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Christine Wen

Latest updates (2022.8.16):

I'm starting at Texas A&M University as assistant professor in Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning!

New blog on sustainable community development coming soon

See Mapping Amazon 2.0 here



Dr. Christine Wen is an assistant professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning at Texas A&M University. She specializes in sustainable economic development planning. Her current research focuses on the impact of business incentives and other growth-oriented policies on social equity.

Christine received her Ph.D. in City and Regional Planning from Cornell University in August 2019. Supported mainly by the C.V. Starr Fellowship, her interdisciplinary dissertation research bridges scholarship from development sociology, critical geography, political economy, and labor studies. During this time, she worked as a teaching assistant at Cornell University for courses on American planning practice, global cities, and inferential statistics. She was also part of an award-winning team that studied how inequitable tax systems contribute to fiscal stress in upstate New York.

While completing her master's degree at Columbia University, she spent a year researching at the Earth Institute how climate cycles affect groundwater levels. Prior to that, she spent two summers working for the cosmic microwave background radiation group at Princeton University while completing a bachelor's degree in physics there. Before that, at age 15, she received the professional performer's diploma (ARCT) from the Canadian Royal Conservatory of Music with First-Class Honors with Distinctions. 

Christine hails from Vancouver, Canada. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, boating, playing the piano, and going on adventures with her cat Salem and her dog Arthur.



tax incentives and educational inequality

This project is part of an emerging area of research that aims to center children and schools in economic development planning and seek community-based solutions to wicked problems. One common tool is tax incentives, many of which divert funds from schools and accomplish dubious results. Places compete with one another by offering ever-bigger incentive packages, even though all might be better off if no one does. The power imbalance between the growth coalitions and public service providers creates a thorny dilemma that requires collective effort to address. The papers in this series examine the importance of data transparency in mutual intergovernmental accountability and the impact of tax abatement on educational inequality. Findings suggest that the costs of tax incentives are inequitably distributed, which could worsen socioeconomic, racial, and regional inequality.

tax caps and local government revenues

Almost all U.S. state governments impose some form of limitation on their taxing and spending by local governments. This research contributed a 50-state database that disassembles these limits to quantify their stringency for different types of local governments (Colorado's TABOR wins this one). The measure is then used to test the impact of tax caps on local governments' revenue structures and found that more stringent TELs restrict counties' overall revenues and force cities to shift to alternative, often more regressive, revenue sources as well as incur more debt. State aid mostly does not make up the difference. These findings are troubling as counties provide many critical social services. This research suggests that states need to tailor their tax caps to local conditions.

informal schooling for China's migrant children

One key feature of urbanization in contemporary China is the exclusion of rural migrants from certain basic urban services. To this day, about two million migrant children are still denied access to urban public schools. This exclusion has resulted in the proliferation of low-fee private schools in China's cities that almost exclusively serve rural migrant children. Scholars disagree on the extent to which low-fee private schools can adequately supply education to poor children in developing countries. This research contributes to the debate with a qualitative study in interior China where the privatization of education intersects with rural-urban migration, using grounded theory to examine how informal schooling affects settlement and integration for migrant families. Fieldwork in the country’s interior region reveals that migrant schools are oriented toward meeting the immediate needs of migrant families but do so at the cost of children’s future prospects and thus perpetuate urban inequality.

when and where to put down roots

This project examines the determinants of urban homeownership in destination cities for China's rural migrant families. For the past few years, the country's urbanization policy has focused on expanding social provisions for rural migrants so as to encourage them to put down roots in the city. There are two dominant theories in the international literature on the relationship between housing ownership and welfare access. Competing theories suggest that housing can be either a substitute for or a result of welfare. Using national survey data, this research shows that ties to the city such as enrollment in local pensions and health insurance as well as co-habitation with family are associated with a higher likelihood of homeownership. This suggests that rural migrants might be more willing to purchase homes, which is a policy goal, if the risk and precarity are lowered and that cities should adopt a family-friendly approach.

engineering urbanization

This is a doctoral dissertation project looking at Chinese government policy on migrant integration and local implementation of this central directive. By 2013-2014, a plan had been formulated to get more rural residents settled in cities and entitled to the same services as urban dwellers. However, the geopolitical configuration that has resulted from decades of regionally uneven policies presents a major roadblock. As megacities increasingly tighten restrictions on migrants, this research investigates the approach of ordinary cities toward receiving and integrating rural mgirants.

groundwater management and governance

Groundwater is a common-pool resource that poses unique governance challenges. This research investigates the temporal and spatial relationship between groundwater levels and extraction rates, precipitation anomalies, and climate cycles. The results show sensitivity to the Pacific decadal oscillations and widespread decline, particularly the central and southern Ogallala aquifer, lower Mississippi basin, the southeast basin, and the Atlantic Coastal Plain. California and Nevada were chosen for case studies for their contrasting approaches to managing groundwater in close proximity. These show that more fragmented governance as is the case of California is linked to spatial unevenness in groundwater trends as well as data collection frequency, suggesting the need for state oversight.



