Author Archives: tjg

Dr Fernanda Lopez de Leon

Social Effects of the Vote of the Majority: Field-Experiment on the Brexit-Vote

by Fernanda L. Lopez de Leon, School of Economics and Markus Bindemann, School of Psychology, University of Kent. Discussion paper KDPE 1905, April 2019.

Non-technical summary:

The UK is scheduled to leave the EU this year. The current plans include the end of free movement. According to the Prime Minister, May, this is crucial in delivering the Brexit for which people voted in 2016. In fact, the Brexit results were widely perceived as a statement against immigration, voiced by 17 million in the country.

Did the Brexit-vote change citizens’ attitudes towards immigrants living in the UK?

The information – inferred by the Referenda results – on the population’s views about immigration could have triggered a change. Individuals could have adapted their attitudes accordingly, with an empowerment of anti-social attitudes – in line with the view that the Brexit result unearthed racism – or by refraining pre-existent views and attitudes in a way to conform to the vote of the majority.

We conducted a field-experiment among 342 individuals in the South East of England in 2017-18, to test whether the Brexit vote had triggered anti-social attitudes towards immigrants.

Using a computerized quiz, we provided truthful information on how the local majority voted, but on selected constituencies. These were selected in a seemingly random way by the computer. We made use of the fact that although most people might know that 52% voted to Leave, less is known the local support for Brexit, so we were providing novel information.

For one group, the ‘Remain’, individuals were informed about referenda results for nearby constituencies whose majority voted to remain in the EU. The ‘Leave’ group, were informed about nearby constituencies where the majority voted to leave the EU, and for the control group, we informed about constituencies’ demographic composition. Individuals generalised the information we gave – that the local majority voted in favour or against the UK to leave the EU – to other places in the country. Overall, individuals assigned to the ‘Leave’ condition guessed that the percentage of votes to leave the EU was 18 percentage points higher, on average, than individuals assigned to the ‘Remain’ condition.

We use this experiment to investigate how the perception of a larger local support for Brexit affects individuals’ extrinsic and intrinsic attitudes towards immigrants in the UK. We find no impacts on individuals’ intrinsic prejudice, measured by Implicit Association Tests – a test used in social psychology, that measures views at an unconscious level. However, we did detect effects of the information about how the majority voted – on some extrinsic attitudes towards immigrants. These are visible in self-reported views on policies and in real money allocations among participants.

Some of our main findings are:

We find no impact of the Brexit-vote on the demand for more restricted immigration policies. No effects were noticed on the demand for quotas for settlement for Europeans, quotas for settlement for non-Europeans or establishment of targets to reduce immigration. We also find no impact of the Brexit vote on the support for immigrants to live on own and separate neighbourhoods.

However, the information that the majority is supporting ‘Leave’ than ‘Remain’ affected views on other policies. Participants in the ‘Leave’ condition were less likely to agree that “the NHS should be free to use for all” (‘Leave’ 35.2% versus ‘Remain’ 46.3%). Also participants in the ‘Leave’ condition were more likely to agree with the UKIP proposed policy that ‘Britain should end multi-lingual formatting of official documents’ (‘Leave’ 25% versus ‘Remain’ 14.7%).

During the survey, participants were asked to split a bonus of £10 between themselves and another participant. We varied the name of the recipient to be: Henry (UK name), Hans (German name) and Pawel (Polish name), and investigate whether group-biases (confirmed in case of larger donations to Henry and lower donations to Pawel or Hans) were more accentuated in the ‘Leave’ condition. Our results do not fully corroborate that. The information that the majority voted to ‘Leave’ led to lower donations in general – both to Henry and to Hans (but not to Pawel). This is more in line with the explanation that people might feel poorer and hence less generous under the thought that the majority support ‘Leave’.

Overall, our findings suggest that the population infers information from referenda results that manifests as changes in attitudes. In the Brexit case, we find some evidence that immigrants are viewed in a more negative light. For example, participants in the ‘Leave’ condition were more likely to agree that “foreign people in the UK who receive state support could get along without it if they tried harder” (‘Leave’ 39.4% vs ‘Remain’ 27.3%).

You can read the complete paper here.

Isaure Delaport

Ethnic Identity and the Employment Outcomes of Immigrants: Evidence from France

by Isaure Delaporte, University of Kent. Discussion paper KDPE 1904, May 2019.

