News and Media

Generous People Live Happier Lives

Philippe Tobler

2017-07-11: A new study by a team around Soyoung Park and Philippe Tobler shows how a little generosity can make us happier - even if it just promised. The experiment, which was carried out at the Laboratory for Social and Neural Systems Research (SNS Lab) at the Department of Economics, asked participants to commit to either selfish or generous actions, and measured the activity in their brain regions while doing so. The resulting intensified interactions in the brain demonstrated how even altruistic intent can lead to happiness.

Press Release
Read the study in Nature Communications
Watch Philippe Tobler explain the findings in a video

Related articles: Time Magazine, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Business Insider, Die Zeit, Watson, Die Welt, Le Temps, Associated Press, Business Standard, La Vanguardia, Der Standard, Radio SRF2

Possible Ramifications of Trade Wars for Switzerland

2017-07-05: Media outlets Watson and 20 Minuten report on Ralph Ossa's newest research on possible ramifications of trade wars and his findings on the consequences for Switzerland. Recent tensions in trade talks give rise to the need for a better understanding of tariff effects, a topic that Ossa analyzed with quantitative models in a what-if scenario. His findings suggest that the gains from international trade for Switzerland are higher than presumed, and while a US-China tariff increase would not have a large impact on the Swiss economy, effects from a US-EU conflict could significantly lower overall exports and wealth.

Read the articles at Watson and 20 Minuten (both in German)

Ralph Ossa on Google Scholar

Joachim Voth and Florian Scheuer awarded Excellence in Refereeing Award

Professors Voth and Scheuer

2017-07-04: The American Economic Review announced their list of awards for referees who provided exceptional service to the Review by a large number and quality of referee reports in 2016. This year, Joachim Voth and Florian Scheuer received the AER Excellence in Refereeing Award for the dedication and time they devoted to the advancement of the field.

Read the full report: American Economic Association

Bali or Lake Lucerne? Ecological conscience and decision-making

Bali Beach

2017-06-28: In it's program "Input", SRF3 explores why we buy seasonal fruits to protect the environment yet regularly fly to holiday destinations. Christian Ruff provides answers in an interview and explains which factors determine our decisions in the brain. Our inner reward system favors the unknown and exotic, and the joyful sensations simulated by our brain while choosing holiday destinations cause us to prefer the Bali beach in the travel brochure over the familiar and more realistic image of Lake Lucerne - thus ignoring our ecological conscience. Conversely, an increase in open discussion in our social circle can have a significant influence on environmental awareness and actions.

Listen to the entire program on SRF Online (in German)

Job Polarization and Jobless Recoveries

2017-06-24: The Economist discusses the repeal of a long held economic paradigm and refers to a recent paper by Nir Jaimovich.  Until the mid-1980s productivity increased during booms and slowed in recessions. Currently, we see the opposite: productivity growth leaps in recessions and slows during booms. Prof Jaimovich’s paper argues that firms began responding to recessions by eliminating or outsourcing routine jobs and thus used recessions to implement labour-saving structural changes that raised productivity and made it easier to accommodate rising demand without hiring new workers. 

Article from «The Economist»


Making the World a Better Place

2017-06-18: Article on Ernst Fehr about pushing the boundaries of knowledge and making the world a better place. In the interview, he also offers a solution for appropriate and fair management compensation practices based on value-adding parameters. 

Sonntagsblick (PDF, 292 KB) (in German)

Young Economist Award for Liu Liu

Liu Liu

At this year’s Annual Congress 2017 of the Swiss Society for Economics and Statistics titled "Economists and Policy Making", Liu Liu (PhD, Department of Economics, UZH) was awarded the prestigious Young Economist Award. The event took place in Lausanne from June 8-9, 2017. We applaud Liu on this amazing success. Congratulations!

WTO Trade Dialogues with Ralph Ossa

WTO lecture announcement Ralph Ossa

2017-06-13: As part of its Trade Dialogues Series, the WTO invited Ralph Ossa to share insights from his research on the benefits of trade talks and the possible costs of a full breakdown of international trade policy cooperation.

Watch a short video of Ralph Ossa summarizing his lecture, listen to the full audio or read the presentation.

Interview with Dina Pomeranz in Schweizer Monat

Cover with Dina Pomeranz

2017-06-07: In the current edition of Schweizer Monat, Dina Pomeranz talks about developments in economics, tackles questions about the self-awareness of economists, and makes a strong case for the utilization of experiments and empirical methods in economic research. Examples from previous studies, including her investigation of VAT implementation in Chile, provide additional, real-world insights into the vast range of topics covered by the field of economics.

