Alberto Alesina

Alberto Alesina
Harvard University | Harvard · Department of Economics

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308
Publications
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Publications

Publications (308)
Article
Does immigration change support for redistribution? We design and conduct large-scale surveys and experiments in six countries to investigate how people perceive immigrants and how these perceptions influence their support for redistribution. We find striking misperceptions about the number and characteristics of immigrants. In all countries, respo...
Article
We analyze the effect of immigration on attitudes toward income redistribution in twenty-eight European countries over the period 2002 to 2012, before the “refugee crisis.” We find that native workers lower their support for redistribution if the share of immigration in their country is high. This effect is larger for individuals who hold negative...
Article
Democracies and dictatorships have different incentives when it comes to choosing how much and by what means to homogenise the population, i.e., ‘to build a nation’. We study and compare nation-building policies under the transition from dictatorship to democracy in a model where the type of government and borders of the country are endogenous. We...
Article
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This paper explores how wars make nations, above and beyond their need to raise the fiscal capacity to finance warfare. As army size increases, states change the conduct of war, switching from mercenaries to mass conscript armies. In order for the population to accept fighting and enduring wars, the government elites provide public goods, reduce re...
Article
Using a new dataset, we investigate violence against women in Africa. We focus on cultural factors arising from pre‐colonial customs, and show that these factors determined social norms about gender roles, family structures and intra‐family violence, which persisted even when the initial conditions change. A first set of ancestral characteristics r...
Article
This paper provides a simple conceptual framework that captures how different perceptions, attitudes, and biases about immigrants or minorities can shape preferences for redistribution and reviews the empirical evidence on the effects of increasing racial diversity and immigration on support for redistribution.
Article
Americans are polarized not only in their views on policy issues and attitudes toward government and society but also in their perceptions of the same factual reality. We conceptualize how to think about the “polarization of reality” and review recent papers that show that Republicans and Democrats view the same reality through a different lens. Pe...
Article
We review the debate surrounding the macroeconomic effects of deficit reduction policies (austerity). The discussion about "austerity" in general has distracted commentators and policymakers from a very important result, namely the enormous difference, on average, between expenditure- and tax-based austerity plans. Spending-based austerity plans ar...
Preprint
Full-text available
This paper reports empirical evidence supporting the hypothesis that family ties should be listed among the causes of tax evasion. In societies where the power of the family is very high, the quality of public institutions tends to be low. This connection shapes the behavior of taxpayers and generates underground economy. The econometric analysis i...
Article
We consider the role of a politician's age in Italian municipal governments. When the term limit is not binding, younger mayors engage in political budget cycles more often than older mayors. Thus younger politicians behave more strategically in response to electoral incentives, probably because they expect to have a longer political career and str...
Article
The literature on fiscal multipliers is far from having reached an agreed upon conclusion. One result, however, seems very robust: in OECD economies, fiscal consolidations based upon expenditure cuts are much less costly than those performed on the tax side. The purpose of this paper is twofold. First, we review recent evidence which considers mult...
Article
Using data from 16 OECD countries from 1981 to 2014 we study the effects on output of fiscal adjustments as a function of the composition of the adjustment—that is, whether the adjustment is mostly based on spending cuts or on tax hikes—and of the state of the business cycle when the adjustment is implemented. We find that both the “how” and the “w...
Article
Full-text available
We study the historical origins of cross-country differences in the male-to-female sex ratio. Our analysis focuses on the use of the plough in traditional agriculture. In societies that did not use the plough, women tended to participate in agriculture as actively as men. By contrast, in societies that used the plough, men specialized in agricultur...
Data
Distribution of sex ratios for different age groups. The figure shows the distribution of sex ratio by age groups. (TIF)
Data
Language groups and traditional plough use within Ethiopia. The figure show which of the language groups (from Ethnologue) have ancestors that used the plough (this information is taken from the Ethnographic Atlas). (TIF)
Data
Supplementary Material for traditional agricultural practices and the sex ratio today. The Supplementary Material provides details on the data sources and the robustness of the analysis for the results derived in the paper. (DOCX)
Data
Population density and language groups within Ethiopia. The figure shows a map of the land inhabited by different language groups, i.e. groups speaking different languages or dialects. Each polygon represents the approximate borders of a group (from Ethnologue). A darker background shade indicates a more densely populated area. These data are from...
Data
Partial correlation plot: ancestral plough use and the sex ratio at birth (boys per 100 girls). The sample includes 153 countries. The sex ratio is a quinquennial average from 1960–2000. The specification includes continent fixed effects, historical covariates (economic complexity, political hierarchies, the presence of large animals, agricultural...
Data
The partial correlation between ancestral plough use and sex ratio between ages 0 and 4, after the inclusion of continent fixed effects, and historical and contemporaneous controls. The graph shows the correlation between historical plough use and the sex ratio between ages 0 and 4 (boys per 100 girls) for a sample of 153 countries during the perio...
Data
Replication package. This zip file contains the underlying dataset and the STATA do-file used to replicate the results of the manuscript. (ZIP)
Data
Ancestral plough use across countries. The figure shows the fraction of each country’s population with ancestors that used the plough in pre-industrial agriculture. (TIF)
Data
The partial correlation between ancestral plough use and sex ratio between ages 0 and 1, after the inclusion of continent fixed effects, and historical and contemporaneous controls. The graph shows the correlation between historical plough use and sex ratio between ages 0 and 1 (boys per 100 girls) for a sample of 153 countries during the period 19...
Article
The introduction of a new real estate taxes in Italy in 2011 provides a natural experiment, which is useful to test for political budget cycles. The new real estate tax allowed discretion to local governments. This generates a random variation in the distance of municipalities from the following elections when they choose the level of the tax rate....
