Keynote by Nobel laureate Michael Kremer
2021-09-29: How can we promote health and alleviate poverty in developing countries? Development economist and Nobel laureate Michael Kremer provides a solution to obtain reliable answers for this question. It involves dividing the issue into smaller, more manageable questions – an experimental approach characterized by rigorous testing. Kremer talked about his work in a keynote in Zurich, organized by the Department of Economics and the Excellence Foundation Zurich.
In his keynote, Kremer drew parallels between his work and innovation processes from the business world, such as new product launches which often involve A/B-testing. He showed how development aid can be made more effective if measures are rigorously tested. Equally important for him is the cooperation with local authorities and institutions, he said. This is often seen as an obstacle, but according to Kremer this is a misconception. After all, coordinating and dealing with the local people and conditions offers an interdisciplinary perspective, which is very valuable for research.
Florian Scheuer wins Hermann Heinrich Gossen Award
2021-09-28: The Verein für Socialpolitik awarded this year’s Hermann Heinrich Gossen Prize to Florian Scheuer for his research on tax theory and related areas of finance and applied microeconomics.
In his statement, Georg Weizsäcker (Chairman of the VfS) says: “Florian Scheuer has repeatedly made very important contributions to a topic that has long preoccupied economics: Inequality. In several articles, [he] examines how tax revenues respond to various taxes, emphasizing again and again that these responses differ greatly by type of income and wealth, and likewise by whether the taxed individuals can choose this type of income and wealth themselves. The outstanding professional quality of Florian Scheuer's work can easily be seen from the fact that he has published in almost all leading journals: among others, American Economic Review, Review of Economic Studies, Quarterly Journal of Economics, and the Journal of Political Economy".
In Memoriam Konrad Mierendorff
2021-08-07: On August 7, Konrad Mierendorff (UCL) died at a much too young age during a mountaineering trip in the Swiss Alps. His friends, colleagues, and collaborators will sorely miss him, including the research group he was part of during his years at the University of Zurich. People who had the pleasure of knowing Konrad will cherish the memories they have of the sharp analyst and supportive academic he was. Our thoughts are with his family and friends. You can read a tribute by his colleagues at UCL here:
Generous with Individuals and Selfish to the Masses
2021-08-02: Financial scandals or just normal human behavior? Neuroeconomists at the University of Zurich have shown in an experimental setting that most people are willing to steal half of the earnings of a large group if their personal gain exceeds 100 euro, even though the very same people are generous towards individuals. So to speak, the roots of corporate scandals are in all of us.
Generosity, happiness, and testosterone: DUZ magazine interviews Philippe Tobler
2021-05-28: Neuroeconomist Philippe Tobler speaks with DUZ Magazine about the mechanisms that influence our value-based decisions and shows concrete examples from his interdisciplinary research. One focus of his research is on the connection between generosity and happiness and the influence of endogenous substances such as Dopamine or Testosterone. For example, his research showed that Testosterone has a negative effect on generosity. Accordingly, men were less generous than women. But Tobler wants to do more than just produce research results: He wants to make people happier with the help of neuroeconomic methods.
Ralph Ossa argues for the foundation of a climate club
2021-05-25: The CO2 tax has made Switzerland a pioneer in climate protection. Now the EU also wants to introduce a similar incentive tax. If Europe and the USA were to join forces to form a climate club, this would put China under economic pressure. This makes it even more important to get China on board: "The fight against climate change will only succeed if China does its part," says Ralph Ossa. After all, China is not only the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, but also has the greatest potential for reducing them. According to Ossa, trade is particularly well suited as an instrument for getting the Chinese to join in.
AER: Insights Excellence in Refereeing Award 2020 for David Yanagizawa-Drott and Marek Pycia
2021-05-18: The "AER: Insights" announced awards for referees who have provided exceptional service to "AER: Insights" by the large number and quality of their referee reports in 2020. This year, David Yanagizawa-Drott and Marek Pycia were among the recipients of the "Excellence in Refereeing Award".
