Current Series

Dondena Seminar Series
Spring 2018

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.

Download the series poster here.



Erasmus Graduate School of Social Sciences and the Humanities

Weight gains from trade in foods: Evidence from Mexico.

This paper investigates the effects of international trade in food on obesity in Mexico. We classify Mexican food imports from the U.S. into healthy and unhealthy and match these with anthropometric and food expenditure survey data. We find that exposure to imports of unhealthy foods significantly contributes to the rise of obesity in Mexico. The empirical evidence also suggests that unhealthy food imports may widen health disparities between education groups. By linking trade flows to food expenditure and obesity, the paper sheds light on an important channel through which globalisation may affect health.



Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

The Welfare-Enhancing Role of Parental Leave Mandates.

A major factor that contributes to persistent gender variation in labor market outcomes is women’s traditional role in the household. Child-related absences from work imply that women accumulate less job experience, are more prone to career discontinuities and, hence, suffer a motherhood penalty. We highlight how the gender-driven career/family segmentation of the labor market may create a normative justification for parental leave rules as a means to enhance eciency in the labor market and alleviate the gender wage gap.



Vincenzo Galasso and Paola Profeta

Gender Gaps in Math Tests: Women under Pressure.

Kivan Polimis, Anna Filippova, Connor Gilroy, Ridhi Kashyap, Antje Kirchner, Allison C. Morgan, Adaner Usmani, and Tong Wang.

Humans in the Loop: Domain Knowledge and Missingness on the Road to Prediction.



Queen Mary University of London

The Math Gender Gap: The Role of the Testing Environment

Girls outperform boys in many educational dimensions, yet across industrialized countries we still observe a math gender gap. This paper investigates whether the math gender gap in test scores reflects genuine gender differences in math skills, or whether it is due to differential responses by boys and girls to the testing  environment. Following the psychological literature we argue that a student’s test performance may depend on the student’s familiarity with the testing environment. To that end, we exploit a randomized intervention on the entire 6th Grade student population in Madrid. Schools were assigned to administering the test either internally or externally, which affected the students’ familiarity with the testing environment. We find that boys outperform girls by 0.13 standard deviations, but the gap widens by about 50 percent for students in schools where the test was externally administered. Alternative explanations based on differential treatment of boys and girls in schools when internal vs external test administration are ruled out. Our paper contributes to a growing literature analyzing the effects of test taking environments on students performance, and how it varies by gender.



University of Nottingham

How do inclusionary and exclusionary autocracies affect ordinary people?

In this paper, we propose a distinction between inclusionary and exclusionary autocratic strategies and develop novel theoretical propositions on the legacy that these strategies leave on citizens’ political attitudes. More precisely, we posit that inclusionary regimes – with wider redistribution of socio-economic and political benefits – leave a stronger anti-democratic legacy than exclusionary regimes on the political attitudes of citizens that were socialized under their ruling strategy. This happens because regimes use their institutional and organizational apparatus to install a more favorable political culture towards the regime, while exclusionary regimes aim to rather numb citizens to any political claims. Using data of 1.5 Mill survey respondents from 83 countries and Hierarchical Age-Period-Cohort (HAPC) models we estimate between and within cohort differences in citizens’ satisfaction with democracy. We find that citizens from inclusionary regimes are less satisfied with democracy compared to citizens from exclusionary regimes and democracies. Similarly, we find that citizens who were part of the winning group in an autocracy are less satisfied with democracy compared to citizens who were part of discriminated groups.



University of Michigan


This paper evaluates the long-run effects of Head Start on human capital in large-scale, linked administrative data. Our research design exploits the county-level rollout of Head Start between 1965 and 1980 together with program eligibility captured by state-level school-entry age cutoffs. Using the restricted 2000-2013 Census/ACS linked to the Numident, we find that children induced to participate in Head Start achieved 0.29 more years of education, reflecting a 2.1-percent increase in high school completion, an 8.7- percent increase in college enrollment, and 18.5-percent increase in college completion. Consistent with the program benefitting lower income children, participation in Head Start decreased adult poverty by 12 percent and the receipt of public-program income by 29 percent. Our estimates are smaller in magnitude than those reported in other studies, but nevertheless imply substantial returns to investing in large-scale, publicly funded preschool programs.



Tamas Vonyo

Legacies of war and mass migration: refugees, social housing, and the rebuilding of Germany

Guido Alfani & Matteo Di Tullio

Inequality and regressive taxation in the Republic of Venice, ca. 1400-1800



Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München

Does Ignorance of Economic Returns and Costs Explain the Educational Aspiration Gap? Evidence from Representative Survey Experiments

The gap in university enrollment by parental education is large and persistent in many countries. In our representative survey, 74 percent of German university graduates, but only 36 percent of those without a university degree favor a university education for their children. The latter are more likely to underestimate returns and overestimate costs of university. Experimental provision of return and cost information significantly increases educational aspirations. However, it does not close the aspiration gap as university graduates respond even more strongly to the information treatment. Persistent effects in a follow-up survey indicate that participants indeed process and remember the information. Observed patterns in economic preferences also cannot account for the educational aspiration gap. Our results cast doubt that ignorance of economic returns and costs explains educational inequality in Germany.



Duke University

Legislative bargaining with shocked reversion points: an application to portfolio allocation

There is strong empirical regularity in parliamentary systems that chronic bargaining failure in government formation negotiations will eventually result in new elections. This has yet to inform the vast theoretical literature on government formation in such systems. We propose a simple model that does this, using a tractable, elegant and canonical measure of a party’s bargaining expectations, its Shapley value. We show theoretically that, even if future elections simply involve unbiased shocks to parties’ seats shares, these shocks have different implications for the current bargaining expectations of different parties. We show empirically that, simulating the effects of unbiased electoral shocks to parties’ bargaining expectations, we can better explain both the allocations of cabinet portfolios between government parties, and whether a party is included in government at all. We therefore infer there is empirical support for the argument that negotiating parties take account of the possibility of a future elections when engaged in current bargaining, with considerable implications for the modeling of government formation in parliamentary systems.



