I am an economist with research interests in macroeconomic development and trade. I received my Ph.D. in economics from UCLA. 
I am an IES Fellow at Princeton University, and I will be an Assistant Professor of Economics at Yale University's School of Management starting Summer 2021. I am also a Research Affiliate at the Central Bank of Costa Rica.

Working Papers

 with Esteban Méndez-Chacón

This paper studies the short- and long-run effects of large firms on economic development. We use evidence from one of the largest multinationals of the 20th Century: The United Fruit Company (UFCo). The firm was given a large land concession in Costa Ricaone of the so-called "Banana Republics"from 1899 to 1984. Using administrative census data with census-block geo-references from 1973 to 2011, we implement a geographic regression discontinuity (RD) design that exploits a quasi-random  assignment of land. We find that the firm had a positive and persistent effect on living standards. Regions within the UFCo were 29% less likely to be poor in 1973 than nearby counterfactual locations, with only 56% of the gap closing over the following four decades. Company documents explain that a key concern at the time was to attract and maintain a sizable workforce, which induced the firm to invest heavily in local amenities that likely account for our result. We then build a dynamic spatial model in which a firm's labor market power within a region depends on how mobile workers are across locations and run counterfactual exercises. The model is consistent with observable spatial frictions and the RD estimates. The model shows that the firm increased aggregate welfare by 3.7%, and that this effect is increasing in worker mobility.

International Diffusion of Technology: Accounting for Differences in Learning Abilities

New Version Coming Soon - Old Version Here

An important question in the field of economic growth and development is how developing countries learn to adopt and use new technologies. This paper studies how firms learn from each other through trade. First, using an unexpected change in foreign trade costs and data on the network of firm transactions in Costa Rica, I document how productivity grows systematically faster for firms that trade with partners with better technologies, but that this is effect is decreasing in the gap between the partner's productivity. Second, I build a model in which knowledge transfers can occur through trade, and in which agents have heterogeneous learning abilities: The probability of a producer adopting a technology slightly better than hers is larger than the probability of adopting a much more sophisticated one—the trade-off being that conditional on adoption, more sophisticated technologies lead to higher productivity.  I document how the model matches the empirical dependence of productivity growth on productivity gaps across trading partners, and the firm size distribution. The model also highlights how ignoring differences in learning abilities can overestimate the impact of exposure to high-TFP trading partners, leading to suboptimal trade policies.  

The Bretton Woods international financial system, which was in place from roughly 1949 to 1973, is the most significant modern policy experiment to attempt to simultaneously manage international payments, international capital flows, and international currency values. This paper uses an international macroeconomic accounting methodology to study the Bretton Woods system and finds that it: (i) significantly distorted both international and domestic capital markets and hence the accumulation and allocation of capital; (ii) significantly slowed the reconstruction of Europe, albeit while limiting the indebtedness of European countries. Our results also provide support for the utility of the accounting methodology in that it finds a sharp change in the behavior of domestic and international capital market wedges that coincides with the breakdown of the system.

with Lee Ohanian, Paulina Restrepo-Echavarría, and Mark Wright    

Bridging India and Bangladesh: Cross-border Trade and Motor Vehicle Agreements

 with Matías Herrera Dappe and Mathilde Lebrand 

Work in Progress

Foreign Investment, Productivity Spillovers and Environmental Effects: Evidence from the United Fruit Company with Esteban Méndez-Chacón

“Productivity, Business Cycles and Trade: Evidence from Chile” with Vladimir Smirnyagin




  • Intermediate Microeconomics (350 students), Spring 2018; 

  • Principles of Macroeconomics (60 students), Summer 2017; and

  • Math Camp for Economics Graduate Students, Summer 2016, 2017.

Teaching Assistant:


  • Macroeconomics (Lee Ohanian), Fall 2016, Fall 2018; and

  • Macroeconomic Implications of Globalization (Ariel Burstein), Spring 2017.


  • Principles of Microeconomics, Fall 2017, Winter 2017, Spring 2019; and

  • Principles of Macroeconomics, Spring 2016, Winter 2018.



Mailing Address:
Diana Van Patten
International Economics Section 
Department of Economics 
Julis Romo Rabinowitz Building, Room 296 
Princeton University 
Princeton, New Jersey 08544-1021

Email: vanpatten (at) princeton (dot) edu