AER Excellence in Refereeing Award 2020 for Lorenzo Casaburi, Dina Pomeranz and Florian Scheuer
2021-05-18: The "American Economic Review" published the list of referees who distinguished themselves in 2020 by the quantity and high quality of their reviews as well as by their support in particularly challenging cases. This year, three representatives of our department, Lorenzo Casaburi, Dina Pomeranz and Florian Scheuer, received the "Excellence in Refereeing Award".
New measure to predict stress resilience
2021-04-15: researchers from the Zurich Center for Neuroeconics show that increased sensitivity in a specific region of the brain contributes to the development of anxiety and depression in response to real-life stress. Their study establishes an objective neurobiological measure for stress resilience in humans.
Paternalistic interventions impose subjective ideals
2021-04-15: When we make decisions for others, we assume that they have the same preferences as we do. And if they don't, we’ll impose our preferences on them. Research by Sandro Ambühl shows that this assumption and paternalistic interventions based on ideals lead to suboptimal results.
Paper in American Economic Review
CCWD study on school reopening during the pandemic in Brazil broadcasted on national television
2021-04-01: A study by the Center for Child Well-Being and Development (CCWD) is the first to rigorously document the effects of school reopening in a developing country during the pandemic. The study finds that in-person activities did not contribute to aggregate Covid-19 cases or deaths between October and December 2020 in São Paulo State, Brazil – largely because mobility was already close to pre-pandemic levels in the State. Disease activity increased since then, but not differentially across municipalities that reopened schools and those that did not.
Other ongoing research projects by CCWD document that child and adolescent development has been severely impaired with school closures. As a combination of the low marginal health costs of school reopening in the aggregate, and the high educational costs of school closures, the findings suggest that, outside the most critical period of the pandemic, schools should be the first to open and the last to close.
Interview with Joachim Voth on SRF3 Focus
2021-03-16: Long interview with Joachim Voth on SRF3 Focus about crises and economic growth, the challenges posed by climate change, growing inequality and excessive wealth, and the advantages and dangers of an unconditional basic income.
Listen to audio (in German)
Florian Scheuer replaces Roberto Weber as Chair Deputy of the Department
2021-03-03: After 6 years of serving the Department as Chair Deputy, Roberto Weber is passing the baton to Florian Scheuer. Roberto initiated a number of programs to promote diversity and further the positive and inclusive culture at our department, which have had a tangible impact. We would like to thank Roberto and wish Florian success in this new role.
"Likes" fuel social network use
2021-03-02: What drives social media users to post almost compulsively and at a high cadence? A team led by researchers from the University of Amsterdam with the participation of Zurich neuroeconomist Philippe Tobler analyzed more than one million posts on various social networks. The goal was to find out how "likes" influence behavior. The more "likes" social media users receive for their posts, the more frequently they post. This pattern closely matches the so-called learning theory. This states that behavior is not only reinforced by reward, but also adapts to reward frequency. The pursuit of virtual acclaim on Instagram and the like revealed behavioral-psychological parallels with animals that are beckoned by a food reward. Rats that receive food when they press a certain button operate that button more often or less often, depending on how much food they receive. If there is a lot to eat, they will press the button repeatedly and at shorter intervals.
Paper in Nature
President Biden's plans to revive U.S. manufacturing after China shock
2021-03-02: The article in the New York Times discusses the factors and people that have shaped the American economy over the last few decades. U.S. manufacturing was hit hard when China entered the global market, with far-reaching consequences. Today, many economists argue that the so-called China shock was a historical anomaly, driven by the rapid industrialization of a very large and very poor country, and that it was mostly over by the early part of the last decade. “Since then, one also sees that trade growth slowed down considerably, at the same time as in the U.S. the loss of manufacturing jobs basically ended,” the article quotes David Dorn.
