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.
10 Years SNS Lab
2020-10-07: This month 10 years ago, the Laboratory for Social and Neural Systems research (SNS Lab) was inaugurated with an opening symposium. In this interdisciplinary laboratory, made possible thanks to the generous support from Branco Weiss, the University of Zurich, and the University Hospital Zurich, researchers explore the biological and neural mechanisms that underlie decision making. They combine cutting-edge brain imaging technologies with non-invasive brain stimulation, neuropharmacology, and computational modeling.
The heart of the lab is an fMRI Scanner, allowing visualization of active brain areas during cognitive processes. The findings help us understand the causes of human behaviors such as altruism, egoism, risk-taking, or self-control at the neural level. These insights into the brain have paved the way for a new area of research: neuroeconomics combines the fields of neuroscience, biology, psychology, and economics, and the SNS Lab puts the Department of Economics in an advantageous position and has led to it becoming a pioneer in the field.
Does Rising Trade Exposure Increase Political Polarization?
2020-09-29: Has rising import competition contributed to the polarization of US politics? Recent paper by David Dorn and co-authors published in the American Economic Review finds strong though not definitive evidence of an ideological realignment in trade-exposed local labor markets that commences prior to the divisive 2016 US presidential election. The authors found that trade exposed electoral districts exhibit growing ideological polarization in some domains, meaning expanding support for both strong-left and strong-right views, and pure rightward shifts in others. Their results broadly support an emerging political economy literature that connects adverse economic shocks to sharp ideological realignments and discrete shifts in political preferences and economic policy.
2020-09-10: The US housing market seems to be remaining stable during these challenging times. This is mainly due to the fact that international investors still see the US as a safe investment haven and are financing a significant current account deficit. However, such large international capital flows into the US can be dangerous. A paper published in the Journal of the European Economic Association (JEEA) by Mathias Hoffman and Alumna Iryna Stewen (Uni Mainz), show how international capital flows played a significant role in the development of the US housing bubble and the following financial crisis.
ERC Starting Grant for Teodora Boneva
2020-09-03: The European Research Council has awarded Teodora Boneva an ERC Starting Grant of 1.5 million Euros. Teodora Boneva joined the Department this spring as Assistant Professor in Economics, endowed by the Jacobs Center for Productive Youth Development. Among other areas, her research focuses on child development and parenting.
The ERC Starting Grant allows Teodora Boneva to launch a research program that will shed light on the role of beliefs, preferences, constraints and social norms in women’s decisions to have children and return to work after the birth of a child. Given the importance of these decisions, it is crucial to understand what is driving them. In this project, she will collect large representative datasets from countries around the world and obtain detailed measures of individual beliefs and preferences using survey-based techniques. To disentangle the relative importance of different factors, this data will be combined with information on planned and actual childbirth and labor supply, as well as perceived constraints and social norms.
Two new Assistant Professors at the Department
2020-09-01: Dr. Ana Costa-Ramón, born in 1991, has been appointed Assistant Professor with Tenure Track in Economics of Child and Youth Development as of September 1, 2020. Dr. Costa-Ramón has been a Research Fellow at the Center for Research in Health and Economics at the University of Pompeu Fabra since 2014. Her area of expertise is applied microeconomics and her research focuses on health, labor and gender issues.
Dr. Alessandro Ferrari, born in 1989, has been appointed Assistant Professor with Tenure Track in Empirical Economics / Empirical Analysis of Economic Policy as of September 1, 2020. Dr. Ferrari currently researches and teaches at the European University Institute in Florence. His research interests include Macroeconomics, International Trade and Industrial Organization.
New University Research Priority Program Equality of Opportunity
2020-08-19: With its University Research Priority Programs (URPP), UZH fosters cross-disciplinary cooperation between researchers working in fields that are relevant to society. By linking up different academic disciplines, the URPP allow for a broad range of approaches to tackle the subject. The new URPP Equality of Opportunity, which is headed by David Dorn, aims to investigate the economic and societal changes that give rise to inequality. The researchers involved in the program will also analyze concrete legal frameworks and political measures that help to increase equal opportunities for all members of a society.
Optimized Rotation to Minimize Infections
2020-08-19: Jakub Steiner’s Paper ‘Rotation as Contagion Mitigation’ has been incorporated into the latest report of the Royal Society DELVE Initiative (Data Evaluation and Learning for Viral Epidemics) on the economic impact of COVID-19, addressed to the British government. The paper was the base of the report's section 8 on how to rotate the workforce in organizations that we cannot afford to fully close nor to fully open.
