who are you?

I am a PhD candidate in the Department of Economics at the University of Colorado–Boulder. My research is in environmental, natural resource, and computational economics. I am on the job market in 2018-2019 and available for interviews at the ASSA annual meeting in Atlanta.

I received a BS in Business Administration in 2012 from the University of California–Riverside, and an MA in Economics in 2016 from the University of Colorado–Boulder; my PhD adviser is Dan Kaffine.

what do you do?

I study common-pool resources and commercial orbit use. Earth’s orbits are the world’s largest common-pool resource. As humans launch more satellites, the risk of collisions between orbiting objects increases. Paths in low-Earth orbit are under “open access” - firms are unable to secure property rights over orbits. Open access to a commons typically results in over-exploitation, and sometimes collapse, of the resource. In the orbital case, expect to see more catastrophic collisions and a higher risk of Kessler Syndrome in low-Earth orbit than would be socially optimal.

My job market paper looks at how commercial orbit use should be regulated and the extent to which active debris removal technologies can bring about socially optimal orbit use. I find that despite physical uncertainty, orbit use policies can be efficient as prices or quantities because the uncertainty is symmetric between regulators and firms. The key distinction for policy design is whether policies are imposed on satellite launches or satellite ownership. Policies targeting satellite launches act as entry-deterrents, creating rents for incumbent satellite owners and causing suboptimal spikes in the launch rate and catastrophic collision risk. Though active debris removal technologies can reduce the risk of Kessler Syndrome, they will only reduce the risk of catastrophic collisions to the extent that satellite owners bear the cost of debris removal.

In my free time I make silly Twitter bots, play video games (online RTS and single-player RPGs), and think about the economics of fictional worlds.

curriculum vitae CV as pdf


Akhil Rao
Department of Economics
University of Colorado–Boulder
256 UCB
Econ 414
Boulder, Colorado 80309–0256

Email: akhIil.raodon't@wantcospam! loSopleaseraleave dome.alonee!du
Phone: 951-732-7261