Article in the New York Times Magazine
The Cost of Motherhood
2021-02-25: A large part of the income gap between women and men is due to motherhood. In Austria, Germany and Switzerland, this child penalty is twice as high as in Scandinavian countries, Josef Zweimüller shows in a recent paper. In an interview with Der Standard he explains which factors promote this inequality and why the expansion of external childcare services has done little to reduce the income gap.
Interview in der Standard
Disposition for risk-taking is mapped in the brain
2021-01-29: There is a common genetic and neurobiological basis for risky behavior – the genetic disposition for risk-taking is mapped in several areas of the brain, a recent study by Gökhan Aydogan, Christian Ruff and Todd Hare shows. The study is the first to combine genetic information and brain scans from more than 25,000 people. Among other things, the researchers examined the relationship between individual differences in brain anatomy and the propensity to engage in risky behavior. “We found both functional and anatomical differences,” says Gökhan Aydogan.
Paper in Nature Human Behavior
The link between economic crises and political ruptures
2021-01-22: When do economics crises have destabilizing political effects? The Economist looks back at some historic crises and refers to a paper by Alumnus Sebastian Doerr and Hans-Joachim Voth, examining one of history’s darkest chapters. The Depression enabled the Nazis’ rise to power. However, the paper finds that economic pain was not the only factor that sent voters into the Nazis’ arms. The authors note the critical importance of the narrative surrounding the felling of two major German banks during the banking crisis in 1931.
What makes a healthy taxation system?
2021-01-22: The Chilean Diario Financiero interviews Florian Scheuer on taxation in general and specific challenges Chile faces. The main ingredients for a healthy taxation system are progressive taxation on consumption, income, wealth and capital gains, profits and inheritance. Chile has seen a number of changes to its taxation system over the last few years. Are such inconsistencies detrimental? “In principle, economic growth and prosperity benefit from a reliable and stable institutional framework, and this includes tax policy”, Florian Scheuer explains, “however, the tax system also needs to adapt to economic shocks and medium- to long-term changes in the economy.”
Interview (PDF, 1 MB) (in Spanish)
Article (in Spanish)
Sticking with the eager beavers improves your own performance
2021-01-20: Better grades thanks to your fellow students? A study co-authored by Ulf Zölitz has revealed that not only the grade point average, gender and nationality of your peers influence your own academic achievement, but so can their personalities. Intensive contact and interaction with persistent fellow students improves your own performance, and the effect even endures in subsequent semesters.
Lorenzo Casaburi appointed Associate Professor of Development Economics
2020-12-16: Prof. Dr. Lorenzo Casaburi has been appointed Swiss Re Foundation Associate Professor of Development Economics as of January 1, 2021. Lorenzo Casaburi studied economics at the Università di Bologna and at the University of California, Berkeley. He obtained his PhD from Harvard University, Cambridge, US, in 2013. Prof. Casaburi worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR), Stanford University, and as a Research Affiliate at the Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR), London. Since joining the Department 2016, Prof. Casaburi has held the Swiss Re Foundation Assistant Professorship of Development Economics.
Fiscal federalism weakens redistribution
2020-12-16: Florian Scheuer discusses wealth and redistribution and takes a critical view of the Swiss tax system: "Even a very progressive tax system, i.e. one in which the tax rate rises sharply with income, doesn't do much good if those with the highest incomes cluster in municipalities where they have to pay very little. We observe that, as a result, taxes fall above a certain income level instead of continuing to rise." Efforts to change this fail because the middle class believes that their children could become rich. This makes the middle class the best partner of the rich, which is why it is subsidized by the state in many ways,e.g. most recently in Germany with the home ownership subsidy.
Interview (PDF, 265 KB) in «Die Zeit» (in German)
Christian Ruff contributes to URPP Adaptive Brain Circuits in Development and Learning
2012-12-04 Christian Ruff is co-initiator and contributor to the University Research Priority Program (URPP) Adaptive Brain Circuits in Development and Learning (ABCDe). The project aims to improve our understanding of the physiological and pathological mechanisms underlying brain circuit development and learning behavior.