Michel Maréchal receives 2020 Diligentia Prize
2020-08-13: Michel Maréchal and Alumnus Christian Zünd’s research on “Civic Honesty Around the Globe” receives the 2020 Diligentia Prize from the Diligentia Foundation for Empirical Research. The paper, co-authored with Alain Cohn (University of Michigan) and David Tannenbaum (University of Utah) was published in Science magazine in July 2019 and received vast global media coverage.
The research studies levels and drivers of honest behavior around the world. The results are surprising: The more money there is in a lost wallet, the more likely it will be returned to its owner. The counterintuitive result is explained by the fact that dishonest finders have to adapt their self-image, which involves psychological costs that can exceed the material value of the wallet’s contents.
Each year, the Diligentia Foundation honors outstanding empirical and experimental research that has produced innovative results for socially relevant issues. The prize is awarded for scientific publications by individual authors or teams of authors in the form of articles in recognized international journals.
Donations initiate virtuous cycle
2020-08-11: The Department of Economics has benefitted greatly from private donations over the last decade. More than a dozen new professorships have been established and the Department has managed to attract innovative and leading researchers to Zurich. Private donations have also enabled the Department to grow the Zurich Graduate School of Economics and establish the Marlene Porsche Graduate School of Neuroeconomics. Both Graduate Schools offer young talent a springboard into a successful career in academia. Ernst Fehr explains how these private contributions, starting off with the generous donation by the UBS Foundation in 2012, initiated a virtuous cycle that has led to the Department being ranked among the top three economics departments in Europe and becoming a global leader in the area of Neuroeconomics and Development Economics.
New Faculty Council elected
2020-08-01: The Faculty Assembly of the Faculty of Business, Economics and Informatics has elected the Faculty Council as of August 1, 2020. Prof. Harald Gall and Prof. Uschi Backes-Gellner were re-elected as Dean and Vice Dean. In addition, the number of Vice Deans was increased from two to three. The newly elected Vice Deans Prof. Nick Netzer and Prof. Alexander Wagner provide additional support to the faculty in their areas of responsibility. Nick Netzer will act as Vice Dean for education and teaching
Award for Best Project of the Social Entrepreneurship Seminar
2020-07-29: For the third time, the Department of Economics held a seminar in which students could acquire first-hand knowledge of what it means to become a social entrepreneur and develop a business plan to solve a social problem. In their final pitch in May, seven teams competed in front of a jury for year of mentoring from senior staff members of corporations committed to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Switzerland.
The winning team consisting of Catharina Dekker, Ana Maria Krink, and Ananya Pandya created an app to improve efficiency and information for mental health practitioners.
c.Health aims to integrate patient analytics with an effective communication platform to maximize mental health treatment outcomes. This is achieved through a web app, which provides a platform to connect existing patients to mental health therapists in a secure portal. The platform provides the therapists with deeper insights into the behavior of their patients with the help of different trackers such as daily mood, sleep patterns, and medical protocol adherence. Thereby c.Health simplifies and enhances the therapy process whilst saving the therapist preparation time pre- and post-session.
European Commission must not rush Google-Fitbit Deal
2020-07-05: Digitization is revolutionizing the economy and our lives at unprecedented speed, leaving the adaption of the governing structures lagging behind. Gregory Crawford and colleagues warn that Google’s planned acquisition of Fitbit, a wearable that collects personal health data, needs deeper regulatory investigation by the European Commission before being green-lighted. The acquisition would provide Google with enormously powerful information and “regulators have been too lenient in approving digital mergers and [have] failed to spot acquisitions that have allowed entire industries to be monopolized”, they argue.
Interview with David Dorn
2020-07-03: An interview with David Dorn in the NZZ on digitization, globalization and China's influence on the world economy. While technological progress is a process, China's rapid rise has meant that some industries have gone under within a few years. However, “we will not run out of work", David Dorn says, "the big challenge is that not all future jobs will be well-paid jobs". A good vocational training system has to teach people skills that cannot easily be replaced by automation.
UBS Foundation extends its engagement with the Department
2020-07-02: UBS donates 25 million francs to continue the work of the UBS Center for Economics in Society at the Department of Economics, extending its engagement for another 10 years until 2032. Since 2012, the UBS Center has established seven endowed professorships and has awarded 20 UBS Center Scholarships to graduate students. The extension of the contract will allow the creation of an additional professorship and the continuation of the scholarship program for the Zurich Graduate School of Economics.
The Department would like to thank UBS for its continued and generous support.
