Pian Shu

Assistant Professor of Business Administration

Pian Shu is an Assistant Professor of Business Administration in the Technology and Operations Management Unit. She teaches the Field Immersion Experiences for Leadership Development II (FIELD II) course in the MBA required curriculum. She received the Berol Corporation Fellowship from the Harvard Business School in July 2013.


Professor Shu’s research focuses on the empirical analysis of factors that affect innovation and productivity at the micro level. She contributes to the field by taking a labor economics perspective and investigating the decisions of individuals. Her current research examines how talented individuals develop into innovators, the impact of early career choices on long-term productivity, the uncertainty associated with becoming an innovator through entrepreneurship, 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.

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. Are 'Better' Ideas More Likely to Succeed? An Empirical Analysis of Startup Evaluation

    Erin L. Scott, Pian Shu and Roman M. Lubynsky

    Entrepreneurs face high uncertainty, and often make costly investments in new business ideas without knowing the expected payoff. This paper empirically examines whether ex-ante assessment of early-stage startup ideas can predict their subsequent commercialization. We leverage an entrepreneurship program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in which early-stage venture ideas, presented in the form of succinct standardized summaries, elicit subjective evaluations from a large set of experienced entrepreneurs and executives. Using data on 652 ventures in multiple industry sectors, evaluated over an 8-year period, we find that ideas that elicit more positive evaluations are significantly more likely to ultimately reach commercialization. We further show that these results are driven by venture ideas with documented intellectual capital in research-and-development-intensive sectors, such as life sciences and medical devices. We find no evidence, by contrast, that experts can effectively assess the commercial potential of venture ideas in non-R&D-intensive sectors such as consumer web and enterprise software. Finally, we find that industry-specific and scientific expertise is not critical to experts' collective ability to predict ventures' commercial viability.


    Scott, Erin L., Pian Shu, and Roman M. Lubynsky. "Are 'Better' Ideas More Likely to Succeed? An Empirical Analysis of Startup Evaluation." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 16-013, July 2015. View Details
  2. 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