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Department of Economics

News and Media 2021

Income Slump Motherhood: article by Josef Zweimüller in "Schweizer Monat"

Porträt Josef Zweimüller

2021-12-03: There are still considerable income differences between men and women. The largest part of the pay gap is due to maternity. This is because, after the birth of the first child, the salaries of mothers fall sharply behind those of men and childless women. The "child penalty" measures the difference in income between mothers and women without children. On average, Swiss mothers earn 60 percent less in the year after the birth of their first child than they did before motherhood. This number remains constant in subsequent years. Switzerland even has one of the highest child penalties among OECD countries.

Empirical studies have shown that family policies such as extended parental leave, job guarantees, or subsidized childcare only have a short-term impact on the child penalty. Gender norms – more specifically, the role of women in the conflicting fields of family and career – have a greater impact on the overall measure of the child penalty: the more conservative the environment, the higher the child penalty. In conservative countries such as Germany, Austria and Switzerland, the child penalty is multiple times higher than in the socially liberal countries of Scandinavia. Therefore, Joseph Zweimüller argues for a better understanding of the factors responsible for the adherence to conservative gender norms in order to eventually reduce the existing inequalities between men and women.

Schweizer Monat (in German)

Global Gateway – EU alternative to China’s Belt and Road initiative

Ralph Ossa in SRF Tagesschau

2021-12-01: With its Belt and Road initiative, China has invested a lot of money in infrastructure projects in many countries. Now the EU is setting a strong geopolitical counterweight with its rival project Global Gateway. The EU wants to invest 300 billion euros in emerging and developing countries for environmental protection, health, energy, and transport. The project should on the one hand be able to meet local needs and on the other address global challenges, says EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. This is a new strategic approach to investment. Unlike China, the EU wants to involve the private sector in financing. The countries in which investments are made should have a trustworthy partner in the EU. Van der Leyen emphasizes that Global Gateway should give the EU countries a competitive advantage.
How realistic is this plan in view of China’s enormous efforts? The European response differs in two main respects, explains Ralph Ossa: "First, in terms of investment volume. The Chinese plan is about three times larger than the European one. The second major difference lies in the investment priorities. The Chinese are investing primarily in transportation infrastructure. The Europeans are focusing differently, for example on digitalization." According to Ossa, the EU can offer a valuable alternative with its program for those countries that have had no choice but to cooperate with the Chinese because they urgently need the infrastructure projects.

SRF Tagesschau (in German)

The Zurich Graduate School of Economics is recruiting new PhD students

Chess game

2021-11-03: The Zurich Graduate School of Economics (Zurich GSE) is recruiting new PhD students. Applications are now open.




ECON Teaching Center receives teaching credit for project on gamification of learning content

Chess game

2021-10-22: The University of Zurich's teaching credit promotes innovation in teaching and the further development of existing teaching formats. The ECON Teaching Center receives a UZH teaching credit for their project 'Gamification of learning content' which expands the learning opportunities for students in playful ways. A browser-based game picks up on the course content and combines it with competence experience, self-determination, social inclusion and meaning. In a playful way, students are guided through all taxonomy levels in a game unit. The project leads to more active learning time and an understanding of the applications of the course content in practice. Added value for teaching results from interdisciplinary transferability, portfolio expansion of teaching opportunities and efficient application of the taxonomy levels. The game is developed for the module Microeconomics 1 taught by Ulf Zölitz.


Keynote by Nobel laureate Michael Kremer

Michael Kremer and Ernst Fehr

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.

Watch the keynote on YouTube

More about the event

Florian Scheuer wins Hermann Heinrich Gossen Award

Florian Scheuer

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

Alpenglühen Edelweiss Trauer

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:

Tribute to Konrad Mierendorff

Generous with Individuals and Selfish to the Masses

Money is stolen out of a purse

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.

Press release

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.

Article in DUZ

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.  

NZZ am Sonntag

AER: Insights Excellence in Refereeing Award 2020 for David Yanagizawa-Drott and Marek Pycia

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: Insights

AER Excellence in Refereeing Award 2020 for Lorenzo Casaburi, Dina Pomeranz and Florian Scheuer

Dina Pomeranz, Florian Scheuer, Lorenzo Casaburi

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".

American Economic Review

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.

Press Release

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

Social Media

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.

Press Release

Paper in Nature Human Behavior

Portrait of Joachim Voth

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.

Article in The Economist



What makes a healthy taxation system?

Portrait of Florian Scheuer

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.   

Press Release


Weiterführende Informationen

A compilation of all news and media clippings