Making LSE Possible: An interview with a scholarship recipient
José Ignacio González Rojas is studying the MRes/PhD in Economics and Management with an exected raduation year of 2029.
Tell us about yourself and your career journey:
Even though we constantly change over time, I’ve always been a passionate, curious and perseverant researcher from Costa Rica. Since 2020, I have been involved in academic and policy research projects in different roles related to Trade, FDI, Production Networks, Labour, and Blockchain at Sciences Po, the Central Bank of Costa Rica, the World Bank Development Research Group and a startup.
Please tell us about your research:
My research aims to show how firms that differ across several dimensions, e.g., total sales, number of employees, customers and suppliers, trade with each other. Moreover, I want to find policies that help micro and small firms supplying inputs to other firms build a solid customer base that will enable them to grow and consider scaling. I use administrative data from several networks that track the interactions between firms, factors of production, households and foreign trade markets to pursue this research agenda. In addition, I complement these data with theoretical models of production networks, also known as supply chains, that help us understand which factors drive some firms to have almost 10,000 customers. In comparison, the median firm has only three customers.
In my upcoming paper with Alonso Alfaro-Ureña, Mariany Fuentes, Isabela Manelici and José P. Vásquez, we take a first step in this research agenda by understanding the structure of the domestic firm production network of Costa Rica. To our knowledge, this is the first paper that documents a set of stylised facts of a domestic firm production network of a less-developed country. We present 15 facts showing the relationship between firms’ connections and economic outcomes. For instance, how fast do sales to other firms increase compared to their number of customers and the average transaction across the firms they sell to? Does distance also affect trade within a country? How much do firms export directly and indirectly through supplying to other firms that do export?
Our results are very similar to others reported in countries in different stages of development. Our answers speak to policymakers and academics on the configuration of the production network, how to make policy to mitigate the impact of shocks to specific firms and how these firms are connected. My next steps in this research agenda are creating models with economic microfoundations that can explain these facts and think about policies that help small productive firms thrive in the national and foreign markets considering the financial constraints and imperfect information.
How did getting a scholarship help you reach your goals? What does it mean to you to have a scholarship?
I aim to be a world-class researcher producing rigorous research that improves our understanding of the mechanisms that drive firms to connect and supply to each other. The first step in that path is proper training with methods in the research frontier. Being a part of the LSE DoM community has enabled me to be connected to other researchers from other universities working in similar topics, exchange ideas and collaborate. This opportunity wouldn’t have been possible without an LSE PhD Scholarship and a Graduate Teaching Assistant Scholarship from the Department of Management. In the first place, as a citizen of a less developed country, it would have been unthinkable to come to one of the top universities with such a strong faculty without it because of the remarkable cross-country income difference. Also, this generous award has enabled me to focus on my coursework and research projects instead of looking for part-time jobs to supplement my monthly income.
What are your future career plans?
In the future, I plan to continue collaborating on research projects in Trade, Networks and Firm Growth. My career goal is to become a Full Professor in Trade, diffuse knowledge in this area and be a referent on the subject. Also, I plan to impact countries' policymaking to help entrepreneurs contribute to their countries' growth with their firms.
If you are inspired by José Ignacio González Rojas’s story, please donate to the LSE Annual Fund so we can support more students achieve their ambitions in the future.