Published and forthcoming articles, reports, etc.



Christine Wen. "Corporate subsidies versus public education: How tax abatements cost New York public schools."


May 2022

Christine Wen. "The Revenue Impact of Corporate Tax Incentives on South Carolina Public Schools 2017-2021."


April 2022

Financial Exposure: Rating the States on Economic Development Transparency (p. 12-35 of 36).


December 2021

Christine Wen et al. "Mapping Amazon 2.0: Where the online giant locates and why."

white paper

October 2021

Christine Wen and Greg LeRoy. Revealing the True Costs of Tax Incentives: Eight Critical Improvements Needed for GASB Statement No. 77. 


August 2021

Connor Rigney and Christine Wen. "School boards must speak up when money goes away." The Cincinnati Enquirer.


July 2021

Connor Rigney and Christine Wen. "NY school boards needn't be powerless against corporate tax breaks." The Post-Standard.


July 2021

Christine Wen and Arlene Martínez. "Opinion: Black and Brown students pay for this tax break. Texas should not extend it." The Houston Chronicle


March 2021

Christine Wen et al. Abating Our Future: How Students Pay for Corporate Tax Breaks. Good Jobs First.


March 2021

John Mozena and Christine Wen. "Opinion: How economic development is killing Michigan school funding." The Detroit News.

refereed article

November 2020

Christine Wen. 2020. "Educating rural migrant children in interior China: The promise and pitfall of low-fee private schools." International Journal of Educational Development 79. 

white paper

September 2020

Christine Wen et al. "The revenue impact of corporate tax incentives on South Carolina Public Schools."

refereed article

October 2020

Christine Wen, Yuanshuo Xu, Yunji Kim, and Mildred Warner. 2020. "Starving counties, squeezing cities: Tax and expenditure limits in the U.S." Journal of Economic Policy Reform 23 (2), 101-119. 


April 2020

Christine Wen et al. "Mapping Where the online giant locates its warehouses and why."

refereed article

June 2019

Christine Wen and Jeremy Wallace. 2019. "Toward human-centered urbanization? Housing ownership and access to social insurance among migrant households in China." Sustainability 11 (13), 3567-3581.

book review

August 2018

Christine Wen. Review of Eggleston, K., Jean Oi, and Yiming Wang (eds.) Challenges in the Process of China's Urbanization. Stanford, CA: Shorenstein APARC. Pacific Affairs Review 91:2. 

issue brief

December 2014

Hector Chang and Christine Wen. "Tax caps in other states: Lessons for New York."

white paper

July 2014

Upmanu Lall, Tess Russo, Christine Wen, and Mary Williams. "The impact of climate change on U.S. groundwater systems."

white paper

May 2014

Christine Wen et al. "Assessment of water resources, green infrastructure, and utility rates in San Diego County."


April 2020

Christine Wen. Putting Pension Costs in Context: How Corporate Tax Breaks are Diverting State Revenue Needed for Public Employees' Retirement



Past and upcoming conference presentations, invited talks, and interviews

Esri User Conference

July 2022

"Where do locate its warehouses?" (in absentia)

LERA@ASSA Conference

January 2022

"How tax incentives constrain K-12 education." Delivered at the Labor and Employment Relations Association (LERA) Conference in Boston, Massachusetts (virtual).

IRE DBEI Symposium

October 2021

"Researching the impact of tax abatements on educational inequality: A How-to Guide." Delivered at the Investigative Reporters and Editors inaugural Diversity, Belonging, Equity, and Inclusion (DBEI) Symposium in Baltimore, Maryland.

ACSP Conference

October 2021

"Making the students pay? The impact of tax incentives on school finance." Delivered at the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP) Annual Conference in Miami, Florida.


May 2021

Interview with America's Work Force (AWF) Union Podcast on new report "Abating our future: How students pay for corporate tax breaks"


April 2021

Interview with In the Public Interest (ITPI) on "Corporate subsidies not only rarely work, but they're also starving public schools"


March 2021

Interview with the Sanctuary for Independent Media, Hudson Mohawk Radio Network on how "Corporate tax breaks hurt schools"

IRE Conference

November 2020

"Using the Tax Break Tracker." Delivered virtually at the Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) Conference.


