News and Media

Unconditional Basic Income

2016-04-06: In view of the upcoming vote on the basic income referendum on June 5th, Fabrizio Zilibotti discusses the challenges of finding redistribution mechanisms that avoid the loss of collective resources and limit opportunistic behavior undermining the foundations of the modern welfare state. Listen to the full talk from Radio RSI (in Italian).

Audio and transcript


Inequality and Growth


2016-04-26: Fabrizio Zilibotti wrote an article on how increasing inequality could endanger future growth as it weakens social cohesion and creates a foundation for harmful political currents. However, he notes, there is no clear-cut answer to the effects of inequality. Whereas some European countries known for their equality show higher innovation and growth than less equal ones, the US, with high inequality, also has very high innovation rates.

Finanz und Wirtschaft Article (in German)



Mortality rate of poor children in the US is in decline

science cover

2016-04-22: Wealthier individuals have lower mortality rates at all ages than poorer people. The common assumption that this effect has intensified in recent years is rebutted in a recent study by Hannes Schwandt, published in the current edition of Science. Instead of examining life expectancy at birth, he looks at the mortality rates by age groups in different counties in the USA.

This more discerning look at the mortality rates shows quite positive trends. Between 1990 and 2010, the differences in the survival chances of children and young adults from different regions in the USA decreased. Nowadays, disadvantaged children have much better survival chances and are coming closer to the mortality rates of wealthier children.

Science Article (online)

Press Release UZH (German)

Press Release UZH (English)

Impressive Effects Achieved by Training Working Memory of Children

Ferh Portrait

2016-04-02 Most learning difficulties stem from weaknesses in the working memory. In this article, Ernst Fehr presents the promising findings from a field research project during which schoolchildren played a customized memory game on the computer for one lesson a day. The positive effects on concentration, visual imagination and impulse control could still be measured 12 months after the experimental phase.

Tagesanzeiger Article (PDF, 303 KB)

Ernst Fehr in the Sonntagszeitung

2016-03-20: 'People who choose to study economy do so because they want to make the world a better place. They have the methodology and models to comprehend the overall economic context and bring objectivity into the political discussion', Professor Fehr argues on behalf of the economist's guild. 'However', he adds, 'their vantage-point can leave them biased towards efficiency and neglecting the societal importance of fairness in distribution mechanisms'.  Read the whole interview (in German)...

Sonntagszeitung (PDF, 236 KB)

Macroeconomic Theory under Scrutiny


2016-03-13: How do you teach macroeconmics when the markets aren't behaving as the theory predicts? Do we need to throw our existing models overboard, or just tweak them to incorporate the realities we are experiencing? The NZZ am Sonntag presents the situation and talks to Professor Hoffmann about these exciting times for macroeconomists. (Article in German)

NZZ am Sonntag (PDF, 157 KB)


Why Fairness is Important


2016-03-10:  Ernst Fehr talks about the importance of fairness and taking a long-term view on political, societal and economic developments as well as the challenges of macroeconomic theory today. The interview also covers the possibilities of performance compensation and incentives which circumvent short term thinking. Read the tour d'horizon...

Article in the Handelszeitung (German) (PDF, 172 KB)





Brain connectivity reveals hidden motives

Brain Purple

2016-03-05: Often, it is hard to understand why people behave the way they do, because their true motives remain hidden. A team around Grit Hein and Ernst Fehr have now shown how peoples’ motives are characterized by a specific interplay between different brain regions and how this interplay allows precise classification of the motives underlying a shown behavior. Research Paper published in Science.

Article in Science

Press Release UZH (German)

Press Release UZH (English)

David Dorn explains how free trade with China harmed the lives of U.S. workers

Dorn2016-01-26: A new study by labor economists David Autor, David Dorn and Gordon Hanson shows that increased trade with China caused severe and permanent harm to many American workers. Exposed workers experience greater job churning and reduced lifetime income.

