Benjamin Golub

Assistant Professor
Department of Economics

Harvard University

[CV]   [Google Scholar profile]   [Bio] ben.golub [at]


This term, I am teaching an undergraduate junior seminar (Econ 980O) called Measuring and Modeling Social Networks. This course focuses on a series of cases from business, biology, and other applications to illuminate key concepts of social network modeling. Students will produce an original research paper. The first meeting is Wednesday, January 25, 9am. The course website is here.

I am also teaching an advanced graduate course (Econ 2034) called Networks. Its purpose is to prepare students to conduct their own research in economic theory on networks. The course website is here


Learning in Social Networks  (with Evan Sadler
The Oxford Handbook of the Economics of Networks, (Yann Bramoullé, Andrea Galeotti, and Brian Rogers, eds.), 2016
A broad overview of two kinds of network learning models: (i) sequential ones in the tradition of information cascades and herding, and (ii) iterated linear updating models (DeGroot), along with their variations, foundations, and critiques. Ideal for a graduate course. [ More]


Signaling, Stigma, and Silence in Social Learning  (with Arun Chandrasekhar and He Yang) 
Does the fear of seeming foolish deter people from asking questions, and is that an important friction in information-gathering? We propose a simple theory and conduct an experiment to address these questions. [ More]

Ranking Agendas for Negotiations  (with Matthew Elliott
Countries are hashing out the agenda for a summit in which each will make costly concessions to help the others. Should the summit focus on pollution, trade tariffs, or disarmament? This is a theory to help them decide based on marginal costs and benefits, without transferable utility. [ More]

A Network Approach to Public Goods  (with Matthew Elliott
Resubmitted (second round) at the Journal of Political Economy
Perron eigenvalues are a natural way to measure whether an economic system is at an efficient point, and eigenvector centrality relates naturally to efficient negotiated outcomes. We demonstrate these connections in a simple model of investment with externalities, without parametric assumptions. [ More]

Financial Networks and Contagion  (with Matthew Elliott and Matthew O. Jackson
American Economic Review, 104(10), October 2014
Diversification (more counterparties) and integration (deeper relationships with each counterparty) have different, non-monotonic effects on financial contagions. [ More]

How Homophily Affects the Speed of Learning and Best-Response Dynamics (with Matthew O. Jackson
Quarterly Journal of Economics, 127(3), August 2012.
Group-level segregation patterns in networks seriously slow convergence to consensus behavior when agents' choices are based on an average of neighbors' choices. When the process is a simple contagion, homophily doesn't matter.
[ More] [Download] [Slides]

How Better Information Can Garble Experts' Advice  (with Matthew Elliott and Andrei Kirilenko) 
Do we get better advice as our experts get smarter? Two experts, who like to be right, make predictions about whether an event will occur based on private signals about its likelihood.  It is possible for both experts' information to improve unambiguously while the usefulness of their advice to any third party unambiguously decreases. [ More]

Strategic Random Networks and Tipping Points in Network Formation  (with Yair Livne) 
If agents form networks in an environment of uncertainty, then arbitrarily small changes in economic parameters (such as costs and benefits of linking) can discontinuously change the properties of the equilibrium networks, especially efficiency. [ More]

Naive Learning in Social Networks and the Wisdom of Crowds (with Matthew O. Jackson)
American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, 2(1):112-149, February 2010.
In what networks do agents who learn very naively get the right answer? 
[ More] [Three-page version] [Slides]

Using Selection Bias to Explain the Observed Structure of Internet Diffusions (with Matthew O. Jackson
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(24):10833-10836, June 15, 2010.
David Liben-Nowell and Jon Kleinberg have observed that the reconstructed family trees of chain letter petitions are strangely tall and narrow. We show that this can be explained with selection and observation biases within a simple model. [ More] [PNAS blurb]

Does Homophily Predict Consensus Times? Testing a Model of Network Structure via a Dynamic Process  (with Matthew O. Jackson)
Review of Network Economics, 11(3), 2012.
Many random network models forget most of the details of a network, focusing on just a few dimensions of its structure. Can such models nevertheless make good predictions about how a process would run on real networks, in all their complexity? [ More]

Network Structure and the Speed of Learning: Measuring Homophily Based on its Consequences (with Matthew O. Jackson)
Annals of Economics and Statistics, 107/108, 2012.
A simple measure of segregation in a network (in which less popular people matter more) predicts quite precisely how long convergence of beliefs will take under a naive process in which agents form their own beliefs by averaging those of their neighbors. [ More]

The Leverage of Weak Ties: How Linking Groups Affects Inequality  (with Carlos Lever
Arbitrarily weak bridges linking social groups can have arbitrarily large consequences for inequality. [ More]
Firms, Queues, and Coffee Breaks: A Flow Model of Corporate Activity with Delays (with R. Preston McAfee)  
Review of Economic Design, 15(1), March 2011.
How and when to decentralize networked production — in a model that takes into account 'human' features of processing. [ More]

Stabilizing Brokerage (with Katherine Stovel and Eva Meyersson Milgrom
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(Suppl. 4):21326-21332, December 27, 2011.
Brokers facilitate transactions across gaps in social structure, and there are many reasons for their position to be unstable. Here, we take a look, from a sociological and an economic perspective, at what institutions stabilize brokerage. [ More]