One core aspect of the URPP is to relate human to animal learning – and back. In this project, Christian Ruff’s team at the Zurich Center for Neuroeconomics will be contributing by linking human circuit functions to animal models. This research will support the translation of mechanistic insights from basic research into the human clinical setting. The findings will allow improvements in the diagnosis of children with developmental delay, specifically developmental dyslexia, and provide novel therapeutic strategies.
Considerations on payment for participants in vaccination trials
2020-11-24: How much compensation should be paid to people who voluntarily let themselves be infected with a virus as part of vaccine research? Today, the payment of study participants is limited based on ethical considerations. However, Sandro Ambühl's research shows that participants assume that tests are paid according to their risk. This assumption can lead people to underestimate the risk and sign up for trials they would not have wanted to take part in. At the same time, overpaying can lead to false incentives. Alternative solutions are needed.
Various auction formats explained with practical examples
2020-11-18: Auctions are not only held for works of art or your old skis on Ricardo. Fishing licences, mobile phone frequencies and government bonds are also auctioned. Since a lot of money is at stake in these auctions and some conditions must be met during the auction, designing these auctions in the most efficient way is a key requirement. The American economists Paul Milgrom and Robert Wilson have significantly contributed to the success of today's auction formats with their scientific work and were awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics in October 2020.
In this article Nick Netzer, Marek Pycia and Sven Seuken (Department of Informatics) present practical examples of the various auction formats in an everyday view.
Teaching Center receives two grants for e-learning projects
2020-11-16: The Department’s Teaching Center receives two grants to further develop our teaching infrastructure. The first project is part of UZH's strategic Teaching Fund and allows the team to customize the electronic examination tool for specific requirements from our Department. On addition, Consuela Müller and the ECON Teaching Center team are creating a manual for converting courses to blended learning/flipped classroom. This second grant is part of swissuniversities digital skills for lecturers initiative. Congratulations to our Teaching Team for making sure our students get the best possible learning experience.
The expansion of external childcare is not enough
2020-11-12: Women often suffer significant income cuts after the birth of a child. An often voiced demand is that the number of childcare places needs to be increased. However, a recent study by a group of researchers around Josef Zweimüller shows that an increase in crèche places alone does not have an impact on mother’s income. The study focuses on Austria the country saw numerous family-related reforms over the last 60 years, which now allow the researchers to examine the influence of the expansion of crèche places. "The expansion of childcare places seems to substitute other forms of care, for example by grandparents," Josef Zweimüller notes. However, in communities where the provision of childcare was has been above average for a longer time, the loss of income for mothers is lower.
Article in Der Standard (in German)
Ernst Fehr receives Honorary Doctorate from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
2020-11-09: On the occasion of its 140th anniversary, the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU Amsterdam) awarded an honorary doctorate to Ernst Fehr. VU Amsterdam’s Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences and the School of Business and Economics (SBE) nominated Ernst Fehr for his research into important social and societal phenomena, such as equality, reciprocity and social norms. According to his nominators, Ernst Fehr’s research is tremendously relevant to our modern economic life because it focuses on socially relevant questions about opposing inequality and the role of processes from neurobiology and behavioural science in trust and cooperation between people. Congratulations!
How modern economics answers important societal questions
2020-11-07: In an interview with the Finanz und Wirtschaft, Chairman Ralph Ossa explains what constitute economics as a discipline and how the Department of Economics enables students to contribute to solving the central challenges of our time: achieving ecological sustainability, managing the digital revolution, overcoming the globalization crisis, reducing poverty and inequality and dealing with populism and extremism. To answer these questions, the department offers students a solid methodological training and the ability to reduce complex problems to their essential components and to analyze them concisely.
