Current Projects

Shifting Involvements or Shifting Identities? The Effect of Religion on Political & Economic Identity (2023) with Bouke Klein Teeselink – Funded by the British Academy

For many western societies, secularisation has been one of the most profound social changes of the recent past. Nevertheless, many of its consequences remain unknown. On the one hand, people who de-identify with religion may seek their social identity in other sources such as politics. Alternatively, religious de-identification may cause a retreat into private life, whereby people shift their focus from religious pursuits towards material well-being. The proposed research uses US clergy scandals to examine the causal effect of secularisation on political identification and economic behaviour. To measure political identification, we consider turnout rates, political donations, and feelings towards opposing parties. For economic behaviour, we consider consumption decisions, saving decisions, and economic prosperity. Taken together, these measures provide a comprehensive picture of both political identification and economic behaviour, which allows us to answer the question whether religious de-identification causes either political polarisation or increased focus on materialistic pursuits.

Regression to the extreme: Why are we becoming increasingly polarised? (2022-2024) with Paul Dolan

Communist propaganda, proxy wars and political violence: Evidence from Greece (2023-2024) with Vasileios Logothetis

Working Papers

Origin of (A)symmetry: The Evolution of Out-Party Distrust in the United States (2023) – with B. Klein Teeselink

Research in political psychology suggests that conservatives are more certainty-seeking than liberals, which makes them less receptive to information that conflicts with their political identity and more predisposed towards in-group/out-group bias. As a consequence, some argue that polarization is stronger on the right than on the left and that conservatives are more likely to support governments run by their own side and more distrustful of governments run by their political opponents. This so-called asymmetric president-in-power effect might tilt the political playing field in favor of Republicans. The current paper calls into question some of these findings by examining the evolution of the president-in-power effect between 1974 and 2021. Mirroring the general rise in polarization, we document a steady increase in the effect both on the right and on the left. Contrasting the narrative that polarization is stronger on the right, however, we find evidence that the president-in-power effect has grown stronger among Democrats than Republicans. To explain this finding, we show that highly educated people, who display a stronger president-in-power effect than lower educated people, have shifted towards the left in recent years. Taken together, our results paint a nuanced picture of asymmetric polarization picture that highlights the importance of studying the evolution of partisan biases over time.

Weather to Protest: The Effect of Black Lives Matter Protests on the 2020 Presidential Election (2021) – w. Bouke Klein Teeselink

Do mass mobilizations bring about social change? Prior research provides mixed findings on whether large-scale collective action helps protesters further their cause. This paper adds new evidence to this debate by investigating the causal impact of racial injustice protests on the 2020 presidential election. Following the death of G. P. Floyd Jr. on 25 May 2020, a series of Black Lives Matter protests erupted across the US. Using cross-county variation in rainfall as an exogenous source of variation in protests, we document a marked shift in support for the Democratic candidate in counties that experienced more protesting activity. As a consequence, BLM protests might have tilted the election in favor of the democratic party. We additionally document that BLM protests did not affect the overall turnout rate, which suggests that the increase in Democratic support primarily resulted from a progressive shift among undecided voters. 

Partisanship, Government Responsibility and Charitable Donations (2022) – w. Bouke Klein Teeselink

A large literature in public economics seeks to answer whether government activity crowds out charitable donations, but the empirical evidence is mixed. To resolve this inconsistency, we consider that people base their donation decisions not only on government spending per se, but also on their support of the government. Using US tax return data, we find that support for the incumbent president crowds out charitable donations. The reduction in donations cannot be explained by changes in government spending, beliefs about government spending, government grants to Republican or Democrat-leaning charities, or fundraising activity. Instead, it is consistent with the notion that partisans attribute greater problem-solving responsibilities to own-party governments.

Who needs security in a crisis? Evidence from a field experiment in Lebanon (2022) – w. Yara Sleiman, Elisabetta Pietrostefani & Henrietta Moore

A large body of literature in economics and development seeks to understand the workings of informality in labor markets. While extensive research has been conducted on the effects of informality on the economy, the empirical evidence about which employees enter the informal labor market remains mixed. This study aims to shed light on individual preferences for formal and informal work arrangements in a context of severe uncertainty. Drawing on qualitative insights from focus group discussions, we contextualize and operationalize informality within the Lebanese labor market and design a field discrete choice experiment (N=1,450) to elicit employment preferences. Our findings indicate that employees tend to favor job choices that offer social protection and private insurance but do not require formal contracts, even when these jobs lack specific skill requirements. A subsequent Latent Class Analysis enabled us to identify distinct skill-level typologies of informal workers. We found significant differences in their valuation of social security coverage, with high-skilled workers showing a lower preference for jobs with formal protection. The results have broad policy implications for tax and social security legislation.