ECON Alumni UZH – The Network for Economists founded
2020-05-28: In February 2020, the Department of Economics founded ECON Alumni UZH, which offers the Department's alumni the opportunity to benefit from the special status of their alma mater beyond their time as students. The association is open to committed and passionate members who want to support each other and the Department of Economics as part of a worldwide community. ECON Alumni UZH organizes regular events on current topics in economics, business, politics and culture and offers members a platform for exchange and networking.
Silvia Maier elected founding member of the Young Academy Switzerland
2020-05-18: Silvia Maier was elected founding member of the Young Academy Switzerland. The Young Academy Switzerland offers young researchers the opportunity to carry out inter- and transdisciplinary projects. Outstanding academic achievements are prerequisite for membership in the Young Academy. The members strive to identify societal challenges at an early stage, offer solutions to these challenges and promote the dialogue between science and society.
Silvia Maier researches the neuronal and physiological basis of self-control at the Zurich Center for Neuroeconomics.
Dina Pomeranz receives SNF Grant
2020-05-05: Dina Pomeranz has obtained a grant of 275000 Swiss Francs from the the Swiss Nationals Science Foundation (SNF) for her project “Firm Growth and Inequality in Developing Countries: New Insights from Firm-to-Firm Network Data”. The project aims to increase our understanding of growth of firms in developing countries by analyzing a) the effects of programs aiming to help firms grow out of inefficiently small sizes, b) the interaction of tax enforcement and firm development and c) the impact of international trade on inequality among workers and firm owners across an entire economy.
David Dorn appointed to expert group of the Swiss National Covid-19 Science Task Force
2020-04-27: Within the framework of the Swiss National Covid-19 Science Task Force, the Swiss scientific community makes its expertise and skills available to the Swiss Government. The Task Force advises the Federal Council's crisis management team and the central institutions, identifies research areas in which Swiss science can quickly make an important contribution to understanding and combating Covid-19, and explores innovation opportunities in which Swiss scientific know-how could quickly contribute to products or services with regard to Covid-19.
David Dorn has been appointed to contribute to the Expert Group Economy.
Swiss National Covid-19 Science Task Force
Claudia Goldin Receives Honorary Doctorate
2020-04-27: On Saturday, 25 April 2020, Claudia Goldin, the Henry Lee Professor of Economics at Harvard University, was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Zurich as part of the Dies academicus festivities. The Department of Economics nominated Claudia Goldin for her leading and groundbreaking work on the female labor force, income inequality, technological change, education, and the economic gender gap. Her work has had an enormous impact on academia and society.
As an economic historian and a labor economist, Claudia Goldin’s research covers a wide range of topics. She is best known for her historical work on women in the U.S. economy. Her most influential papers have concerned the history of women’s quest for career and family, coeducation in higher education, the impact of the “pill” on women’s career and marriage decisions, women’s surnames after marriage as a social indicator, the reasons why women are now the majority of undergraduates and the new lifecycle of women’s employment.
In 1990, Goldin became the first woman to be tenured at the Harvard Economics Department. She was the director of the NBER’s Development of the American Economy program from 1989 to 2017 and is currently a co-director of a new NBER Study Group on Gender in the Economy. She was president of the American Economic Association and the Economic History Association, and was editor of the Journal of Economic History.
Coronavirus recession will be amplified by labor-replacing automation
2020-04-24: Amid fears of a recession due to the Coronavirus, Nir Jaimovich’s Paper Job Polarization and Jobless Recoveries suggests that the recession is likely to be prolonged and amplified by a surge of labor-replacing automation. During the last three recessions, nearly 9 out of 10 jobs lost where in routine, automatable occupations.
Fall of Labor Share and the Superstar Companies
2020-04-08: Across developed countries labor share, the slice of GDP that goes into workers’ wages, is decreasing. This decrease is mainly driven by market concentration and the increase in market share of big “superstar companies”, as research co-authored by David Dorn and published in this month’s edition of the Quarterly Journal of Economics has shown. Furthermore, the authors found that in those industries, in which market concentration increased the most, labor share decreased the most. Other hypotheses, such as changes in international trade policies, the decrease of labor union power or the squeezing of wages were also tested, however they did not show to have an effect on the fall of the labor share.
David Dorn as guest at SRF ECO
2020-04-07: In the interview David Dorn outlines the main ideas from the Coronavirus Position Paper, which the Department of Economics issued last week. He explains why the federal government has acted correctly from an economic point of view and how to avoid years of corporate debt. Solutions are needed on how to evenly distribute the costs of such a huge government intervention in the economy.
