Christopher Neilson is an applied microeconomist. His research focuses on the study of markets where private firms compete with public providers and there are substantial subsidies and regulation. He studies how these market features interact to affect the strategic behavior of firms drawing on insights from the industrial organization literature. He uses this framework in the design and evaluation of public policies when the supply-side reaction is expected to be an important part of the story. In particular, his research in policy evaluation looks to quantify the impact of a policy while tracing out the demand and supply mechanisms behind said effect. This is crucial in guiding the design of future policy that will take into account the strategic behavior of firms and how they react to changing consumer demand induced by the policy.
A second theme in his research agenda is to focus on working with governments and administrative offices that are currently designing or implementing policies that are relevant to his areas of interest. While this partnership clearly limits the range of potential policies he can study to those that are politically feasible it assures the policy relevance of the studies as well as access to administrative data. Importantly, this relationship with policymakers will often present the opportunity to influence the design of the policy, both to potentially improve it based on prior evidence as well as to facilitate ex post evaluation.
In his recent research, he has applied these ideas to the study of education markets in Chile. These markets have a significant private sector and public-private interaction is a dominant feature of the market. In ongoing work he is exploring similar concepts in new projects working with the governments of Peru, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic. His general fields of study include public economics, labor economics and industrial organization.