Current Series

Dondena Seminar Series
Autumn 2019

All seminars (and light lunches!) will begin at 12:45 p.m. and be held in Room 3-e4-sr03, unless otherwise noted.

Titles and abstracts will be posted as they become available. 

The program is available here.


Room: 5.e4.sr04, 12:45 – 14:00


University of California - Los Angeles (UCLA)

Title: Not All Management Is Created Equal: Evidence from the Training Within the Industry Program

Abstract: This paper examines the effects of management practices on firm performance, using evidence from the Training Within Industry (TWI) program. The TWI plan was a business training program implemented by the U.S. government between 1940 and 1945 to provide management consulting to firms involved in war production. Using newly collected panel data on the population of 11,575 U.S. firms that applied to the program, we estimate its causal effects by exploiting quasi-random variation in the allocation of instructors to rms. We find that receiving any TWI training had a positive effect on firm performance, even though the impact of human resources management was the largest. Human resources management is also complementary to other management practices. Finally, we document substantial heterogeneity in the effects of the program depending on whether top or middle managers were trained.

Bio: Michela Giorcelli is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of California - Los Angeles (UCLA) and a Faculty Research Fellow at the National Bureau for Economics Research (NBER). Her research interests involve firm productivity and adoption of managerial practices, technology transfer and innovation, and intellectual property rights protection. Before joining UCLA, Prof. Giorcelli earned a Ph.D. in Economics from Stanford University (with distinction), a MSc from Collegio Carlo Alberto in Torino (with distinction) and a BA in Economics (summa cum laude and dignity of print) from the University of Torino.


Room: 3E4 SR03, 12:45 – 14:00


TITLE: Men’s involvement in the family and fertility: what about men’s opportunity costs?

ABSTRACT: Demographers hypothesized that an increase in men’s involvement in the family (childcare and housework) will ease work-family tensions experienced by women and lead to higher fertility. However, empirical research on gender division of labour and childbearing generated inconsistent findings. One of the reasons for this inconsistency may be that men’s family involvement affects women and men differently. To women, it brings numerous benefits as it weakens the childcare burden and makes it easier for them to combine paid work and care. The consequences for men can be both positive and negative. On the one hand, higher involvement of men in childcare improves their relationship with children brings joy and satisfaction. On the other hand, however, it results in opportunity costs, which may discourage men from forming larger families. This aspect of men’s involvement in the family has been largely overlooked so far, even though men may experience stronger opportunity costs of childrearing than women as employers still tend to perceive them as “ideal” workers whose work commitment is not affected by family obligations. After discussing the mechanisms which may govern the relationship between men’s involvement in the family and childbearing I will present results of an empirical study for Australia which investigates the effects of partners’ involvement in childcare and housework on their fertility desires and expectations. The study is based on data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey and involves multi-level modelling of couple- and individual-level life histories. The study shows that gender stereotypes still largely govern partners’ division of labour and their fertility preferences.

BIO: Anna Matysiak is an economist and demographer, interested mainly in the interrelationships between family change and labour market dynamics, gender and social policies. The majority of her work is on the interdependencies between women’s labour supply and family-related behaviours but she has been also working on men’s involvement in the family, partners’ division of labour, economic uncertainty and family dynamics as well as family dynamics and partners’ subjective well-being. She received her PhD in Economics in 2009 from the Warsaw School of Economics. She was Assistant Professor at the Institute of Statistics and Demography at the Warsaw School of Economics (2009-2013) and joined the Vienna Institute of Demography in 2013 as a Senior Postdoctoral Researcher. She was Editor of the Book Review Section at the European Journal of Population (2015–2017) and has been Deputy Editor at Demography since mid-2017. In 2018 she received Dirk J. van de Kaa Award for Social Demography from European Association for Population Studies for “outstanding achievements by an individual scholar in social demography, and the interplay of population dynamics and social change”.