Coronavirus shock increases labor market inequality
Differences Between Economic Shocks
2020-04-04: In an interview with Tagesschau24 Joachim Voth talks about historical pandemics and economic crises. In contrast to past shocks such as the financial crisis of 2008, we are currently simultaneously experiencing a global supply and demand shock. If the economic lockdown does not last longer than two or three months, we can expect the economy to recover faster than it did from the financial crisis.
Coronavirus: Contributions and Position Paper
2020-03-29: The Coronavirus is a global concern. In recent weeks, researchers from the Department have contributed to the public discussion in national and international media. In addition to insights from their respective specialist areas, all professors of the Department of Economics have jointly published a position paper. Titled "Testing and Freezing: A survival strategy for the Swiss economy", the paper summarizes the consensus of the economic debate and outlines paths of action for Switzerland.
Find the Position Paper and Executive Summary (German) here
Interviews (German, full access)
"The plague was one of the causes of the great divergence between Europe and the rest of the world" Süddeutsche Zeitung, Joachim Voth (10.04.20)
"The Federal Council's economic policy measures were correct. At this moment, I see no major need for correction" NZZ, Ernst Fehr (11.04.20)
"Pandemics past and present"
Tagesschau24 video interview, Joachim Voth (03.04.2020)
"Conflicts between medical and economic interests are only short-term"
Radio1 interview, David Dorn (MP3, 7073 KB) (27.03.20)
"The collapse of the stock prices cannot be explained by rational behavior alone"
Sonntagszeitung interview, Ernst Fehr (PDF, 1327 KB) (22.03.20)
"Our decisions are currently based on insufficient data"
NZZ video interview, Ernst Fehr (21.03.20)
How the Economy Survives
2020-04-04: In his column in Finanz und Wirtschaft, David Dorn points out the key differences between a normal recession and the current slump initiated by the economic lockdown. "The current crisis is very different from previous recessions. Not only the weakest sectors and companies are affected, but also many [...] with solid business models and intact future prospects. If the Swiss economy is to survive the crisis well, these companies and their jobs must be preserved to ensure a rapid recovery of the economy after the crisis".
Minimize pandemic risk in the future
2020-04-02: In this week’s Weltwoche, Joachim Voth looks towards the future. "There is no guarantee that the next virus will not be as deadly as Ebola and as contagious as the Coronavirus", he notes. The answer to future pandemic risks does not lie in reversing globalization, as the greatest advantages of globalization, are based on the free exchange of goods, which is not the problem. The main risk is the movement of people. "We need to ask ourselves whether millions of people really need to fly around the world, just for pleasure," Joachim Voth says.
Welcome Prof. Teodora Boneva
2020-04-01: Teodora Boneva has been appointed Assistant Professor of Economics of Child and Youth Development, endowed by the Jacobs Center for Productive Youth Development as of April 1, 2020. Prof. Boneva joins us from her previous position as Associate Professor at the Department of Economics at the University of Oxford. Her research studies the role of beliefs in educational investment decisions and the role of educational interventions in fostering skills in childhood. She aims to improve our understanding of how we can promote skill acquisition and narrow socioeconomic and gender gaps in educational and labor market outcomes.
Welcome Prof. Boneva!
A perfect storm
2020-03-31: Interview with Joachim Voth in the German Spiegel about historical brick and mortar, and modern virtual plague walls to protect residents from epidemics. He critically notes that the wealthy Western nations have failed to learn from past epidemics: "We Germans buy insurance for all sorts of things, but as a society we don’t protect ourselves against this kind of emergency," he notes.
Dopamine, the reward system and the addiction treatment
2020-03-31: With the support of EU Grants Access, Lydia Hellrung successfully applied for a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellowship Grant over 175'000 Euro. Her research project DOPANF takes place in the Department’s SNS Lab where she investigates how network activity in the brain differs depending on whether effort is motivated by a potential reward or to avoid punishment, and if one of the underlying motivations leads to better learning than the other. The answer to this question has, among other things, an influence on the treatment of addicts. EU Grants Access presents the project and the researcher in their publication Science Stories.
Economic Effects of Pandemics
2020-03-03: The Economist in its Free Exchange column looks at the economic effects of pandemics. It highlights research by Joachim Voth, published in the Review of Economic Studies, arguing that population collapse after the Black Death in 14th century Europe caused a jump in incomes. This, in turn, led to more spending on manufactured goods produced in cities, and thus to higher rates of urbanization. In this way, the medieval plague had a silver lining - it put Europe on the path to the industrial revolution. The Economist concludes that though the human costs of pandemics are dreadful, the long-run economic effects need not be so.