Non-technical summary:

Although ethnic identity is potentially an important determinant of the immigrants’ labour market outcomes, the effect remains unclear. On one hand, immigrants who are not committed to the host country culture might suffer from a lack of host country specific human capital. They are also likely to interact mostly with co-ethnics and to experience labour market discrimination. Besides, a strong attachment to the origin country culture is often associated with traditional gender norms. All these effects would in turn lead to lower labour market outcomes.

On the other hand, ethnic identity can be seen as an additional input that increases the cultural capital and the social capital of the migrant. Employers might also want to diversify the set of individual skills in the workplace to allow for complementarities in production. In this sense, immigrants who are attached to both the culture of their country of origin and the culture of the host country can have better employment outcomes.

The objective of this paper is twofold: first, to determine the immigrants’ ethnic identity, i.e. the degree of identification to the culture and society of the country of origin and the host country and second, to investigate the impact of ethnic identity on the immigrants’ employment outcomes. To answer these questions, this study uses a rich French survey named Trajectoires et Origines (TeO). The extensive information provided by the data allows the construction of two richer measures of ethnic identity than the ones used in the literature, namely: i) the degree of commitment to the origin country culture and ii) the extent to which the individual holds multiple identities.

The results show that having multiple identities increases the probability of being employed for both the first- and the second-generation immigrants while having a minority identity does not affect the migrants’ probability of being employed. The results obtained contribute to help design effective post-immigration policies. They have important implications for improving the economic outcomes of the migrants and in turn enriching receiving countries.

You can download the complete paper here.

Prof Tony Thirlwall

The Determinants of Tax Revenue and Tax Effort in Developed and Developing Countries: Theory and New Evidence 1995-2015

by Marcelo Piancastelli, IPEA, and A.P. Thirlwall, University of Kent. Discussion paper KDPE 1903, April 2019.

Non-technical summary:

Tax Revenue is necessary for the provision of public goods and to pay for social expenditures. Developing countries are in particular need of both, where tax revenue is often less than 20 percent of GDP. This paper attempts to assess the tax effort of a selection of both developing and developed countries over the period 1995 to 2015 by estimating an international tax function, which makes the tax revenue of countries a function of the level of per capita income; the share of trade in GDP; the monetisation of an economy, and the productive structure of countries, and then comparing actual tax revenue with that predicted from the estimated model. Tax effort is measured by the ratio of the actual tax/GDP ratio to the predicted ratio. Seventeen of the thirty-four developing countries taken are estimated to have a weak tax effort with a ratio less than unity. Policy recommendations include widening the tax base; tacking avoidance and evasion, and linking international aid to tax effort.

You can download the complete paper here.

bank notes, cash, coins

Expert comment: UK economy grows but labour productivity continues to stagnate

Professor Miguel Leon-Ledesma from the School of Economics notes that despite a small rise in UK GDP there are areas of concern, not least stagnating labour productivity.

‘According to ONS figures, GDP grew by 0.2% in the UK between November 2018 and January 2019. This is the “rolling three-month” release that is not comparable with quarterly growth statistics in National Accounts and is a provisional figure. It is important to note that these figures are likely to be revised in the future. Since revisions normally range between 0.1 and 0.2 percentage points, we cannot make much out of the number and it should be treated with caution…’

The full article can be viewed on the University of Kent website here.

Dr Christian Siegel

Make Yourselves Scarce: The Effect of Demographic Change on the Relative Wages and Employment Rates of Experienced Workers

by Prof Michael J. Böhm, University of Bonn and Dr Christian Siegel, University of Kent. Discussion paper KDPE 1902, March 2019.

Non-technical summary:

Many developed economies have experienced a rapid aging of their workforces and are projected to age further. This demographic change has substantial effects on the labor market by changing relative supplies of older and younger (or experienced and inexperienced) workers, and thereby on their relative wages as argued by previous literature. In this paper we establish that the overall effects of demographic change on the labor market are much more far reaching as also employment rates are impacted.

From an empirical point of view, it is quite difficult to study the effects of demographic change in aggregate data, as important other variables (including technology, policy, and society) change at the same time. We therefore devise a novel identification strategy in this context, based on the differential aging of local labor markets. In particular, we construct an instrumental variable for local experience, which exploits the largely predetermined age structure and which allows us to estimate the causal effects of experience supply.

Specifically, we study both the effect of demographic change on relative wages as well as on relative employment rates of experienced workers. We find that increased experience supply, induced by the ageing of the workforce, not only reduces experienced workers’ relative wages, but also the relative fraction of experienced individuals in employment compared to inexperienced individuals, in line with the predictions of our theoretical model. We further investigate this novel effect in more detail and find that it is fully driven by experienced workers’ labor force participation, rather than unemployment. We also demonstrate that a substantial part of the effect is through claiming social security income.

