Jin Li
Prof. Jin LI
Management and Strategy
Area Head of Management and Strategy
Zhang Yonghong Professor in Economics and Strategy

3917 0056

KK 936

Academic & Professional Qualification
  • PhD: MIT
  • Bachelor: Caltech (B.S) and Wesleyan University (B.A.)

Jin Li is a professor of management and strategy, with joint appointment in economics at Hong Kong University. Prior to HKU, he has taught at Kellogg School of Management and London School of Economics, where he was a tenured associate professor of managerial economics and strategy. During his tenure at LSE, Professor Li won the Management Department teaching prize.

Professor Li’s main research area lies at the intersection of organizational economics, personnel economics, and labor economics. It focuses on the dynamics of informal relationships and explores how firms can design organizations to align incentives and build trust. This research sheds light on how organizational design can be a source of competitive advantage. Recently, Professor Li has studied topics on the digital economy including causality issues in machine learning algorithms and governance of blockchain.

Professor Li has published in leading academic journals such as the American Economic Review, the Review of Economic Studies, AEJ- Microeconomics, Journal of Economic Theory, Journal of Labor Economics, and the RAND Journal of Economics. His works have also been featured in media outlets such as the BBC, the Economist, and Quartz, and he has written for Harvard Business Review, Caixin, and FTChinese.

Professor Li earned his BA in economics and math (with high honors) from Wesleyan University, a BSc in applied math (with honors) from Caltech, and PhD in Economics from MIT.

  • Personnel Strategy for MBAs (Kellogg)
  • Strategy and Organization for MBAs (Kellogg)
  • Economics of Organization for PhDs (Kellogg)
  • Incentives and Governance in Organizations for Masters (LSE)
  • Capstone Project for MBAs (HKU)
Research Interest
  • Organizational Economics
  • Personnel Economics
  • Labor Economics
Selected Publications
  • Tacit Collusion in Auctions and Conditions for Its Facilitation and Prevention: Equilibrium Selection in Laboratory Experimental Markets,”
    (with Charles Plott), Economic Inquiry, Vol 47, No.3, (July 2009) pp. 425-448.
  • “Job Mobility, Wage Dispersion, and Technological Change: An Asymmetric Information Perspective,”
    European Economic Review Vol 60, (May, 2013) pp. 105-126.
  • “Managing Conflicts in Relational Contracts,”
    (with Niko Matouschek), American Economic Review, Vol 103, No.6 (October, 2013) pp. 2328-51.
  • “Relational Contracts with Subjective Peer Evaluations”
    (with Joyee Deb and Arijit Mukherjee), Rand Journal of Economics, Vol 47, No. 1 (Spring, 2016) pp. 3-28 (Lead Article).
  • “When Does Aftermarket Monopolization Soften Foremarket Competition?”
    (with Yuk-Fai Fong and Ke Liu), Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Vol 25, No.4 (Winter, 2016) pp. 852-879.
  • “Information Revelation in Relational Contracts”
    (with Yuk-Fai Fong), Review of Economic Studies, Vol 84 No. 1 (Jan 2017) pp. 277-299.
  • “A Theory of Turnover and Wage Dynamics,”
    (with Jun Yu), Economic Inquiry, Vol 55, No. 1 (Jan, 2017) pp. 223-236.
  • “Power Dynamics in Organizations,”
    (with Niko Matouschek and Mike Powell), AEJ Micro, Vol 9, No. 1 (Feb, 2017) pp. 217-241.
  • “Relational Contracts, Limited Liability, and Employment Dynamics”
    (with Yuk-Fai Fong), Journal of Economic Theory, Vol 169 (May, 2017), pp. 270-293.
  • “Managing Careers in Organizations”
    (with Rongzhu Ke and Mike Powell), Journal of Labor Economics, Vol 36, No. 1 (Jan, 2018) pp. 197-252.
  • “Multilateral Interactions Improve Cooperation under Random Fluctuations”
    (with Michael Powell), Games and Economic Behavior, Vol 119 (Jan, 2020) pp. 358-382.
  • “Negotiated Block Trade and Rebuilding of Trust”
    (with Pak Hung Au and Yuk‐Fai Fong), International Economic Review, Vol 61, No. 2 (May, 2020) pp. 901-939.
  • “Learning to Game the System”
    (with Arijit Mukherjee and Luis Vasconcelos), Review of Economic Studies, Vol 88, No. 4 (July, 2021) pp. 2014-2041.
  • “Morale and Debt Dynamics”
    (with Daniel Barron and Michał Zator), Management Science, Vol 68, No. 6 (June, 2022) pp. 4496-4516.
  • “Optimal Subjective Contracting with Revision”
    (with Xinhao He and Zhaoneng Yuan), Management Science, Vol 68, No.8 (August, 2022) pp.6346-6354.
  • “Corporate Capture of Blockchain Governance”
    (with Daniel Ferreira and Radoslawa Nikolowa), Review of Financial Studies, Vol 36, No. 4 (April 2023) pp. 1364–1407.
  • “What Makes Agility Fragile? A Dynamic Theory of Organizational Rigidity”
    (with Arijit Mukherjee and Luis Vasconcelos), Management Science, Vol 69, No. 6 (June, 2023) pp. 3578-3601.
  •  “Career Spillovers in Internal Labor Markets”
    (with Nicola Bianchi, Giulia Bovini, Matteo Paradisi and Michael Powell), The Review of Economic Studies, Vol 90, No. 4 (July, 2023) pp. 1800–1831.
  •  “Marketplace Scalability and Strategic Use of Platform Investment”
    (with Gary Pisano, Richard Xu and Feng Zhu), Management Science, forthcoming.
Service to the University/Community

Professor Li has acted as a reviewer for 30 journals, including AER, Econometrica, JPE, QJE, and ReStud. He has also reviewed grant proposals for the National Science Foundation of the U.S. (NSF) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). Professor Li served as an external PhD examiner for the Norwegian School of Economics.