The Economist          Chicago Tribune       Slate

New York Times         Bloomberg News

Washington Post        The Atlantic


A big-shot venture capitalist says we need inequality. What do economists say?

2016-01-14: At the the annual conference of the American Economic Association in San Francisco, a group of five economists, including Philippe Aghion of College de France and David Hémous of the University of Zurich, unveiled a study that speaks directly to the Silicon Valley effect on inequality. They looked at levels of innovation (as measured by a particular kind of patent production) across individual states over time. They found a significant relationship between increased innovation in a state and the increased income share of the top 1 percent of earners in the state.

Article Washington Post (online)

Should cable television channels be offered à la carte?

Crawford2015-01-11: It’s easy to see why à la carte catches policymakers’ interest. Prices for cable service have risen far faster than inflation for decades, even on a quality-adjusted basis, and in 2011 averaged almost $57.50 for the most popular bundle, despite the nominal growth of competition from satellite and telephone company entrants. Gregory Crawford (UZH) and Ali Yurukoglu (Stanford) take a fresh look at this question by drawing upon insights from two literatures in economics.


Link to article

PNAS publication: Empathy with strangers can be learned

2015-12-22: We can learn to empathize with strangers. Surprisingly, positive experiences with people from another group trigger a learning effect in the brain, which increases empathy. As Grit Hein, Philippe Tobler, Jan Engelmann, and Marius Vollberg from the University of Zurich reveal, only a handful of positive learning experiences already suffice for a person to become more empathic.  

Conflicts between people from different nationalities and cultures often stem from a lack of empathy or compassion for “the stranger”. More empathy for members of other groups could thus encourage peaceful coexistence. A study conducted by the University of Zurich examined whether empathy with strangers can be learned and how positive experiences with others influence empathic brain responses.

Hein, G., Engelmann, J.B., Vollberg, M., & Tobler, P.N. How learning shapes the empathic brain. In: Proceedings of the National Academy of the United States of America.

UZH Press release

Do Markets Erode Social Responsibility?


2015-12-09: In an interview with GDI Impuls, Björn Bartling gives a mixed response to the titular question. On the one hand, he finds positive and stable levels of socially responsible behavior in several experimental market studies, conducted in Switzerland and China. On the other hand, the comparison of behavior in market and non-market contexts reveals that market behavior follows weaker prosocial norms than behavior in other contexts.

GDI Impuls Wissensmagazin (in German) (PDF, 3107 KB)




Joachim Voth invited to deliver the 2016 Hicks Lecture

2015-12-08: Joachim Voth has been invited to deliver the 2016 Hicks Lecture at All Souls College, Oxford. Named after Sir John Hicks, Nobel Laureate in Economics (1972), the lectures bring prominent economic historians to Oxford to give a keynote. Speakers in recent years have included Claudia Goldin, Joel Mokyr, Jeffrey Williamson, Christina Romer, Peter Temin, and Robert Allen. The lecture will take place on April 26.

Hannes Schwandt comments on the happiness of childless adults


2015-11-26: Thanksgiving. That magical time of the year when the generations gather and test out all the ways that they can enrage each other. Mothers and sons, fathers and daughters, all engaged in loud, pointless arguments about Ben Carson and Israel, just as the pilgrims intended. It's as good an occasion as any to wonder: Why have children at all, if they make you this miserable?

Vox Life article



Fabrizio Zilibotti on the unresolved pension reform


2015-11-26: The return on the AHV should be adapted to the production growth and demographic trends, the second pillar should be strictly guided by the market interest rates.

The industrialized countries need to deal with the consequences of the rapid aging of the population. The demographic dynamics pose a problematic situation for the two key institutions of the modern welfare state: the health and pension system. High quality performance and generous pensions are being demanded, which in reality is very hard to maintain since there are more people retiring than working.