Interview in Finanz und Wirtschaft (PDF, 448 KB) (In German) (from 7. Nov 2020)
8 lecturers recognized for their online teaching
2020-11-05: Students honor lecturers who have been particularly successful in transferring their teaching to the digital context and who have found creative ways of creating interaction despite distance, or who have shown extraordinary commitment to their students: Pietro Biroli, Andreas Hefti, Dina Pomeranz, Tobias Straumann, Rainer Winkelmann, Ulrich Woitek, David Yanagizawa-Drott, Claudine Schwarzenbach (Head Tutor Macro 2)
More about UZH’s Tag der Lehre (in German)
The US-Election: Comments and Analyses by members of the Department
2020-11-03: The result of the Presidential Election not only defines the cornerstones of the economic and social framework of the United States, but also affects how countries and organizations around the globe work together and develop.
“Why Trump is more consequence than cause of the current developments in the USA”. David Dorn, Tagesanzeiger (in German) (02.11.20)
"Which President would be better for the global economy"? David Dorn assesses the economic policies of the two candidates in the Weltwoche (PDF, 513 KB) (in German) (06.11.20)
The dangers of the Google-Fitbit deal
2020-11-02: The EU Commission for Competition needs to make a decision on the Google-Fitbit deal by December 23. There a numerous concerns that allowing for Fitbit’s data gathering capabilities to be put in Google’s hands creates major risks. The combination of Fitbit’s health data with Google’s other data creates unique opportunities for discrimination and exploitation of individuals in healthcare, health insurance and other sensitive areas, with major implications for privacy too. Gregory Crawford and Economists around the world agree that preventing bad mergers is a key tool for competition policy vis-a-vis acquisitive digital platforms. In a recent VoxEU column and a number of articles, they emphasize that “the European Commission and other authorities should be very sceptical of this deal, and realistic about their limited ability to design, impose and monitor appropriate remedies”.
Continuous contributions to the pandemic discourse
2020-11-02: As we are experiencing the second Covid-19 wave, members of our Department contribute by advising governments in Switzerland and other countries, participating in the public discourse and offering evidence to base decisions on.
Jakub Steiner presents research on ideal rotation schedules for large organizations to minimize potentially infectious contacts, optimal allocation of heterogenous tests to individuals who are potentially infected with the virus, and a method to select, from multiple tests with different sensitivity and specificity, the test that helps the decision-maker the most to achieve her objective.
Dina Pomeranz’ Interview with SRF received vast coverage and was picked up by numerous local newspapers.
David Dorn comments on the most recent decisions of the Federal Office of Public Health and the economic implications these will have for the Greater Zurich area. Interview with SRF
David Dorn explains why Switzerland is not being very successful battling the coronavirus - and what its culture has to do with it. "Swiss thrift may have made it easier for the virus to spread". Article in the Luzerner Zeitung(7.11.20)
Florian Scheuer explains the open letter to the Federal Council, signed by 60 Swiss economists. In it they make the case for a second shutdown in Switzerland. "The costs of lockdowns are often calculated by comparing them with economic activity before the pandemic. But that is the wrong comparison. Because now that the virus is raging, people are making changes in their own behavior that are damaging the economy". Link to interview on SRF Radio (9.11.20)
Unemployment benefits have little influence on wages
2020-10-14: Wage setting models often use the value of non-employment as a worker’s outside option. Under this assumption, the value of non-employment becomes a key determinant of wages. A recent paper co-authored by Josef Zweimüller and published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics uses Austrian data on changes in the level of unemployment insurance (UI) benefits to measure the effect of non-employment on wages. While the widely used Nash bargaining model predicts a sensitivity of $0.24–$0.48 per $1.00 UI benefit increase, Josef Zweimüller’s results show a response of less than $0.01 per $1.00 UI benefit increase. These findings point to the relevance of models in which wages setting is insulated from the value of non-employment.