Room: 3E4 SR03, 12:45 – 14:00


TITLE: Filter Bubbles, Identity, and Culture: Three Field Experiments on Social Media

ABSTRACT: There is widespread concern that social media platforms have created filter bubbles that reinforce peoples’ pre-existing views and prevent them from being exposed to those who do not share them. Though many people believe popping filter bubbles will reduce political polarization on social media, this talk will present multiple field experiments that challenge this common wisdom. I will first describe two studies that employed bots, network analysis, and quantitative surveys in order to show that popping peoples’ filter bubbles makes them more polarized; not less. Drawing upon in-depth interview and text-based data, I will argue that this backfire effect occurs because of an identity-threat mechanism linked to both core theories in social science as well as recent advances in neuroscience. Finally, I will describe ongoing research currently being conducted within my Polarization Lab that experimentally manipulates the identity of people deliberating on a de novo social media platform in order to further test this hypothesis. The results may be of interest to those who study political communication, social media, or the emerging field of computational social science.

BIO:Chris Bail is Professor of Sociology, Public Policy, and Data Science at Duke University, where he directs the the Polarization Lab. A leader in the emerging field of computational social science, Bail’s research examines fundamental questions of social psychology, extremism, and political polarization using novel sources, such as data from social media and the latest advances in machine learning.


Room: 3E4 SR03, 12:45 – 14:00


TITLE: “Basic Instincts? Female Fertility and Genes”

Nicola Barban (ISER, University of Essex), Elisabetta De Cao (LSE) and Marco Francesconi (University of Essex)

ABSTRACT: Fertility has a strong biological component that has been long ignored by social scientists (demographers, sociologists and economists) who study family decisions. This paper uses data from the UK Biobank, which contains detailed genetic information on 500,000 individuals born between 1934 and 1971, to study to what extent genetic endowment affects women’s fertility behaviour and the role of gene-environment interactions in shaping these processes. We focus on a period of dramatic changes in age at first sexual intercourse, age at first birth and number of children and in the UK. Our results show that genes matter for fertility processes suggesting that genetic endowment interacts with the social environment in a meaningful way. We conclude that including genetics explanations in social sciences may help us understanding the secular changes in fertility.

BIO: Nicola Barban is a Reader (Associate Professor) at the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex.

He is a co-director of the ESRC Large Centre for Micro-Social Change (MiSoC) at the University of Essex and Associate Fellow at Nuffield College, University of Oxford.

His research focuses on the integration of genetics and social science and on the methodology for the study of life course trajectories.

His work has been published  in Nature Genetics, American Sociological Review and Population Studies. He is the author of a new textbook on Applied Statistical Genetics edited by MIT press.


Room: 3E4 SR03, 12:45 – 14:00


TITLE: Socioeconomic correlations and their consequences in social networks and human dynamics

ABSTRACT:  Our understanding about the structure and dynamics of social systems has been developed considerably during the last years due to the recent availability of large digital datasets collecting interactions of millions of individuals. However, although these studies consider the structural, temporal, or spatial characters of human interactions they commonly miss one important dimension regarding the socioeconomic status of individuals, which may largely determine the social structure itself. The uneven distribution of wealth and individual economic capacities are among the main forces, which shape modern societies and arguably bias the emerging social network. In the first part of this talk, we will discuss a set of results aiming to close this gap through the analysis of coupled datasets recording the mobile phone communications and bank transaction history of one million anonymised individuals living in a Latin American country. We show that wealth and even debt are unevenly distributed among people, who in turn are connected into a strongly stratified structure including tightly connected ``rich clubs’’. Subsequently, we will analyse a dataset combining a large French Twitter corpus with detailed socioeconomic maps obtained from national census, professional occupation data, and socioeconomic data remotely sensed  from satellite images. We show how key linguistic variables measured in individual Twitter streams depend on factors like socioeconomic status, location, time, and the social network of individuals.

BIO:  Dr. Marton Karsai, HDR, is an Associate Professor in Network and Data Science at the Central European University, member of the IXXI Complex System Institute and fellow of the ISI Foundation. His research interest falls within human dynamics, computational social science, and data science, especially focusing on human behavior, socioeconomic systems and social contagion phenomena. His is an expert in analysing large human interaction datasets and in the development of data-driven models of various social phenomena.


