Education

Education is the biggest driver of social mobility in modern societies, especially as the returns to higher education have increased sharply since the 1970s, coincident with a widening in income inequality, increased market deregulation and augmented international capital mobility — the former, it is argued by some, is a consequence …

Immigration

Multiculturalism and integration: Political borders are increasingly becoming irrelevant through globalisation and mass migration. This has led to many benefits as well as challenges to our society. Some countries are struggling to integrate immigrants into the mainstream society and this has sparked an intense debate throughout western democracies, which have …

Income inequality

The economics and politics of income distribution: How society divides its wealth amongst its members is at the core of economics (and politics).  It is generally taken for granted that more equal distributions are, ceteris paribus, more desirable for society.  (This is also a natural corollary given dimishing marginal utility …

Monetary policy

What is monetary policy? Monetary policy is the means by which a state’s monetary authority (typically a central bank) controls the supply of money (often by means of being the monopoly supplier of fiat money and also by its ability to influence or enforce how financial institutions (e.g. banks) extend …

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Kai L. Chan

Welcome / Bienvenue / 歡迎 / Willkommen / Приветствие:

Thank you for visiting my site.  I am an economics/finance/policy professional currently based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.  I grew up in Toronto, Canada and was educated at the University of Toronto (BSc) and Princeton University (MA, PhD).  Before moving to Dubai, I worked in New York City (finance) and Singapore (consulting).  Although my background may sound prima facie like that of many Ivy League graduates, until recently my life experiences were solidly humble and spartan.

Business Report for the University of Toronto.  Photo courtesy of Dave Chan (www.davechan.ca).

About me and this site:

I was literally born on the streets of rural Guangdong province to peasant parents in communist China.  My family moved to Canada when I was four years old with little more than the clothes on our back and an electric rice cooker.  I spent the next 20 years in Toronto, which were formidable as my family was poor and we had little cultural capital to guide us in our new country.  (Neither of my parents studied beyond primary school and were mostly absent from my upbringing.)  Before my eighteenth birthday I was arrested twice and had dropped out of high school.  Nevertheless, I eventually gained admission into one of Canada’s elite universities (University of Toronto (Trinity College)) and then went on to receive a PhD in economics from Princeton University, where my supervisor was (future Nobel laureate) Paul Krugman.

My path from poverty to a Princeton PhD is an almost unreal story about luck, talent and unusual circumstances.  ((1). I graduated from a high school where earlier in my teenage years I was told by the vice principal responsible for my file upon trying to re-enrol: “The day you get back inside this school is the day I quit!”…  He was on sick leave the year I returned.  (2). I spent $30 on a used copy of a GRE study guide and devoted one week’s time to prepare for my graduate admission test.)  At the nadir of my life (young adult) I ate rotten vegetables tossed away by local food wholesalers and chicken bones that I collected from a fried chicken shop.  I am now an economics/finance/policy professional having lived and worked in East Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North America, and enjoy a comfortable lifestyle where I mingle with the Ivy League crowd.  My life has thus been one of contrasts, breaking stereotypes about education, ethnicity/race and socioeconomic status.  (See:  ”From poverty to Princeton PhD.“)

My values and perspective on life have been profoundly shaped by my experiences; my background allows me to view the world through a unique lens that enables me to inject fresh insights into the complex debates about the economy, education, immigration and politics.  I hope to thus be a catalyst for frank discussions about matters important to our society.

This site is a repository of all the formal writings and media from me, as well as a place for me to provide brief notes on some topics dear to me for which I wish to share my thoughts and educate the public.

Contact me:

I would love to hear from you if you have thoughts, opinions, critiques or general feedback on any of the content on this website.

To send me an e-mail:

Kai L. Chan
Dubai,  2013

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Preserving his Canadian-ness

Letter to the Toronto Star (June 27, 2014) Preserving his Canadian-ness Re: Suppressing vote of expats latest Conservative court battle, June 24 Suppressing vote of expats latest Conservative court battle, June 24 The attempt by Minister of State Pierre Poilievre to deny long-term expats the right to vote shows a …

A Fairer Pay System?

Letter to the New York Times (April 5, 2014) To the Editor: Re “Can We Close the Pay Gap?,” by Deborah Hargreaves (“The Great Divide” series, Sunday Review, March 30): One of the problems of tying the pay of chief executives (or other senior management) to that of the typical or …

Learning poor

Letter to the Globe & Mail (November 19, 2013) Reading this essay (What I learned in law school:  The poor need not apply (Nov 17, 2013)) made me think of my own story of escaping poverty and the challenges that are common for those of lesser means to overcome institutional hurdles. …

More thoughts on diversity

Letter to the Princeton Alumni Weekly (October 9, 2013 edition) In response to: Seek only the best, brightest Why are Asian-Americans always singled out in the conversation about over-representation in higher education compared with their national number (e.g. letters in the July 10 issue)? Jewish Americans form an even smaller percentage …

Fed watchers seem to have a blind spot

Letter to the Financial Times (May 29, 2013) From Mr Kai L. Chan. Sir, In the game of forecasting the next chairman of the US Federal Reserve, Edward Luce and the usual Fed watchers are overlooking one obvious choice: Alan Blinder (“Summers has an edge in the race to head …

Student life

Letter to the Economist (December 15, 2012) SIR – Although online courses in higher education are a mostly positive development, real learning in universities does not come just from course content (“Not what it used to be”, December 1st). Interaction on academic and non-academic topics with fellow students matters in …

Income inequality is still a major problem

Letter to the National Post (November 23, 2012) This article on the Fraser Institute’s take on income mobility confuses personal income growth with (inter-generational) income mobility. Over a course of a lifetime income rises as people get promoted, etc., and typically peaks in the 40s and 50s. So there’s no …

Banks, race, gender

Letter to the Globe & Mail (November 8, 2012) Re Women Challenge Central Banking Men’s Club (Nov. 7): The board of the Bank of Canada is not much different than the euro zone experience. Only two of the 15 board members are women. The board fares even worse on reflecting …

Asian immigrant experience defies easy comparisons

Letter to the Wall Street Journal (November 2, 2012) Although Asian-Americans as a whole have achieved a lot of success (as measured by household income and education), they still lag on many indicators, most notably social inclusion, where they still seem relegated to the lower echelons of social hierarchy. Several …

A racial slur against the Chinese

Letter to the Financial Times (May 19, 2012) Mr Kai L. Chan. Sir, I was shocked to have seen the word “Chinaman” used in print. Are your editors ignorant of the fact that the word is a racial slur? One does not call a person from London an “Englandman” and …

Real, it isn’t

Letter to the Globe & Mail (April 27, 2012) I find it amusing that all five cast members of The Real Housewives of Vancouver are white and blond (Why Our Clickers Are Stuck On Shallow – Arts, April 25). Almost half the population of Vancouver is visible minorities and far from every …

Contrast to Seoul’s defining moment

Letter to the Financial Times (October 25, 2011) From Mr Kai L. Chan. Sir, Watching the Greek tragedy unfold — most recently with protests in Athens that turned violent (“Athens burns: Austerity measures passed despite protests”, report, October 20) — one cannot help but juxtapose these actions with those that …