November 2019

"Public subsidy research in union organizing." Delivered at the AFL-CIO Strategic Training for Intermediate/Advanced Researchers in Silver Springs, Maryland.

ACSP Conference

October 2018

"Migrant housing ownership in urban China: Evidence from survey data." Delivered at the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP) Annual Conference in Buffalo, New York.


July 2018

"Development, education, and the urban integration of rural migrants in interior China." Delivered at the 2018 International Conference of China Urban Development in Glasgow, U.K.


May 2018

"Linking fiscal stress and social equity: A municipal toolbox." Delivered at the New York State City Managers Association (NYSCMA) Annual Conference in Ithaca, New York.

UAA Conference

April 2018

"Development, education, and the urban integration of rural migrants in interior China." Delivered at the Urban Affairs Association (UAA) Annual Conference in Toronto, Canada.


April 2018

"Development, education, and the urban integration of rural migrants in interior China." Delivered at the Cornell Contemporary China Initiative Student Symposium "China in Transition" in Ithaca, New York.

AAG Conference

April 2017

"Engineering urbanization and growth in China's poor periphery." Delivered at the Association of American Geographers (AAG) Annual Conference in Boston, Massachusetts.

AAG Conference

April 2016

"Urbanization as development: Understanding China's new growth strategy." Delivered at the Association of American Geographers (AAG) Annual Conference in San Francisco, California.

ACSP Conference

November 2015

"Restrictiveness of TEL (tax and expenditure limits) and impact on local fiscal stress." Delivered at the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP) Annual Conference in Houston, Texas


December 2014

"New York property tax cap: Implications for local fiscal health." Delivered at the 2014 Conference "Local Fiscal Stress: State: State Austerity Policy and Creative Local Response" in Saratoga Springs, New York.




Ph.D. in City and Regional Planning, Cornell University


M.S. in Urban Planning, Columbia University


A.B. in Physics, Princeton University







Cornell University C.V. Starr Fellowship ($21,620)


Cornell University East Asia Program Travel Grant ($1,250)


Institute for the Social Sciences Research Travel Grant ($2,000)


Cornell University Research Travel Grant ($2,000)


Cornell University Departmental Research Travel Grant ($1,500)


Various Cornell University Conference Travel Grants ($1,315)




See Talks



Quoted in MinnPost: "There's little evidence that film and TV tax credits work. Why Minnesota lawmakers funded a new one anyway. Click here to read.

July 2021

Quoted in Chalkbeat Philadelphia: "Report stating Philadelphia schools lose $112 million a year to tax breaks is incomplete, city says" Click here to read.

April 2021

Quoted in The Philadelphia Inquirer: "Philly schools lose more money to tax breaks than any district in the country, a new report says." Click here to read.

April 2021

Quoted in Bloomberg CityLab: "What corporate tax breaks mean for school funding." Click here to read.

March 2021

Lead-author report featured in WCSC Live 5 News interview with the Executive Director of Good Jobs First

September 2020

Lead-author report featured in "Costly corporate tax breaks are taking away money to improve South Carolina's schools" by Kendall Deas in The State. Click here to read. 

September 2020

Lead-author report featured in "Tracking the elusive tax dodge" by Paul Bowers in Brutal South. Click here to read.

September 2020

Lead-author StoryMap featured in "Why are local governments paying Amazon to destroy Main Street in Fortune. Click here to read.

August 2020



Cornell CRP 5450: Inferential Statistics for Planning and Public Policy

2018 Spring

Cornell CRP 5450: Inferential Statistics for Planning and Public Policy

2017 Spring

Cornell CRP 5450: Inferential Statistics for Planning and Public Policy

2016 Fall

Cornell CRP 1101: The Global City

2016 Spring

Cornell CRP 2000: The Promises and Pitfalls of Contemporary Planning

2015 Fall



Good Jobs First (economic development, tax policy)

June 2019 - May 2022

Cornell University East Asia Program (environment, urbanization)

September 2018 - May 2019

Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations (urbanization, migration)

June 2016 - May 2019

Cornell University Community and Regional Development Institute (public finance, tax policy)

June 2015 - December 2015

The Earth Institute at Columbia University (water, sustainability)

June 2013 - May 2014

Columbia University Department of Urban Planning (poverty reduction, neighborhood change)

September 2012 - December 2013




(completed coursework in Java, C, C++)



English; Chinese mandarin



Completed college advanced reading coursework


Completed Canadian Grade 12 coursework

Professional memberships


American Planning Association


Canadian Institute of Planners

Professional Ally

Labor and Employment Relations Association





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