Working Papers

Fairness in times of crisis: Negative shocks, relative income, and preferences for redistribution (Job Market Paper)

This paper investigates whether and how negative economic shocks affect redistributive preferences. Informed by a theoretical framework, I design an experiment that exogenously varies an individual's experience of negative income shocks before they decide how to redistribute resources. Furthermore, the experiment introduces exogenous differences in relative income, distinguishing between poorer individuals who benefit from redistribution and richer individuals who benefit from the status quo. The results provide causal evidence that redistributive decisions depend on relative income, with poorer individuals favouring higher levels of redistribution. Moreover, the effect of negative shocks is conditional on relative income. While poorer individuals do not respond to shocks, richer individuals become more opposed to redistribution when they are hit by a shock, but more supportive of redistribution if poorer individuals are affected. A follow-up study extends these findings by bringing real world income shocks caused by the recent Covid-19 crisis into the experiment.


Strategic Behavior with Tight, Loose and Polarized Norms (with Eugen Dimant, Michele Gelfand & Silvia Sonderegger)

Descriptive norms – the behavior of other individuals in one’s reference group – play a key role in shaping individual decisions. When characterizing the behavior of others, a standard approach in the literature is to focus on average behavior. In this paper, we argue both theoretically and empirically that not only averages, but the shape of the whole distribution of behavior can play a crucial role in how people react to descriptive norms. Using a representative sample of the U.S. population, we experimentally investigate how individuals react to strategic environments that are characterized by different distributions of behavior, focusing on the distinction between tight (i.e., characterized by low behavioral variance), loose (i.e., characterized by high behavioral variance), and polarized (i.e., characterized by u-shaped behavior) environments. We find that individuals indeed strongly respond to differences in the variance and shape of the descriptive norm they are facing: loose norms generate greater behavioral variance and polarization generates polarized responses. In polarized environments, most individuals prefer extreme actions that expose them to considerable strategic risk to intermediate actions that would minimize such risk. Importantly, we also find that, in polarized and loose environments, personal traits and values play a larger role in determining actual behavior. This provides important insights into how individuals navigate environments that contain strategic uncertainty.


5 minute presentation on this paper (NoBeC Early Career Researchers series)

Work in Progress

Avoidable mistakes: to hide or not to hide? (with Malte Baader, Sarah Bowen & Richard Mills)

Data collection completed

Does Inequality threaten Stability? Evidence from the Lab (with Abigail Barr & Silvia Sonderegger)

Draft in preperation

Gender differences in reference letters: Economic significance and behavioural mechanisms

(with Markus Eberhardt, Giovanni Facchini, Valeria Rueda & Fabio Tufano)

Data collection completed

Improving Equity in Education through Youth Mentoring: An Evaluation of a Randomized Intervention in Colombia

(with Diego Amador, Diego Aycinena, Sebastian Fehrler, Urs Fischbacher, Andrés Moya, Guido Schwerdt & Angélica Serrano)

Data collection ongoing

Too Good to be True - Individual and Group Decision-Making with Correlated Signals (with Sebastian Fehrler & Moritz Janas)

Data collection completed