F&W article (in German)



Joachim Voth on why future stock market returns are likely to be low

2015-11-24: History does not necessarily repeat itself - excess returns on equity investments are not guaranteed, and likely to be much lower in the future than they were in the last 100 years.

Fabrizio Zilibotti invited to give the 2016 Walras-Bowley Lecture


2015-11-17: Fabrizio Zilibotti has been invited to give the “Walras-Bowley Lecture” at the 2016 North American Meeting of the Econometric Society. The Meeting is hosted by the Wharton School and the Department of Economics at the University of Pennsylvania and will take place from June 16 to 19, 2016.

Conference website

Fabrizio Zilibotti is President Elect of the European Economic Association (EEA) and will be President in 2016.

Video about European Economic Association (EEA)

Female genital cutting is largely a family matter and not an all-pervasive social norm

2015-09-25: A new study by researchers at the University of ZuricScienceh challenges the prevailing view that female genital cutting is predominantly a norm based on all families trying to be alike.

According to the study, published in Science, families actually vary tremendously in matters related to cutting. This indicates that heterogeneous motives at the family level play a crucial role when parents decide whether to cut their daughters. The results question the assumptions behind many programs that attempt to reduce cutting. Worldwide an estimated 125 million girls and women are cut despite the fact that female genital cutting leads to serious health problems throughout life. Development agencies spend considerable resources each year on programs that attempt to reduce cutting. These programs are often based on the assumption that cutting is a deeply entrenched social norm arising from a strong need for families to be alike.

Press release in English (UZH Mediadesk)
Medienmitteilung auf Deutsch (UZH Mediadesk)
SCIENCE publication

David Hémous on how innovation enriches the 1%, while increasing social mobility

20015-10-27: David Hémous explains how the quickening pace of innovation has made life both sweeter and more unstable for the mega-rich, and given the poor a higher chance of reaching the top.

Insead Knowledge article

Richard H. Thaler: Misbehaving – The Making of Behavioral Economics

2015-09-17: On September 17, 2015, the Department of Economics – together with the Müller-Möhl Foundation – hosted a public lecture by Richard H. Thaler, who is Ralph and Dorothy Keller Distinguished Service Professor of Behavioral Science and Economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
Bild Thaler A couple of hundred people gathered in the main auditorium of the University of Zurich in order to hear Professor Thaler’s arresting, frequently hilarious account of the struggle to bring an academic discipline back down to earth. Thaler has written a number of books intended for a popular audience with which he succeeds in shaking up the reign of traditional economics that had dominated thought for the fifty previous years. His recurrent theme is that market-based approaches are incomplete. This is also true for his recently published book, entitled “Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics”. In his public speech, Thaler took the audience with him on a long journey, describing his personal development from the student learning conventional economic theory to a questioning young teacher to an absolute advocate of behavioral economics.

Read the whole article (PDF, 758 KB)

Video of Thaler Event
NZZ article (in German)
Foto Gallery

Top position in the Handelsblatt-Ranking

2015-09-15: The economists at the University of Zurich (UZH) have once again attained excellent ratings in the 2015 edition of the economics ranking of the German newspaper Handelsblatt. The UZH Department of Economics, with 23 economics professors, ranks third amongst the top economics departments in German speaking countries.

As usual, the UZH Department of Economics leads the top journal ranking (top journals A+). The researchers with the highest number of top publications at the department are Ernst Fehr (2nd) and Joachim Voth (7th), followed by Björn Bartling (14th). Furthermore, young professors such as David Dorn and Nick Netzer are found among the top ten researchers in the “Top-100 economists under 40” ranking.

With the hiring of further highly qualified researchers the department ensures the ongoing growth of its faculty. Recently, Prof. Pietro Biroli, Prof. Rema Hanna, Prof. David Hémous, and Prof. Hannes Schwandt joined the department.

Top Economic Faculties (in German)
Best Research Performance “A+” (in German)
Top-100 economists under 40 “A+” (in German
OEC News (in German)