Sara Fisher Ellison

Sara Fisher Ellison

Senior Lecturer in Economics

Research Fields

Industrial Organization

Contact Information


Sara Fisher Ellison is currently Senior Lecturer in the MIT Department of Economics. She has spent most of her career at MIT, but has also held visiting positions at institutions such as the Centre for Economic Studies in Munich, the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, the Hoover Institution, the National Bureau of Economic Research, and the Paris School of Economics. Her research has investigated a number of questions in industrial organization, with a focus on the pharmaceutical industry and ecommerce.

Her work on the pharmaceutical industry has been wide-ranging, addressing issues such as the characteristics of demand for similar products, the political economy of pharmaceutical pricing, and the strategic behavior of pharmaceutical manufacturers. In work joint with Christopher Snyder, Dr. Ellison empirically investigates the origins of countervailing power using data from the pharmaceutical industry. They test collusion models and bargaining models of buyer size effects and find that, in their empirical setting, buyer size effects only emerge when buyers can credibly threaten to substitute away from a purchase.

In ecommerce, her best known research involves the study of search and obfuscation. She and her coauthor Glenn Ellison have found evidence that Internet technologies, once believed to primarily aid consumers by making price search much easier, can actually serve the interests of retailers as well, by making age-old obfuscation strategies easier and cheaper to implement. She also has work on the sugar industry as well as methodological contributions in finance and econometrics.

Ellison is the faculty director of the department's DEDP MicroMasters and Masters programs. She has an award-winning MOOC in the MicroMasters on data analysis for social scientists that has attracted over 100,000 learners. In addition, she still enjoys the challenge of teaching MIT undergraduates and is currently one of the two instructors for the introductory microeconomics course. She also teaches and advises PhD students in industrial organization. She currently serves on the editorial board of three industrial organization journals, IJIO, JIE, and RIO and has been an associate editor at JEMS. Finally, she has consulting experience, providing litigation support and management guidance.

Featured Awards & Honors

Levitan Teaching Prize, MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
Distinguished Science Award, Purdue University
MITX Prize for Teaching and Learning in MOOCs (finalist for EdX Prize)
2003 - 2004
Richard B. Fisher Member at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ (2003-2004)
1999 - 2000
Arch Shaw National Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford, CA (1999-2000)