I am an assistant professor at the Department of Economics, Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich.
My research focuses on the political economy of less-developed countries using modern and historical data. I have worked on the assigning of property rights in the United States, ethnic partitioning in Africa, the political legacy of mass killings in Cambodia and the impact of school reforms in Cambodia.
I work with historical and high resolution spatial data, some digitized for the first time specifically for the projects you find below.
On the other side of the fence: Property rights and productivity in the United States
Journal of the European Economic Association, Vol. 21 N. 1 (February 2023), pp. 93-134.
Can well-defined access rights to publicly owned land be as effective as privatization in increasing productivity and wealth? In this paper, I evaluate the impact of public property rights using the 1934 Taylor Grazing Act, which determined secure access rights for ranchers to newly created, large grazing districts in the Western US. Using satellite-based vegetation data, I exploit spatial discontinuities across grazing district boundaries and find that public lands with well-defined access rights for ranchers are at least 10% more productive than lands without. Immediately after establishing grazing districts, ranchers inside these districts held more cattle, reported higher income and farm values than their counterparts outside. Despite ranchers being unable to invest in publicly-owned lands, these magnitudes are similar to outright privatization. Instead, I argue that secure access rights resolve uncertainty around future usage and align the incentives of ranchers and regulators, thus incentivizing sustainable and profitable usage. I provide two results supporting this hypothesis: Areas with stronger pre-reform state capacity show larger increases in vegetation. Monthly patterns on vegetation are consistent with the adoption of productivity-increasing fallowing practices. I investigate alternative explanations, and find no empirical support for differential initial productivity; negative spillovers; or systematic local manipulation of boundaries.
Female Education and Social Change
with Leonhard Vollmer and Johannes Wimmer
Revise and Resubmit at the Journal of Economic Growth
Does access to education facilitate the emergence of a human capital elite from which social activists, and thus, social change can emerge? Assembling a city-level panel of the political, intellectual, and economic elite throughout German history, we find that the opening of secondary schools for women increased their representation among the human capital elite. Women became recognized for living independently, for becoming authors, and for actively fighting for women's rights, gradually bringing about social change. Several other city-specific indicators of economic and gender-specific cultural change are unrelated to the increasing representation of women among the human capital elite.
State Repression, Exit, and Voice: Living in the shadow of Cambodia's Killing Fields
with Andreas Madestam
How does state repression change political beliefs and behavior? We address this question using evidence from the genocide in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. Exploring local variation in state coercion during the genocide, we find that repression leads to more votes in favor of the opposition over the authoritarian incumbent, stiffer electoral competition, and increased support for democratic values four decades later. At the same time, people become more cautious in their interactions with the local community as captured by less trust in others and lower participation in community organizations. The results are consistent with a theoretical model in which the experience of repression increases people's preferences for pluralism but also raises the perceived cost of dissent. These opposing forces imply that citizens are more likely to support the opposition in elections (voice), while they engage less in civil society (exit) to avoid publicly revealing their political views. In line with the prediction that increased political competition reduces elected officials' ability to extract rent, we show that the changes in political beliefs and behavior also affect policy outcomes. Together, our results indicate that the legacy of state violence can have a persistent effect on society, leading to a more competitive but less personal political environment.
Trade and regional economic development
[Show/hide abstract] [Latest version]
A central argument for trade liberalization is that when the `gains from trade' are shared, countries see large gains in economic development. In this paper, I empirically evaluate this argument and assess the impact of elite capture on regional development. Africa provides a unique study ground because the arbitrary placement of country borders during the colonial period partitioned hundreds of ethnic groups across borders. This partitioning is a source of variation in population heterogeneity and cross-country connectedness that is independent of economic considerations. Thus, African borders provide both a credible instrument for bilateral trade flows and enable the assignment of trade flows ---and their impacts--- to individuals. I find that while ethnic networks increase trade flows, increased trade activity decreases subnational economic development when measured by satellite data or individual wealth. I show that this counter-intuitive result comes from elite groups capturing the gains from trade, with detrimental impacts on trust and democratic progress in society.
Work in Progress
Who Benefits from Free Education? Long-Term Evidence from a Policy Experiment in Cambodia
with Maria Cheung, Andreas Madestam and Jakob Svensson
Free primary education is considered an important public policy to promote poor children's schooling. We explore a nationwide policy experiment in Cambodia in 2000 that abolished primary school fees to assess this claim. The paper investigates the effects of the program by combining differences in fee exposure across province, time, and cohort. One additional year of free education had no impact on children living in households below the consumption poverty line, but increased the likelihood of completing primary school, led to more years of schooling completed, and raised literacy for children in households above the poverty line. To ensure a causal interpretation of the heterogeneous effects, we exploit weather-induced agricultural volatility to estimate the difference across the consumption poverty line. Though poor and non-poor children attended school to same extent after the reform, poor children were less likely to progress and complete the higher grades. The findings are consistent with the idea that poor children and their parents are affected by the local community's educational norm, where income segregation may explain why poor students fail to take advantage of the policy change.
Couch Potato or Social Butterfly? The Impact of Television Content on Social Capital
with Andrew Dickens
A Chicken in Every Pot? The Political Consequences of a Large Wealth Shock in the Western United States
with Jerome Schäfer
German elections 2021
Dataset and code to analyze the German Federal Elections 2021.
|Data Analytics (Master)|
|The Political Economics of Development (Bachelor)|
|Political Economics (Master)|
|Political Economics II (Master)|
|Spatial Data in Economics (Master)|
|ArcGIS course for graduate students in economics|
|Teaching Assistant for 'Management and Analysis of Big Data' for David Strömberg|
|ArcGIS course for graduate students in economics, jointly lectured with Shuhei Kitamura|
|Teaching Assistant for 'Macroeconomics II, PhD course' for John Hassler|