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Kai L. Chan

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Thank you for visiting my site. I am an economics / finance / policy professional currently splitting my time between Abu Dhabi and Riyadh. I grew up in Toronto, Canada and was educated at the University of Toronto (BSc) and Princeton University (MA, PhD). Before my move to Riyadh to work at a regulator, I had previously worked in Abu Dhabi (policy), Montreal (technology), Dubai (consulting and policy), 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) My entire preparation for the GRE graduate school admission test consisted of $10 spent on a used copy of a GRE study guide and one week’s time of studying.) At the nadir of my life (young adult) I ate rotten vegetables tossed away by local food wholesalers and discarded 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, 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 (and some popular press coverage), 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.

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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
Abu Dhabi, 2024

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Research Documents (pdf)

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Presentations (pdf):