These results are potentially very important for policy design, especially of old-age benefits systems, as they highlight that (experienced) workers’ participation rates should not be viewed as constants nor as following secular trends alone. Instead our findings imply that a more abundant group has a lower employment rate, which raises flags that the overall pressure from the aging of the baby boom cohort on social security systems might be larger than what projections based on exogenous participation rates would predict. Another implication of our finding is that aging affects labor market inequality across generations, with larger cohorts facing relatively lower employment and wage rates than smaller cohorts, ceteris paribus. Nonetheless, our results also suggest that demand shifts at the aggregate level over the last decades have been biased in favor of experience.

This prevented the wage return to experience from falling, despite the overall pronounced increase in experience supply.

You can download the complete paper here.

Professor Miguel Leon-Ledesma

The missing link: Monetary policy and the labour share

A research paper by Miguel León-Ledesma (Professor of Economics) together with Dr Cristiano Cantore (Bank of England) and Dr Filippo Ferroni (Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago) has been featured in VoxEU and Bank Underground (the research blog of the Bank of England).

‘How do monetary policy shocks affect the distribution of income between workers and owners of capital? Do workers benefit relatively more when policy changes? Using evidence from five developed economies, we show that the share of output allocated to wages (the ‘labour share’) temporarily increases following a positive shock to the interest rate. This means that the slice of the pie enjoyed by those whose earnings are mostly made up of wages increases at the expense of profits and capital income. Strikingly, this redistribution channel that shows up in the data runs precisely in the opposite direction to the predictions of standard New Keynesian models commonly used to study the effects of monetary policy.

Despite its importance, there is no systematic empirical evidence on the effect of monetary policy shocks on the labour share. Yet, structural models widely used for monetary policy analysis (Galí 2015) rely on a transmission mechanism that has clear implications for the evolution of the labour share following a monetary policy shock.’

Read the full blog posts here:


Bank Underground:

Dr Anirban Mitra

Political dynasties and vote-buying

Dr Anirban Mitra, Lecturer in Economics, has recently been awarded a British Academy Small Research Grant for his work on political dynasties and vote-buying. Anirban, together with his collaborator in India, Dr Arnab Mukherji (Indian Institute of Management Bangalore), will explore the connections between the issues of political dynasties and vote-buying with the aim of building a database for politicians in the State Legislatures of India to identify their family networks.

The research proposal is below:

Political dynasties exist in many countries – be they democratic or otherwise. Another issue which is salient worldwide is the practice of vote-buying in elections. This entails the use of campaign funds to ‘persuade’ voters – ahead of any impending elections – to cast their votes in a certain way. This is conceptually different from winning over voters through explication of the superiority of one’s policy platforms. It is a form of bribery, and is clearly against the very notion of fairness in democratic procedures. We propose to study the connections between the two issues namely, political dynasties and vote-buying. Specifically, we ask the following questions: to what extent is vote-buying linked to the existence political dynasties? Does the institution of political dynasties lead to a greater surge in vote-buying activities or not? Can this putative link shed light on the mechanisms shaping the organisation of political parties?

We propose to start building a database for politicians in the State Legislatures of India which would identify their family networks. Clearly, doing it for all the major states in India would require vast amounts of resources (including time) though undoubtedly such a database would be of considerable value to social scientists working on India. We propose to start work on three populous states in India – namely, Bihar, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh. This would allow us to work with a sample of 870 electoral constituencies followed over a decade; hence, allowing for around 2 elections in each constituency.

We plan to utilise this database to assess the implications for public goods provision (specifically, investments in health and education among other items) arising from the presence of political dynasties. We also hope to delve into the question as to how informal institutional features (like family structure, gender norms, etc.) may be crucial in determining how political dynasties arise in some societies and not others. This work will be critically dependent upon our understanding of the network of family ties that pervade the Indian political system.

Dr Christian Siegel

Engines of Sectoral Labor Productivity Growth

by Dr Zsófia L. Bárány, Sciences Po and CEPR and Dr Christian Siegel, University of Kent. Discussion paper KDPE 1901, March 2019.

Non-technical summary:

The fact that labor productivity growth is different across sectors is well known. Average annual labor productivity growth between 1960 and 2017 in the US, for instance, was 2.49% in the goods sector, much higher than the 1.53% in low-skilled and the 0.72% in high-skilled services. However, there is no consensus on the origins of these differences.

