intertemporal channel, it may underestimate the total work-disincentive effect of SSDI.

    Keywords: Disability insurance; asset accumulation; labor force participation; Assets; Behavior; Employment; Insurance; Insurance Industry; United States;


    Shu, Pian. "Asset Accumulation and Labor Force Participation of Disability Insurance Applicants."Journal of Public Economics 129 (September 2015): 26–40. View Details

Working Papers

  1. Competition and Social Identity in the Workplace: Evidence from a Chinese Textile Firm

    Takao Kato and Pian Shu

    We study the impact of social identity on worker competition by exploiting the exogenous variations in workers' origins and the well-documented social divide between urban resident workers and rural migrant workers in large urban Chinese firms. We analyze data on weekly output, individual characteristics, and coworker composition for all weavers in an urban Chinese textile firm between April 2003 and March 2004. The firm's relative performance incentive scheme rewards a worker for outperforming her coworkers. We find that a worker does not act on the monetary incentives to outperform coworkers who share the same social identity, but does aggressively compete against coworkers with a different social identity. Our results highlight the important role of social identity in overcoming self-interest and enhancing intergroup competitions.

    Keywords: Wages; Networks; Motivation and Incentives; Identity; Performance; Manufacturing Industry; China;


    Kato, Takao, and Pian Shu. "Competition and Social Identity in the Workplace: Evidence from a Chinese Textile Firm." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 14-011, July 2013. (Revised September 2014.) View Details

    Research Summary

  1. Overview

    by Pian Shu

    Professor Shu’s research focuses on the empirical analysis of factors that affect innovation and productivity at the micro level, with a particular emphasis on the human capital accumulation of innovators and the impact of early career choices on long-term productivity. She contributes to the field by taking a labor economics perspective and investigating the decisions of individuals.

    Keywords: Innovation and Invention; Entrepreneurship; Human Capital;


  1. Technology and Operations Management - MBA Required Curriculum

    by Pian Shu

    This course enables students to develop the skills and concepts needed to ensure the ongoing contribution of a firm's operations to its competitive position. It helps them to understand the complex processes underlying the development and manufacture of products as well as the creation and delivery of services.

    Topics encompass:

    • Process analysis
    • Cross-functional and cross-firm integration
    • Product development
    • Information technology
    • Technology and operations strategy

    Keywords: "Technology," Operations Management; Technology; Operations;

  1. Received an Entrepreneurship Research Grant from the National Bureau of Economic Research Productivity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program in 2015.

  2. Received an Innovation Policy Research Grant from the National Bureau of Economic Research in 2013.

  3. Received the Kauffman Foundation Dissertation Fellowship in Entrepreneurship in 2012.