Awards & Prizes

Friday, 23 June 2017 08:53

Lindsay E. Relihan of the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania to Receive the Seventeenth Annual Benjamin H. Stevens Graduate Fellowship in Regional Science

Lindsay E. Relihan, a Ph.D. candidate in applied economics in the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania was selected as the winner of the Seventeenth Annual Benjamin H. Stevens Graduate Fellowship in Regional Science. The Fellowship will provide a 2017–2018 Academic Year stipend of $30,000 to support Ms. Relihan in her dissertation research entitled, ‘Is Amazon Killing Starbucks? How Online Retail Affects Local Economies.’

The research will investigate how the purchase of a product online may shift the entire set of goods purchased by a consumer, impacting both retailers who directly compete with online platforms and retailers that benefit from consumer interaction with online establishments. She will use a new dataset containing the purchases of millions of anonymized households to make a more detailed study of the effects of online retail on offline economies than has yet been possible. These results will impact any entity affected by the rise of online retail, including policy makers and urban planners who need to prepare for structural changes in local economies and firms whose success depends on their ability to compete in a world with online retail.The research is supervised by Professor Gilles Duranton, Chair of the Real Estate Department at the University of Pennsylvania.

Chair of the Selection Committee, Professor Elena Irwin of The Ohio State University, summarizes the reasons Ms. Relihan’s proposal stood out among an extremely strong field of entries for the 2017-18 competition:

“Lindsay’s proposal topic is central to local economies and regional economics: the effects of on-line retail on offline bricks-and-mortar stores. Lindsay’s question is novel and important: she focuses not on direct competition between on and offline shopping, a well-studied topic, but rather asks what are the effects of online shopping on services that are complementary to offline shopping, e.g., going to a restaurant.

The most impressive aspects of this work are the data and empirical approach: to identify the patterns of complementarities and substitution between on and offline shopping, one needs highly detailed data. Through her confidential access to such data through a major financial institution, Lindsay has assembled daily data at an individual consumer level on different card purchases, representing millions of observations on hundreds of transactions by each individual.

Another very impressive aspect of the proposed work is her careful attention to establishing causality. She proposes to make use of the expansion of multiple online grocery platforms (including those like Amazon Fresh, Peapod, Fresh Direct, etc.), and takes the short-term location decisions of offline retailers (as with coffee shops like Starbucks) as fixed to identify how online product availability and store accessibility alter individuals’ shopping patterns. Her approach underscores the central role of space in studying these retail consumption patterns.

This work will contribute a new understanding of the substitution and complementarities between on and offline retailing. In addition to being an important and novel scholarly contribution, the research is expected to generate new insights that will be of keen interest to local and state policy makers and development professionals.”

 The Fellowship is awarded in memory of Dr. Benjamin H. Stevens, an intellectual leader whose selfless devotion to graduate students as teacher, advisor, mentor, and friend continues to have a profound impact on the field of regional science. Fundraising efforts to increase the Fellowship’s endowment are ongoing. Donations should be sent to: The Stevens Fellowship Fund, First Financial Bank, 1205 S. Neil Street, Champaign, IL 61820 USA. Checks should be drawn to The Stevens Fellowship Fund. Donations may also be made by credit card through the NARSC website at

This most recent Stevens Fellowship competition was judged by a Selection Committee composed of: Laurie Schintler, Public Policy, George Mason University; Elena Irwin, Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics, The Ohio State University, Chair; Mario Polèse, Urban and Regional Economics, Université du Québec; Amanda Weinstein, Economics, The University of Akron; and Elizabeth Mack, Geography, Michigan State University. The Stevens Fellowship Committee administrates the Stevens Fellowship Fund on behalf of the North American Regional Science Council; its members are: Tony Smith, Chair; David Plane, Secretary; Michael Lahr, Treasurer; Janet Kohlhase; and Neil Reid, Executive Director of NARSC.

The Committee thanks the 29 students who entered the competition in 2017, as well as their dissertation supervisors. Faculty at all North American Ph.D. programs related to the interdisciplinary field of Regional Science are urged to encourage their best students to apply for the Eighteenth Annual Stevens Graduate Regional Science Fellowship. The winning student’s dissertation research in the field of Regional Science will be supported during the 2018–2019 year with a one-year stipend of $30,000. The application deadline is February 15, 2018. Full submission guidelines will be posted at

June 2017

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The Regional Science Association International (RSAI), founded in 1954, is an international community of scholars interested in the regional impacts of national or global processes of economic and social change.

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