In this paper we study the drivers of sectoral labor productivity growth in a productionside framework. We consider various types of occupational labor as distinct factors in the sectoral production faction, allow for technological change to be sector-and-factor specific, and infer the evolution of the sector-and-factor specific technologies over time directly from the data drawing on the model’s optimality conditions.

Our results show that technological change has been very far from neutral. That we do not impose that sectoral technological change is factor-neutral, nor that factor-specific technological change is uniform across sectors, turns out to be crucial. Technologies have evolved at very differential rates, both across factors within each sector and across sectors for a given occupation or type of capital. In particular, amongst the labor-augmenting technologies those augmenting routine occupations have been growing the fastest in all sectors, but at very different rates: at 5.59% per year in goods, at 2.92% in low-skilled services and at 1.32% in high-skilled services.

Through a series of counterfactual simulations, we study the role of inputs and of technological change in labor productivity growth. We find that the single most important driver of sectoral labor productivity growth differences are the sector-specific growth rates of routine labor augmenting technologies. Without sector-specific routine labor augmenting technological change, labor productivity growth would have been almost equalized across sectors. This type of technological change explains at least 59 percent of labor productivity growth in low-skilled services, 74 percent in goods and 21 percent in high-skilled services. Moreover, in terms of labor productivity growth in the aggregate, we show that the contribution of routine labor augmenting technological change is large and increasing over time. In its absence aggregate growth would have been lower by about a third between 1960-1990, and there would have been hardly any growth over 1990-2017.

These counterfactuals also allow us to evaluate the role of various other channels proposed in the literature for sectoral productivity growth differences, such as differential capital intensities and capital accumulation, or differential sectoral intensities in occupational employment and technological change specific to occupations. We show that while capital accumulation contributes to labor productivity growth (without it growth would have been 39 percent lower on average), it does not generate the sectoral differences observed in the data. Similarly we find that in terms of occupational employment structure, differences across sectors as well as changes over time within sectors hardly matter for sectoral labor productivity differences.

You can download the complete paper here .

Dr Zaki Wahhaj

Early marriage and the persistence of traditional gender norms

An article based on research by the School’s Dr Zaki Wahhaj, Reader in Economics and his co-author Professor M. Niaz Asadullah from the University of Malaya, has been published in VoxDev titled ‘Research in Bangladesh shows how early marriage contributes towards women expressing more traditional gender attitudes’:

‘Traditional gender norms play a potentially important role in shaping women’s economic opportunities and outcomes. This idea is a key theme in Esther Boserup’s seminal account of women’s role in economic development (Boserup 1970). A growing body of empirical work also provides support for this hypothesis (e.g. Fernandez and Fogli 2009, Alesina et al. 2013). However, how these norms are sustained and recreated in each new generation, and how the cycle may be broken, are not understood nearly as well. In recent work (Asadullah and Wahhaj forthcoming), we present new evidence on a distinct social process for the transmission of traditional gender norms, namely, the experience of adolescent marriage among women. Marriage postponement increases disagreement with these gender norms – expressed, for example, in statements of the form “Boys require more nutrition than girls to be strong and healthy” – even among women who never went to school.’

Read the full article here.

Workshop: Microeconomic Approaches to Development Economics

The School of Economics is hosting a workshop, sponsored by the Royal Economic Society, on Microeconomic Approaches to Development Economics: Organisations, Institutions and the Mind.

The workshop will take place on 24-25 June 2019 at the University of Kent, and will bring together internationally leading and junior academics from the fields of Political Economy, Organisational Economics and Development Economics working on questions relating to identity, norms, motivation, belief formation and their effect on the functioning of institutions and organisations.

Confirmed speakers include Professors Sonia Bhalotra (University of Essex), Maitreesh Ghatak (LSE), Lakshmi Iyer (University of Notre Dame), Gilat Levy (LSE), and Dilip Mookherjee (Boston University).

Research presented at the workshop will include work that touches upon issues of direct policy relevance today, such as the effective functioning of political institutions in developed and developing countries, motivating workers in the public sector, changing cultural practices that entrench social inequality or economic inefficiency.

A call for papers for the workshop is now open. Submissions from early career researchers are especially welcome. Funding for accommodation (up to two nights) and travel (from within Europe) will be provided for one participant per accepted paper. The closing date for submissions is March 15, 2019. Papers should be sent to Amrit Amirapu at

For further information, see