Will McGuire, Ph.D.

Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics
Ohio State University
Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics
Ohio State University
International Relations
The State University of New York at Geneseo

I am an assistant professor of economics in the division of Politics, Philosophy and Public Affairs. My research interests are mostly in areas of applied microeconomics, including international trade and economic development. I have done theoretical and empirical work on the resolution of credence good problems in weak regulatory environments. The empirical portion of this work has mostly focused on China, where I have studied food safety and the role of voluntary industry standards in environmental protection. I have also studied the connections between innovation and growth in China. I am also developing a new research program on environmental valuation in Washington State.

My teaching reflects my research interests. In addition to the basic theory courses, I teach upper-level electives on the Chinese economy and international political economy. I also teach a course on ethics and economics, where we study the many points of intersection between neoclassical economic theory and normative ethics.

My teaching reflects my research interests. In addition to the basic theory courses, I teach upper-level electives on the Chinese economy and international political economy. I also teach a course on ethics and economics, where we study the many points of intersection between neoclassical economic theory and normative ethics.

Scholarly Interests
  • International Trade
  • Economic Development
  • China's Economic Reforms
  • Environmental Economics
Current Research

My main research interests are in the areas of international trade and economic development, but I also enjoy working at the intersection of these areas with other fields such as environmental economics, industrial organization and labor economics. So far, my applied work has focused on recent developments in China, where the country’s transition from a closed command economy to an open market economy has provided ample opportunities to study the evolution of markets in a changing policy environment.

I currently have three active research programs related to China. Two of them relate to problems with the provision of credence goods in China's weak regulatory environment. Credence goods are those where consumers value their quality, but are not able to observe their quality directly. One application of this concept is to food safety. Although consumers value safe food, it can be very difficult to tell if food is tainted or spoiled. I have been working on this topic with Peng Liu, a professor in the School of Public Policy at Renmin University. We have recently published an analysis of the regulatory institutions governing food safety in China, emphasizing how the rural-urban enforcement gap increases risk to China's entire food system. We are also working on an empirical project using data collected from media reports to understand what drives inter-provincial differences in food safety.

Another application of the credence good problem is to environmental protection. Consumers are willing to pay more for products produced in a "sustainable" way, but they can't observe the sustainability of firms' production practices directly. I study certification to the ISO 14001 voluntary environmental management standard as a way to solve this problem in China. I show that certification to the standard acts as a signaling device, providing a market-based incentive for firms to adopt "greener" production practices in a setting where environmental regulations are ineffective. I have also done theoretical work demonstrating the connection between certification to voluntary standards like ISO 14001 and participation in export markets. One implication of my model is that lower barriers to trade can encourage certification to voluntary standards. My theoretical work, along with my empirical work in China, suggests that globalization can be "green", even when regulators are tempted to "race to the bottom."

I have also worked extensively on the connection between growth and innovation in China. I have published work with Belton Fleisher demonstrating that China's domestic industries have experienced substantial gains to productivity thanks to investments in intangible knowledge capital, mostly through research and development. We explain this in the context of so-called Schumpeterian growth theory: firms continuously innovate in order to capture economic rents, and this process of continuous innovation drives economic growth. We also use Schumpeterian growth theory to highlight the importance of further institutional reform for China's continued growth. Competition and innovation thrive in a regulatory environment that respects property rights and reduces barriers to entry.

I am also developing a research program focused here in Washington State. I am working on a project to measure local residents' willingness to pay (WTP) for the preservation or restoration of environmental amenities. We are especially interested in the phenomenon of "payment vehicle bias", the tendency for stated WTP to vary depending on how the payment would be collected (e.g. a property tax vs. a utility fee). We believe understanding more about this phenomenon will help bridge the gap between valuation studies and actual policy-making. Understanding residents' preferences over payment vehicles will help policymakers secure strong public support for the provision of a wide range of public goods.


I currently teach a range of undergraduate courses in economics:

  • TECON 200 - Introduction to Microeconomics
  • TECON 201 - Introduction to Macroeconomics
  • TECON 210 - Ethics and Economics
  • TECON 425 - Contemporary Issues in International Political Economy
  • TECON 460 - China's Rise and its Global Economic Implications

I enjoy teaching the basic theory courses as a way to introduce majors and non-majors to the analytical tools of economics. I recognize not every student is interested in the conditions that define competitive equilibrium, but I believe all students can benefit from exposure to economic theory. Basic concepts like comparative advantage, opportunity cost, and marginal analysis are useful in many different settings.

I created TECON 210 as a way to explore the porous border between positive and normative economic analysis. This class also provides an opportunity for students to work with economic concepts in a non-quantitative environment. The basic premise of the class is that economics cannot be separated from normative ethics. Economic efficiency is not an ethically neutral concept, and economists should not avoid deeper questions about rationality, value, justice, and equality.

TECON 425 and TECON 460 are both closely related to my areas of research. TECON 460 gives an overview of China's recent economic history and highlights the many obstacles that remain to China's continuing growth and prosperity. We use economic theory to explain the failures of China's socialist system, and the tremendous growth China has experienced since reforms began in the late 1970s. TECON 425 gives students an introduction to classical as well as new theories of international economics. Building upon these theories, we explain recent trends in international trade and finance in terms of the conflict between winners and losers in globalization.

  • Agricultural and Applied Economics Association
  • American Economic Association
  • Association of Environmental and Resource Economists
  • Chinese Economists Society
Academic Service
  • Reviewer for China Economic Review

Honors and Awards
  • Member, Phi Beta Kappa National Honor Society, 2005 - Present 
  • Member, Sigma Iota Rho International Relations Honor Society, 2004 - Present
  • Bernie Ervan Graduate Student Teaching Award (The Ohio State University), 2012
  • Honorable Mention for Original Research Manuscript by a 2nd Year Ph.D. Student, (The Ohio State University), 2009
CV or Resume
PDF icon William McGuire CV118.24 KB