Toulouse School of Economics

Voting corrupt politicians out of office: Evidence from an Experiment in Paraguay

Corruption is a major threat to economic and social development. Democracy in itself is not necessarily conducive to less corruption. Voters may lack information about politicians' wrongdoings, and electoral institutions may make it hard for them to remove corrupt politicians from office. From these premises, one might expect that more information and more "open" electoral systems, that is, systems giving voters more freedom to express their preferences over individual candidates, should help remove corrupt politicians from office. We propose a simple theoretical model describing voters' behavior under closed list and open list proportional representation systems, and derive predictions which challenge these optimistic views about opening the electoral system. Taking advantage of a rare social uprising following a corruption scandal in Paraguay, we design a survey experiment to test these predictions. Consistently with the predictions of our model, we find a large shift in vote shares towards large traditional parties when lists are opened, even though these parties are widely perceived as corrupt by voters. Besides, we find that under the more open system, supporters of the incumbent party actually exhibit a preference for corrupt politicians, and that this is not due to a lack of information. Based on this evidence, we challenge the conventional view that more information and more open electoral systems are necessarily good at fighting corruption.



Lyons Institute of East Asian Studies

Inequality, Poverty, and Growth in Japan, 1850-1955

What role did international differences in income distribution play in the Great divergence between Asia and Europe that took place in the early modern period, and in the divergence within Asia that occurred in the 19th and 20th century? Provincial level information for early 19th century Japan suggests that both personal income inequality and the prevalence of poverty were low in Japan, by the international standards of the time, before the opening of the country to international trade in the late 1850s (Saito 2010). The aim of this paper is to provide a quantitative assessment of Saito’s hypothesis. We investigate levels and variations in regional and personal inequality in Japan before 1955 using new estimates, at the level of the present-day 47 prefectures, of per capita GDP, personal inequality, and poverty headcount. Our study spans over a century, starting before the full opening to international trade and ending with the post-WWII recovery leading to the high-speed growth of the 1950s and 1960s.

14 MAY


University of Zurich

Digital Inequality in Online Participation 

While digital media offer many opportunities to improve people’s lives, the ability to use the Internet effectively and efficiently is not self-evident even among those who grew up with technologies. Rather, there is considerable variation in Internet uses and skills across the population and these differences tend to be linked to people’s sociodemographic characteristics such as socioeconomic status.  Drawing on several survey data sets, this talk will discuss who is most likely to participate online from joining social media platforms to editing Wikipedia entries. The talk will also offer insights on the potential biases that can stem from relying on certain types of data sets in big data studies.

21 MAY


University of Cambridge

Strongly connected cooperative elites

The sustenance of cooperative behavior is fundamental for the prosperity of human societies. Empirical studies show that high cooperation is frequently associated with the presence of strong social ties, but they are silent on whether a causal mechanism exists, how it operates, and what features of the social environment are conducive to its emergence. Here we show experimentally that strong ties increase cooperation and welfare by enabling the emergence of a close-knit and strongly bound cooperative elite. Crucially, this cooperative elite is more prevalent in social environments characterised by a large payoff difference between weak and strong ties, and no gradation in the process of strengthening a tie. These features allow cooperative individuals to adopt an all or nothing strategy to tie strengthening based on the well-known mechanism of direct reciprocity: participants become very selective by forming strong ties only with other cooperative individuals and severing ties with everyone else. Once formed, these strong ties are persistent and enhance cooperation. A dichotomous society emerges with cooperators prospering in a close-knit, strongly bound elite, and defectors earning low payoffs in a weakly connected periphery. Methodologically, our set-up provides a framework to investigate the role of the strength of ties in an experimental setting.

28 MAY


University of Essex

Can Migration Make Deadly Recessions Look Healthy? Evidence from Large-scale Linked Microdata

Are recessions good for health? A large existing literature using aggregate panel data suggests that the answer to this question is yes. However, this approach may be biased if people move in response to recessions. We offer direct evidence of this “migration bias” using a historical setting that provides both large-scale longitudinal microdata and an exogenous shock to local economic conditions. Using microdata to overcome migration bias, we find that the recession increased overall mortality. However, our estimates from aggregate data fail to recover this effect. Thus, in at least some settings, migration bias substantially affects results obtained from standard methodologies. 



Utrecht University

Trust in social environment: complementary designs for reptated tests of hypotheses

The talk presents theory and empirical research on trust in social environments. These environments often include include repeated interactions or networks of relations. Complementary research designs – surveys, vignette studies, and experiments – are employed for repeated tests of the same predictions on how such environments affect trust. Using complementary research designs can contribute to improving the link between theory and empirical research in social science and to establishing the robustness of empirical findings.

25 JUNE h 17:30, room 3.B3.SR01


Amy Clair, Veronica Toffolutti, and David Stuckler: 'Right to Buy? Longitudinal Analysis of the Impact of Home Purchase on Health, Financial Situation and Psychological Well-Being Among Different Types of Purchasers.'

Giovanni Abbiati, Davide Azzolini, Daniela Piazzalunga, Enrico Rettore, Antonio Schizzerotto: 'Self-assessing ICT competences in teaching: the impact on perceived ability and personal views.'

Last updated 12 June 2018 - 12:36:57