Humans and Herd Instincts
2020-03-05: In the "NZZ am Sonntag" Björn Bartling explains how fundamental behavioral tendencies shape our reaction to the coronavirus outbreak. Herd instinct, insecurity, and the balancing act of public communication are decisive factors that can accelerate or slow down an escalation.
Travel and Trade in Times of the Epidemic
2020-03-04: Joachim Voth draws parallels between the current strategies to curb the spread of the coronavirus and those used to combat the plague in Marseille in 1720. Back then, the rigorous restriction of mobility by building plague walls proved to be the most effective solution. Today, politics must balance the costs and benefits of unrestricted movement of people and goods. While exchange of goods supports economic growth, freedom of movement for people contributes little to the benefits of globalization, he argues: "The lesson of Wuhan should be that we start a broad discussion about how much mobility is actually desirable".
Nudging towards more Eco-Friendly Lunches
2020-02-18: Using an experiment, six municipal staff canteens in Zurich have tried to improve their CO2 balance. Without coercion or financial incentives, customers should be encouraged to choose climate-friendly menus with more plant-based foods. This was to be achieved through nudging and gamification: the restaurants were competing against each other, in order to encourage the visitors to participate. Nick Netzer answers the most important questions about nudging and explains why, when it comes to climate protection, he would intervene more directly rather than just nudge people.
Read the article about the experiment and the interview in the «NZZ».
You Think You Know What Economics is About?
2020-02-13: This question set the theme for the second Research Slam held at the Department of Economics at the end of last semester. Aimed at Bachelor and Master students, the event wants to highlight the broad variety of topics, that economics can contribute to. Twelve PhDs, Post-Docs and Professors from the Department gave entertaining 5-minute talks on a paper in their research area. By giving students an insight into economics that might exceed what they learn as part of the curriculum, the participants hope to pass on their enthusiasm for research. The event was organized by a team around PhD students Ursina Schaede, Lexi Schubert and Claude Raisaro and was supported by the Department and the UBS Center. You can listen to the podcast now in case you missed it and be sure to save the date for the next edition on 29 April.
Why Are Economists Talking About Climate Change?
2020-01-27: The answer to this question was given at the public lecture organized by the UBS Center for Economics in Society last week, by the speaker himself, Nobel Prize laureate, William Nordhaus. In his opinion, carbon pricing, either as cap-and-trade or as a tax, is the most effective solution in fighting climate change. Drawing an analogy to a tram ride in Zurich, he also pointed out the main problem why international climate policy has come to a dead end: freeriding, "Schwarzfahren" in German, is too easy, because the likelihood of being caught is not very high and the penalties are too small. He proposes a "climate club", where non-participants would face export tariffs, therefore incentivizing nations to contribute to global climate policy. Nordhaus` lecture attracted a very diverse crowd who had many questions during the Q&A session, showing that climate change is in fact the topic everyone is talking about.
Read the interview with William Nordhaus in NZZ am Sonntag (in German)
Watch the video of the public lecture.
Moral appeals alone will not suffice
2020-01-14: In an interview in the Der Bund Ernst Fehr explains why we need policy intervention and a general climate tax. "The prevention of global warming is a prime example of legitimate state intervention. Individual actors generate negative external effects, and the state must intervene. This is 101 textbook knowledge, and all economists agree on this point. The prevention of global warming is a public good, one of the most important ones for humanity".
Article in Der Bund (PDF, 669 KB) (PDF, German)
Parental leave has no negative consequences on companies or coworkers
Who is Who: David Dorn
2020-01-07: David Dorn's track record in economic research is listed in the current edition of the Who is Who in Research list. David Dorn examines, among other things, how the economic rise of China has affected social and political conditions in the USA. As the most cited professor at an European university, David Dorn regularly presents his research findings to national and international politicians and business associations.
Björn Bartling appointed Associate Editor to the Journal of the European Economic Association
2020-01-06: Björn Bartling has been appointed Associate Editor to the Journal of the European Economic Association (JEEA). He is the third representative from our Department in this role, alongside David Yanagizawa-Drott and Michel Maréchal. The JEEA was established in 2003 and has meanwhile risen to be one of the top ten journals in economics. The aim of the European Economic Association is to help base economic decision-making on scientific principles, facts and economic theory, rather than on political discussions.
Social security does not make people lazy
2020-01-02: Interview with Dina Pomeranz in Finanz und Wirtschaft covering the drivers of economic growth in developing countries, the role of empirical evidence to move political discussions out of the ideological corner, and how randomized trials can refute beliefs regarding the effectiveness of aid projects in developing countries.