Read the interview here or download (PDF, 4646 KB)

The Influence of Organized Networks on the Rise of the Nazi Party

2017-06-01: A recent study by Joachim Voth and his co-authors shows that social capital can be used for good or bad depending on the political and institutional context. The use of new data on the networks of associations and organistions in 229 German cities from the inter-war period showed that cities with denser networks had higher rates of party affiliation. According to the authors, the density of these networks contributed to the rise of the Nazi Party. Although these are unique historical data that document the role of physical organizations, their potential implications for our current circumstances regarding the Trump administration should not be overlooked. The study was published in the Journal of Political Economy in April 2017, and discussed in the recent edition of Nature Human Behavior.

Journal of Political Economy

Comment in Nature (for subscribers only)


The Department of Economics welcomes new members


Prof.  Marek G. Pycia has been appointed Professor for Organization Economics as of July 1, 2017. Marek Pycia obtained a PhD in Mathematics from the Polish Academy of Sciences and a PhD in Economics from the Massachusettes Institut of Technology. He is currently Associate Professor of Economics at the University of California (USA). His recent research includes the analysis of matching mechanisms, auctions and risk aversion.

Prof. Nir Jaimovich has been appointed Professor for Economics, as of July 1, 2017. Nir Jaimovich obtained his PhD from the Northwestern University in Chicago and is currently Professor of Economics at the University of Southern California (USA). His research focuses on business cycles and the dynamics of the labor market.

Online dating: preferences, asymmetries and gender roles

Florian Schaffner

2017-05-25: Florian Schaffner’s doctoral thesis on online dating behavior provides the basis for an article in the newest edition of the NZZ Folio, which explores the topic of sex and gender roles. In his thesis, Florian Schaffner empirically studied the preference parameters and differences in mobile dating behavior between men and women and the asymmetries resulting from it.

Read article in NZZ Folio (in German)

The Rise of the Superstar Companies


2017-05-14: The NZZ am Sonntag presents recent research by David Dorn on how a small number of companies dominating a sector leads to lower shares of labor vs capital gains. The article also offers ideas on how to counterbalance the resulting inequality within a society.

Read the article (in German) (PDF, 2187 KB)

Radio Interview on SRF Echo der Zeit (04.07.2017): Listen



Macron and Switzerland: a new, demanding partner

Mathias Hoffmann

2017-05-10: In an interview with the newspaper Handelszeitung, Mathias Hoffmann provides insight on what Switzerland can expect from the new French president – a former banker - and future negotiations with the EU after the election: improved stability and benefits for the exporting industry on the one hand, and less concessions from a newly strengthened EU on the other.

Full interview in Handelszeitung (in German)

Does the threat of war produce stronger governments?

Hans-Joachim Voth

2017-05-10: In a recent article, The Economist cites research by Hans-Joachim Voth to present the argument that periods of threat and war have spurred the creation of strong governments by inciting spending on security, education and infrastructure. Peaceful times, however, caused politics to become less effective. In their research paper, Hans-Joachim Voth and Nicola Gennaioli analysed the emergence of powerful, centralized states in Europe after 1500 in reaction to the increasing importance of money for military success.

Article in The Economist

Research Paper

Inconsistencies between salaries and performance

2017-05-01 In interviews with NZZ am Sonntag and SRF News, Ernst Fehr talks about new findings indicating that management enumeration often does not correspond with their objective achievements and are based on a false index, sometimes even rewarding poor performance. Implementing a system that juxtaposes a company's performance with a comparison group would create a fairer indicator and take external factors, such as macroeconomic fluctuations, into consideration.

Interview with SRF

Interview with NZZ am Sonntag (Download (PDF, 573 KB))

Ernst Fehr is named foreign honorary member of the American Economic Association


2017-04-27: The most important organization of economists in the world, the American Economic Association (AEA), has named the Zurich economist Ernst Fehr as a foreign honorary member. He is thus the first scientist who conducts research at a Swiss university to receive this honor.