Room: 3E4 SR03, 12:45 – 14:00


TITLE: Around 3% of under-25s in France are orphans

ABSTRACT: The number of orphans for France is not a routine figure to get. This work focuses on orphans who are almost absent from the research in family demography at least in developed countries. It shows that losing a parent before age 25 is not such a rare event (mostly due to the father’s death). Orphans and the family they live in are more likely to need social support. We aim to estimate the number of orphans in 2015 and to analyse the trend in orphanhood since 1999, based on a previous work by Alain Monnier and Sophie Pennec. We run a multi-source analysis: from two series of general population surveys (TCM, 2004-2013; Family surveys, 1999 and 2011), we calculate ‘direct’ estimations of the number of orphans, based on answers about the death of parents; and from vital statistics on mortality and fertility, we can obtain an ‘indirect’ estimation. Despite the discrepancies between the three estimations, the orders of magnitude are consistent: our mean estimation is of around 600,000 orphans aged under 25 in France (3% of this age group). Around three-quarters of orphans are fatherless orphans whose mother is alive. Orphanhood has decreased since 1999 but not as much as we could have expected given the fall in adult mortality, due to a counter effect of the increase of mean age at childbearing. This work was prepared with Cecile Flammant during her PhD at INED, and Sophie Pennec.

BIO: Laurent Toulemon is senior researcher at the French Institute for Demographic Studies or INED. He has been in charge of several population surveys in France, on family structures, fertility behaviour, contraceptive practice and recourse to abortion. He led the INED research unit “Fertility, Families, sexuality” from 2009 to 2017, and was Editor of the journal Population from 2008 to 2017. His current works deal, on the one hand, with the quality of census and surveys, regarding population counts and family situations description and, on the other hand, with fertility behaviour and family changes in Europe. He is part of the Generation and Gender Programme (GGP) steering Committee.


Room: 3E4 SR03, 12:45 – 14:00



Room: 3E4 SR03, 12:45 – 14:00


TITLE: Prenatal cash transfers and infant health

(with Sofia Trommlerová)

ABSTRACT: We estimate the impact of a cash transfer to women on her (future) children’s birth outcomes, exploiting the introduction of a universal child benefit in Spain. Using administrative data from birth records and a regression discontinuity approach, we find that low-income women who received the benefit were much less likely to give birth to low birth-weight children, several years down the road. A 2,500-euro transfer led to a 2.2 decline in low birth-weight status among women in poor households. Given that about 6% of children were low birth-weight, this represents a 36% reduction. We find no impact on gestational length, suggesting that the effect is due to faster intrauterine growth, possibly related to improved maternal nutrition.

Previous evidence on the causal effect of cash transfers to poor families on child health and development has been mixed. Some recent research suggests that targeting pregnant women may be more effective than later interventions, given the strong persistence of fetal health effects. Our results suggest that the impact may be even stronger if women are targeted even earlier, before conception.

BIO: Libertad González is an associate professor of Economics at Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Spain) and an affiliated professor at the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics. She holds a PhD from Northwestern University and currently an ERC Consolidator grant. Her fields of research include labor, public, population, and health economics, and she has worked on topics related to migration, female labor supply, divorce, and infant health. She has published in the Journal of Public Economics, Journal of the European Economic Association, American Economic Journal: Economic PolicyJournal of Human ResourcesJournal of Applied EconometricsEuropean Economic ReviewLabour Economics, etc.


Room: 3E4 SR03, 12:45 – 14:00


Universtiy of Southern California - Joint with Department of Social and Political Sciences (SPS)


Room: 3E4 SR03, 12:45 – 14:00


TITLE: How Electoral Cycles Shape the Implementation of Public Programs: Evidence from India

ABSTRACT: This study sheds new light on the welfare implications of electoral cycles by examining how election timing shapes the implementation of public works programs. Using data from a program in India that provides a fixed allotment to MPs to undertake public works projects in their constituencies, the analyses show that pre-election periods exhibited a significant increase - relative to other periods - in the proportion of funds allocated to projects that ultimately did not get completed. Further analyses cast doubt on the possibility that the results are driven by strained bureaucratic capacity, increased corruption or delays resulting from the manipulations of opposition parties. Instead, the results appear to be driven by incumbent turnover produced by the election as well as by the propensity of incumbents to propose a greater proportion of unqualified projects in pre-election periods. These results shed light on important mechanisms through which democratic elections undermine public service delivery.

