Name: Mark Hup
Program and current year at UCI: 5th year Ph.D. student in Economics
Award received: Charles A. Lave Paper Prize Award for “Labor Coercion and Trade: Evidence from Colonial Indonesia”
Hometown: Elburg, Netherlands

What are some of the major milestones in your life?

Career- and education-wise four milestones are completing my undergraduate studies in the Netherlands, a research masters in Hong Kong, and my current Ph.D. program at UCI, and starting my job as assistant professor this Fall. Two milestones in my personal life are meeting my girlfriend in 2010 and getting engaged in 2020!

What made you choose UCI for your graduate program?

I wanted to come to UCI for several reasons. UCI’s Ph.D. program in economics is well-regarded internationally and provides great preparation for careers in academia. Importantly, my particular field of interest, economic history, is strongly represented at UCI. My undergraduate thesis adviser specifically recommended UCI for this reason. UCI was also the quickest, by a few weeks, in sending out acceptance letters, and I really appreciated that as it ended a period of uncertainty and enabled me to picture living there. Next to that I wanted to come to the U.S., and California in particular, for graduate studies.

Tell us about your current field of study – why you chose it and what you’re focusing on.

Since high school I have been interested in both economics and history, and economic history exactly combines both. It combines big-picture questions like ‘Why are some countries rich and others poor?’ with hand-collected data from historical archives and modern tools of economic and statistical analysis. Luckily my undergraduate institution, Utrecht University, offered a large minor in economic history. My senior thesis involved original archival work with records of over 300 years old. Reading contracts handwritten by people in the 1660s, bringing such data to light and analyzing it with the toolkit of economics and statistics was intriguing to me and inspired me to try and go for a career in economic history research.

My current research focuses on the connections between fiscal modernization, labor coercion, state capacity, and trade. To investigate these relationships, I construct new province-level annual datasets based on archival sources from colonial Indonesia in the period 1870-1940. These are the first datasets to combine data on corvée labor usage, taxation, state expansion, and exports and therefore help shed light on previously understudied topics.

What would you consider your biggest accomplishment at UCI?

Setting up my research and advancing it enough to write papers that shed light on somewhat understudied topics, such as labor coercion in taxation, and that seem to be of interest to other scholars.

In addition to the Lave Prize, what other grants, awards, and fellowships have you received while in pursuit of your degree?

I entered the program with a Fulbright Scholarship. Since then, I have been lucky enough to get my research funded through several intramural and extramural fellowships and awards. For such support I would like to thank UCI’s Department of Economics, UCI’s Center for Global Peace and Conflict Studies, UCI’s Center for Asian Studies, the Institute for Humane Studies, and the Economic History Association. Enabled by such support another paper of my dissertation won the A. Kimball Romney Award of UC Irvine, the Jan Lucassen Award of the European Social Science History Association, and the Vincent and Elinor Ostrom Prize of the Public Choice Society.

Who has played an important role in your life thus far and why?

My parents for providing a loving, stable, and supportive home. My brother for always being up for playing (and fighting). My girlfriend for her love and support and for being my best friend. Lastly, many friends with whom I have spent good times and advisers from whom I have learned much.

What are the biggest challenges you have faced in getting to where you are today?

One challenge revolved around figuring out what I wanted to do and what I should do to accomplish that. As a first-generation student I initially knew very little about what it took to study at a university. I struggled a bit in the first and second year of my undergraduate studies, partly because I had to commute for more than three hours on lecture and discussion days, but things improved much once I was able to rent a student room, move to the university town, and develop a close group of friends. While my undergraduate studies were progressing, I had little idea about research and how to try and go for a career in research. After graduating the path to a career in research was still rather unclear to me. That is partly why there is a five-year period between the end of my undergraduate studies and the start of my Ph.D. program. I believe I mainly figured things out along the way, and being a first-generation student played a role in that. I am fine with that though; I believe for me it was better to take it a bit slow.

What’s your best memory thus far from your experience at UCI?

Hanging out with my friends. The first year in the economics Ph.D. is quite tough, but it does help in forming tight friendships. Before the pandemic I used to go out eating with my friends regularly, and this was always a nice way to start the weekend. We also had house parties every now and then as we all lived in on-campus housing. These memories of having good times together are the best.

What’s ahead for you as you graduate this year with your Ph.D.?

I plan to finish my degree this summer and start as an assistant professor at Peking University’s School of Economics.


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