Press release (PDF, 116 KB)

Accounting for the new gains from trade liberalisation

2017-03-26: In a recently published column on Vox, Ralph Ossa and his co-authors expand on the notion that in addition to lower prices for imported goods, trade agreements also benefit the domestic welfare by increasing import variety and average domestic productivity. Their research shows that these positive effects are countered by the welfare loss associated with the reduction in domestic variety (smaller domestic firms are pushed out of the market), and the fact that liberalization also leads to less productive non-domestic firms entering into the market, reducing average productivity.

Read the whole column​

Why we are happiest at age 23 and 67

Hannes Schwandt

2017-04-10: Studies have shown that the level of happiness over the span of a lifetime resembles a u-curve with the highest peaks at age 23 and 67. In an interview with jetzt, part of the Süddeutsche Zeitung network, Hannes Schwandt explains how the relationship of expectations and reality shifts over time and influences our happiness as we age.

Link to Article (in German)

Brain stimulation influences honest behavior

Ruff Marechal

2017-04-10: Michel Maréchal and Christian Ruff have identified the brain mechanism that governs decisions between honesty and self-interest. Using non-invasive brain stimulation, they could even increase honest behavior.

Press Release (PDF, 126 KB)

Related Articles: The Times, Wired, Mashable

The Role of Manufacturing

2017-03-31: There is a good reason why American politics seem to be obsessed with the manufacturing industry. When large plants close down, the towns around them change drastically. Men with low education levels are hit hardest: They lose their income, become less marriageable and are likely to adapt an unhealthy and dangerous lifestyle. More children are born to single mothers with higher poverty risk. There are no simple answers to these challenges, but it is important that politicians address them, says David Dorn in his comment in this week’s Finanz und Wirtschaft.

Read the Article (in German)

Honorary Doctorate for Ernst Fehr

Ernst Fehr receiving honourary doctorate at University of Antwerp

2017-03-30: The University of Antwerp conferred an honorary doctorate to Prof. Ernst Fehr. He received this for his groundbreaking contribution to the development of economics into a multidisciplinary behavioural science and, in particular, for his pioneering role in neuroeconomics, in which insights and methods from neuroscience are used to expose the foundations of human decision-making in a socioeconomic context. Congratulations!

Watch trailer by the University of Antwerp

Digitalization and Productivity


2017-03-23: In the current edition of the «Weltwoche»David Dorn talks about the effect of digitalization on productivity and the workforce. Contrary to general belief, recent data of industrial nations shows limited growth of GDP during the last decades. Looking back further into history, technical advances led to much larger increases of productivity. Dorn explains that, in contrast to the current digital revolution, e.g. the industrial revolution was a time of innovations across many areas, spurring on widespread increases in productivity and growth.   

Read the article (PDF, 756 KB) in German

Learnings from Berkeley

2017-03-20: In the current edition of the «Finanz und Wirtschaft» Joachim Voth discusses how Berkeley manages to be at the top of academic league tables with a fraction of the budget of private US Universities. What makes them so efficient in turning their funding into academic excellence, and what can Europe and Switzerland learn from them? According to Voth, a key weakness of the European system is the rigid salary structure of most universities, leaving most professors either over- or underpaid. The former is a waste of resources while the latter leads to difficulties in retaining top league academics. 

Read the article (in German)

Center for Child Well-Being and Development holds 2-day conference

CCWD Conference

2017-03-17: This year’s conference of the Center for Child Well-Being and Development focused on Social Norms and Behavior as well as Climate Change and Resilience. The aim of the conference was for researchers to provide evidence-based findings and recommendations for NGOs and relief organizations to improve the design of intervention programs. Internationally renowned speakers presented their work on topics such as child marriage, nutrition, health and hygiene as well as harmful practices against young girls and teenagers, for example Female Genital Cutting. More than 50 researchers and representatives of foundations took part in the lectures and contributed to the roundtable discussions.

Philosopher and bestselling author Richard David Precht on Populism, Post-Truth and Polemics

David Precht

2017-03-16: The Department of Economics and the Müller-Möhl Foundation invited the public to a joint event at the University of Zurich with their special guest, Richard David Precht. More than 1300 guests came to listen to the philosopher, publicist, and bestselling author present his views and discuss this explosive and highly topic of conflict with Professor Ernst Fehr.

Read on

Values are an expression of what people consider important, the needs they have, and what the most important determinants of their lives are. But how do our values and value hierarchies actually develop?

One thing is clear for Richard David Precht - we live in revolutionary times and are on the verge of a new age. Digitalization has brought on profound changes. Social interaction and the working environment are facing radical changes. According to Precht the population has a sense that the current model has no future but lacks alternative visions.

