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Welcome! I am a Ph.D. Candidate at UC Berkeley in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics. My main fields of interest include international trade and development as well as agriculture and natural resources. A connecting theme in my research is that I aim to study the determinants of why regions choose to produce the commodities they do, and the aggregate consequences of those decisions. In my work, I examine a number of factors impacting such production decisions: including access to intermediaries, illicit crop production, historical forces, and the availability of scarce natural resources. Prior to my graduate studies, I earned a B.S. in Mathematics and Economics at the University of Minnesota.

Farm to Firm: Clustering and Returns to Scale in Agricultural Value Chains
Work in progress.
[PDF] [Abstract]

Commodity Trade Matters
with Thibault Fally
3rd Annual JPMCC International Commodities Symposium Best Paper Award
CEPR Discussion Paper No. 13132 | NBER Working Paper No. 24965
[PDF] [Appendix] [Data]

The Promise of Crop Substitution Programs
Work in progress.

The Long Run Impact of Colonization on Crop Choice
with Abdoulaye Cisse
Work in progress.


Pyomo for Economists Workshop
with Lucy Hackett

Does Trade in Primary Commodities Matter?
ARE Update Vol. 23, No. 1., Sep/Oct. 2019

Trade Liberalization and Wages in the Dominican Republic
Undergraduate senior thesis, University of Minnesota (2016)
Thesis Committee: Anusha Nath, Amil Petrin, and David Rahman
[PDF] [Condensed PDF] [Program code]


Graduate Student Instructor, Economics C181 (International Trade, Undergraduate)
UC Berkeley
Spring 2020 and Spring 2021, Taught by Professor Andrés Rodríguez-Clare
Fall & Spring 2018 and Fall 2020, Taught by Professor Thibault Fally

Graduate Student Instructor, Public Policy 275 (Spatial Data and Analysis, Masters)
UC Berkeley
Fall 2019, Taught by Professor Solomon Hsiang

Reader, Economics S-10ab (Principles of Microeconomics and Macroeconomics, Undergraduate)
Harvard University
Summer 2014, Taught by Professors Daron Acemoglu, David Laibson, John List, and Bruce Watson

Selection of instructor feedback

  • The instructor was very knowledgable and could break down problems. Very responsive on Piazza and easy to reach out to.
  • Always provides very clear explanations.
  • He knows the material very well and is always open to answer questions.
  • Jay is very clear and summarizes lectures very well. And he does not always follow the section notes exactly, which I think is good since he picks questions strategically.
  • Great knowledge of the material, very helpful and answered questions well and in a descriptive manner.
  • Helpful to go over the problems step by step. Helped me understand processes I did not understand during class.
  • James is really good at explaining the concepts in more than one way especially if he runs through an example quickly, he is happy to go back and reexplain content to students. Section notes align clearly with lecture material and his ability to quickly answer questions and bring them back to the course material is very good. He's very accessible via email, OH, and section.
  • Organized, knowledgeable, personable. Knows the materials thoroughly and patient at explaining and speeds at replying emails. Fast and clear.
  • James is great, he really cares that the students are following what he is saying and understands the course material.
  • He is such a great gsi that explains materials very clear and effective.
  • James is very thorough in his mathematical derivations and will choose to highlight items that he believes are more important than others. James is also very concerned about his students' success and ability to understand course material.
  • The way GSI adjusted the class structure in response to lockdown. I think it was very effective that he posted the video of presentation in advance and geared the section to answering questions, especially because there was a lot of materials to cover.
  • He is knowledgeable and intellectual. He explained problems clearly and thoroughly.

James Sayre
Ph.D. Candidate

Department of
Agricultural and
Resource Economics

UC Berkeley
Giannini Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720