Dr. Scott N. Swisher IV
Postdoctoral Research Associate
Institute for New Economic Thinking
Faculty of Economics
Queens' College
University of Cambridge
Cambridge, UK

Research Interests
Networks, Industrial Organization, Macroeconomics, Economic History


Curriculum Vitae

I obtained my Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and joined the University of Cambridge as a postdoc in 2014. I study the economic behavior of network-building firms like railroad companies or Internet service providers.

I do empirical interdisciplinary research at the intersection of industrial organization, networks, and economic history. I work with economic models where a large collection of small firms individually decide whether to build connections or not using a network technology, for example railroad companies or internet service providers. These firms want to maximize their own profits given what their competitors are doing, and they own a small piece of a larger network like the national rail network or Internet. Problems of this type are difficult to solve because of the large number of possible network configurations, some of which end up being stable when every firm does the best that it can. It is also necessary to precisely account for the historical and regulatory environment in which the firms operate since this sets the technology and "rules of the game" by which firms compete. Finally, since the firms are strategic in their investment choices when building network connections, insight from game theory is needed to determine how they collectively behave when maximizing their profits.

In previous work, I have applied this framework to quantify the effect of railroads on economic growth in the United States in the 19th century, finding that railroads were much more important to growth than previously thought. With two competing transport technologies of railroads and canals, it turns out that canal companies drastically reconfigure their networks in the absence of railroads. This revision of canal links only partially substitutes for the missing railroad technology, leading to large output and welfare losses. In current work, I examine the empirical effect of "network neutrality" regulation on the price, service quality, and investment choices of internet service providers in the US. Findings in this line of work can inform US policymakers on optimal regulation for firms operating the network technologies of "last mile" and long-haul backbone Internet connections.