Recent Publications
AI Adoption and Career Concerns


AI Adoption and Career Concerns


Career Spillovers in Internal Labour Markets

This article studies career spillovers across workers, which arise in firms with limited promotion opportunities. We exploit a 2011 Italian pension reform that unexpectedly tightened eligibility criteria for the public pension, leading to sudden, substantial, and heterogeneous retirement delays. Using administrative data on Italian private-sector workers, the analysis leverages cross-firm variation to isolate the effect of retirement delays among soon-to-retire workers on the wage growth and promotions of their colleagues. We find evidence of spillover patterns consistent with older workers blocking the careers of their younger colleagues, but only in firms with limited promotion opportunities.

Marketplace Scalability and Strategic Use of Platform Investment

The scalability of a marketplace depends on the operations of the marketplace platform and its sellers’ capacities. In this study, we explore one strategy that a marketplace platform can use to enhance its scalability: providing an ancillary service to sellers. In our model, a platform can choose whether and when to provide this service to sellers and, if so, what prices to charge and which types of sellers to serve. Although such a service helps small sellers, we highlight that the provision of such a service can diminish the incentives of large sellers to make their own investment, thereby reducing their potential output. When the output reduction by large sellers is substantial, the platform may not want to provide the ancillary service, and, even if it does, it may choose to set a price higher than its marginal cost to motivate large sellers to scale. The platform may also choose to strategically delay the provision of the service.

What Makes Agility Fragile? A Dynamic Theory of Organizational Rigidity

We present a novel explanation of why organizations tend to lose their agility over time despite their efforts to foster worker initiative in adapting to local information. Worker initiative ensures efficiency but requires strong incentives. When incentives are relational and the firm faces shocks to its credibility, it may adopt standardized work processes that ignore local information but yield satisfactory (though suboptimal) performance. The adoption of such standardized processes helps the firm survive the current shock but inflicts inefficiencies in the future. Although the firm may recover, it becomes more vulnerable to future shocks, and consequently, more reliant on the standardized work procedures.

Corporate Capture of Blockchain Governance

We develop a theory of blockchain governance. In our model, the proof-of-work system, the most common set of rules for validating transactions in blockchains, creates an industrial ecosystem with specialized suppliers of goods and services. We analyze the interactions between blockchain governance and the market structure of the industries in the blockchain ecosystem. We show that the proof-of-work system may lead to a situation in which some large firms in the blockchain industrial ecosystem—blockchain conglomerates—capture the governance of the blockchain.

Economic Moat and The Rise and Fall of Companies

無論是投資者或是經營者,都希望自己參與的企業在市場競爭中立於不敗之地。一間公司的內在價值,取決於其維持自由現金流的能力。能做到歷久不衰、長期獲利的企業,通常都具備可持續競爭優勢(sustainable competitive advantage),也就是畢非德(Warren Buffett)口中的「經濟護城河」(economic moat)。

Economic Moat and The Rise and Fall of Companies

無論是投資者或是經營者,都希望自己參與的企業在市場競爭中立於不敗之地。一間公司的內在價值,取決於其維持自由現金流的能力。能做到歷久不衰、長期獲利的企業,通常都具備可持續競爭優勢(sustainable competitive advantage),也就是畢非德(Warren Buffett)口中的「經濟護城河」(economic moat)。

Optimal Subjective Contracting with Revision

We study the optimal contracting problem with subjective evaluation when the principal can ask the agent to revise his work. The possibility of revision benefits the principal by providing the option value of making another attempt at the work. However, it also introduces a new type of incentive problem for the principal: she may ask for revision even if it is inefficient to do so. This new incentive issue for the principal also affects the incentive of the agent: he may procrastinate his effort in anticipation of excessive revision. This results in a trilemma: The optimal contract cannot simultaneously provide for efficient revision, efficient effort, and minimal ex post surplus destruction. The optimal contract will of necessity contain at least one of the following problems: revision, the principal asks for excessive revision; procrastination, the agent shirks in the early stage; or punishment, excessive surplus destruction at low-quality final output.

The Economics of Musical Chairs: Involution, Lying Flat and the Management of Opportunities

今年哈佛大學的畢業典禮上,校長巴科(Lawrence Bacow)提到由於受疫情和供應鏈影響,校內摺椅短缺,要不是員工足智多謀,可能一半畢業生得坐在地上。巴科以椅子作為比喻,目的是向畢業生提出希望和挑戰。