A central concern of the philosopher: “We must prepare ourselves for all other scenarios and critically reflect the current situation”. For society, Precht sees a gloomy and less promising future, characterized by inequality and an ever-increasing gap between the rich and the poor. This, says Precht, provides an optimal breeding ground for populism. However, he does not believe that populists are an acute threat to our society, as long as they can’t offer a viable plan for economic prosperity to a society.

Read the 12App article (in German)

Watch the SRF television news feature (in German starting at 6:13 min)

Watch speech on Youtube (in German)

Podcast (in German)

Free Trade Debate Highlights Weaknesses in Education

2017-03-12: In a recent issue of the Austrian daily newspaper "Die Presse" Ernst Fehr expounds various aspects of education policy and the need to convey fundamental economic concepts in schools. Many school leavers do not understand compound interest rate effects or have no idea about the effects of free trade on the economy as a whole. He pleads for evidence-based education programs and underlines the need to invest in preschool education, as these interventions are many times more effective than retraining programs for adults.

Read the article (PDF, 1796 KB) (in German)

Superstar Companies and the Falling Share of Labor of GDP

2017-02-15: A recent paper co-authored by David Dorn follows a new approach to why workers' share of total GDP has continuously fallen over the last decades in the US. The authors show that the share of revenue controlled by the top four companies within an industry has risen drastically during this period, with the figure nearly doubling in some industries. These winning companies become increasingly profitable with falling shares of labor. Technology and the increase of information-intensive goods with high fixed and low marginal costs (e.g. software platforms and online services) are key drivers to this development. 

Article in Bloomberg

Comment in Bloomberg View

Article in The Atlantic

Article in the New York Times

Article in Finanz und Wirtschaft (German)

Research Paper

Presentation by David Hémous at conference of France Stratégie

David Hémous

2017-02-01: David Hémous held a presentation on the enabling factors and economic effects of innovation and productivity in France and Europe at the conference of France Stratégie (the economic advisory council to the Prime Minister) and the Banque de France.

Watch the presentation (starts 3:20:15)


Promotion Prof. Dr. Todd Hare


2017-02-01: Prof. Dr. Todd Hare, born 1980, has been appointed Associate Professor for Neuroeconomics and Human Development. Prof. Hare studied Biology at Iowa State University, USA. In 2007, he received his PhD in Neuroscience at the Weill Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Cornell University, USA. He spent the following years as a Postdoctorate Research Fellow at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and joined the Department of Economics in 2010 as Assistant Professor for Neuroeconomics.


New collaboration between Unicef and the Department of Economics fosters research for children


2017-02-01: A new center at the Department of Economics called the “Center for Child Well-Being and Development” evaluates programs to improve future policies for children’s well-being. Thanks to the funding by Unicef as well as the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, progress can be made on child well-being across the world.

SonntagsZeitung (in German)

Limits of Globalization

ddorn eco

2017-01-16: In view of the WEF 2017, SRF Eco discusses globalization, it's limits, losers and future. In an interview David Dorn explains how globalization also shapes the political landscape.


Non-invasive biomarker for self-control


2017-01-11: In the current edition of the Journal of Neuroscience Silvia Maier and Todd Hare show that higher heart-rate variability (HRV) is associated with increased resistance to temptation in dietary self-control challenges. HRV may serve as an easily acquired, noninvasive, and low-cost biomarker for self-control ability.
Article in Neuroscience

NZZ (in German)

Hazardous 9/11 Dust Made Newborn Babies Smaller


2017-01-04: The «National Geographic» refers to a new study by Hannes Schwandt and Janet Currie, on the impact of the dust clouds from the collapse of the twin towers on the birth weight outcomes for Lower Manhattan mothers.

Research Paper (Journal of Human Resources)



Excellence in Refereeing Award for Profs Maréchal and Yanagizawa-Drott


2017-01-03: Michel Maréchal and David Yanagizawa-Drott received the “Excellence in Refereeing Award” from the European Economic Association. The Award recognizes the outstanding work of those referees whose service and dedication have contributed to the high quality and prestige of the Journal of the European Economic Association. Congratulations!


The Writing That Shaped Economic Thinking in 2016


2017-01-01: In his comment on Bloomberg View, Noah Smith lists the 10 most influential and accessible papers of 2016. In third place, the paper by David Dorn et al.: The China Shock: Learning from Labor-Market Adjustment to Large Changes in Trade.