BIO: Anjali Thomas Bohlken is an Assistant Professor in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Georgia. She specializes in comparative politics and political economy with an emphasis on India. The key questions that drive her research focus on the the politics of public service provision, distributive politics and governance. Her research has been published, or is forthcoming, in The American Journal of Political Science, The British Journal of Political Science, Journal of Peace Research and Journal of Theoretical Politics. Her book has been published with Cambridge University Press (2016).


Room: 3E4 SR03, 12:45 – 14:00


TITLE: “Female autonomy generates superstars in long-term development: Evidence from 15th to 19th century Europe”

Joerg Baten, University of Tuebingen, CESifo and CEPR Alexandra M. de Pleijt, University of Oxford

ABSTRACT: Many countries did not accumulate sufficient human capital to be successful, because they did not make use of the potential of the female half of their population. Other countries did the opposite and became “superstars” and pioneers in long-term economic development. This view is supported by studying female autonomy and numeracy indicators of 27 countries and 268 regions in Europe between 1500 and 1900. We are using the demographic indicator age at marriage as a proxy indicator for female autonomy. We approach endogeneity issues by exploiting exogenous variation in gender-biased agricultural specialization.

BIO: Joerg Baten received his doctoral degree from the University of Munich in 1997, and worked there 1993-2000. Since 2001 he is professor of economic history at the University of Tuebingen. In 2005, he was invited to be a visiting professor at Yale University. From 2006 to 2012 he served as Secretary General of the International Economic History Association, which is the global organization of economic historians. 2015-17 Baten was President of the European Historical Economics Society. He is member of the Centre of Economic Policy Research network (London), the CESifo network (Muenchen) and the Academia Europeae. Baten’s research focuses on the long-run development of innovation, human capital, living standards and violence. He is co-author, for example, of the study ““Quantifying Quantitative Literacy: Age Heaping and the History of Human Capital” (with Brian A’Hearn and Dorothee Crayen), which was published in the Journal of Economic History 2009. Baten is currently editor-in-chief of the journal “Economics and Human Biology” (Impact Factor 2.7), his seven books (partly co-edited) include “A History of the Global Economy” (2016) and “The Backbone of Europe: Health, Diet, Work and Violence over Two Millenia” (2019, both Cambridge University Press).


Room: 3E4 SR03, 12:45 – 14:00


TITLE: “Regime Threats and State Solutions”

ABSTRACT: The state is a powerful tool for social control because it has the power to help leaders put down popular threats to their rule. But a state does not act; bureaucrats work through the state to carry out a leader’s demands. In turn, leaders attempt to use their authority over the state to manage bureaucrats in a way that induces bureaucratic behavior that furthers their policy and political goals. Focusing on Kenya since independence, this book weaves together micro-level personnel data, rich archival records, and interviews to show how the country’s different leaders have strategically managed, and in effect weaponized, the public sector. The analyses show how even states categorized as weak have proven very capable of helping their leader stay in power.

BIO:  I am an Assistant Professor in the Political Science Department at the University of Michigan.  My research focuses on the state, autocracy, and regime change in Africa. My forthcoming book, Regime Threats and State Solutions (Cambridge University Press, Studies in Comparative Politics), examines the politicization of the public sector in Kenya. For more on my research, please see my publications and working papers, as well as my cv.

I am on leave for the 2019-2020 academic year at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS)  at Stanford University.


Room: 3E4 SR03, 12:45 – 14:00



Room: 3E4 SR03, 12:45 – 14:00


The University of Edinburgh

Last updated 15 October 2019 - 17:01:01