Ying Gao

Ying Gao

Graduate Research Fellow

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)


Ying Gao is a doctoral candidate in political science at MIT, where she is a Graduate Research Fellow at the MIT Governance Lab. Her Ph.D. research spans urban political economy and comparative politics. Her dissertation examines citizen-state relations through the connected lens of urban informality and social institutions, using observational data, original surveys, qualitative interviews, quasi-experimental designs, and survey experiments.

Some of Ying’s other projects explore the influence of platform economy and grassroots labor organizing, urbanization-induced demographic diversity, spatial inequality, and conditions for effective participatory public policies, among other topics.

In 2020-2021, she also works as Democracy Visiting Fellow at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, Harvard Kennedy School. She is an affiliate with the Urban Mobility Lab at MIT.

A native of Beijing and raised in Japan, after living in cities from Bangkok to São Paulo, she is currently based in Cambridge MA and enjoys discovering new neighborhoods and learning new (human) languages.

  • Political Economy
  • Urban Policy
  • Quantitative Social Science
  • Spatial Analysis and Visualization
  • Mixed Methods
  • PhD in Political Science, Present


  • Master in City Planning, 2014


  • BSc in International Politics, 2007

    Georgetown University


  • ying_gao[at]mit[dot]edu
  • 77 Massachusetts Ave., E53-414, Cambridge, MA 02142