Article
Full-text available
Employing a wide range of individual-level surveys, we study the extent of cultural and institutional heterogeneity within the European Union and how this changed between 1980 and 2009. We present several novel empirical regularities that paint a complex picture. Although Europe has experienced both systematic economic convergence and an increased...
Article
Full-text available
The diversity of people has economic costs and benefits. Using recent immigration data from 195 countries, we propose an index of diversity based on people’s birthplaces. This new index is decomposed in a “size” (share of foreign born) and a variety (diversity of immigrants) component and is available for 1990 and 2000 and for the overall as well a...
Article
Full-text available
A growing body of empirical work measuring different types of cultural traits has shown that culture matters for a variety of economic outcomes. This paper focuses on one specific aspect of the relevance of culture: its relationship to institutions. We review work with a theoretical, empirical, and historical bent to assess the presence of a two-wa...
Article
Full-text available
The conventional wisdom is (i) that fiscal austerity was the main culprit for the recessions experienced by many countries, especially in Europe, since 2010 and (ii) that this round of fiscal consolidation was much more costly than past ones. The contribution of this paper is a clarification of the first point and, if not a clear rejection, at leas...
Article
This paper studies whether fiscal corrections cause large output losses. We find that it matters crucially how the fiscal correction occurs. Adjustments based upon spending cuts are much less costly in terms of output losses than tax-based ones. Spending-based adjustments have been associated with mild and short-lived recessions, in many cases with...
Article
Many nondemocratic countries held regular or semi-regular elections even for top o¢ cials, often plagued with fraud. In this paper, we assume that every regime is threatened by mass protests, and elections, even fraudulent, convey information about the real number of supporters of the regime. If the regime is su¢ ciently con…dent, making this infor...
Article
How did the Black Plague change work and family opportunities for women?
Article
We study the role of the most primitive institution in society: the family. Its organization and relationship between generations shape values formation, economic outcomes and influences national institutions. We use a measure of family ties, constructed from the World Values Survey, to review and extend the literature on the effect of family ties...
Article
Nations stay together when citizens share enough values and preferences and can communicate with each other. Homogeneity amongst people can be built with education, teaching a common language to facilitate communication, but also by brute force such as prohibiting local cultures. Democracies and non-democracies have different incentives when it com...
Article
The Great Recession has severely hit the economies of most of the countries. Given that, fiscal policies have gained back a central role in the debate as a tool to recover from this situation. This paper provides an overview about the main controversial issues related to the fiscal policy. In particular, we analyze the role and the different effect...
Article
This study explores the consequences and origins of contemporary differences in well-being across ethnic groups within countries. We construct measures of ethnic inequality combining ethnolinguistic maps on the spatial distribution of groups with satellite images of light density at night. Ethnic inequality is strongly inversely related to per capi...
Article
This paper offers three results. First, in line with the previous literature we confirm that fiscal adjustments based mostly on the spending side are less likely to be reversed. Second, spending based fiscal adjustments have caused smaller recessions than tax-based fiscal adjustments. Finally, certain combinations of policies have made it possible...
Article
Fiscal consolidations achieved by means of spending cuts are much less costly in terms of output losses than tax-based ones. The difference cannot be explained by accompanying policies, including monetary policy, and it is mainly due to the different response of business confidence and private investment. We obtain these results by studying the eff...
Article
This note proves that if individuals care about fairness in society ac-cording to Alesina and Angeletos' (2005) insight, the resulting political economy outcome can generate multiple equilibria if and only if unde-served luck a¤ects individual success. We also extend that result to a probabilistic voting framework. JEL classi…cation: D31, E62, H2,...
Article
The conventional wisdom regarding the political consequences of large reductions of budget de…cits is that they are very costly for the governments which implement them: they are punished by voters at the following elections. In the present paper, instead, we …nd no evidence that governments which quickly reduce budget de…cits are systematically vo...
Article
Full-text available
We investigate how the link between individual schooling and political participation is affected by country characteristics. Using individual survey data, we find that political participation is more responsive to schooling in land-abundant countries, and less responsive in human capital-abundant countries, even while controlling for country politi...
Article
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I compare unemployment expectations from the Michigan Survey of Consumers to VAR forecastable movements in unemployment. I document three key facts. First, one-half to one-third of the population expects unemployment to rise when it is falling at the end of a recession even though the VAR predicts the fall in unemployment. Second, more people expec...
Article
Until recently, Colombia was regarded as a success story in terms of economic growth and stability. To a large extent, this reputation was based on the macroeconomic performance between the 1930s and 1970s, which was characterized by increasing GDP growth rates combined with a reduction in volatility (measured by the standard deviation in growth ra...
Article
Full-text available
Researchers have scrutinized foreign aid's effects on poverty and growth, but anecdotal evidence suggests that donors often use aid for other ends. We test whether donors use bilateral aid to influence elections in developing countries. We find that recipient country administrations closely aligned with a donor receive more aid during election year...
Article
Does policymakers' horizon affect their willingness to support economic reforms? Voting in the U.S. Congress provides an ideal setting to address this question: differences between the House and Senate, in which members serve two-year and six-year mandates respectively, allow to examine the role of term length; the staggered structure of the Senate...
Article
Full-text available
This paper seeks to better understand the historical origins of current differences in norms and beliefs about the appropriate role of women in society. We test the hypothesis that traditional agricultural practices influenced the historical gender division of labor and the evolution and persistence of gender norms. We find that, consistent with ex...
Article
This paper proposes a test of racial bias in capital sentencing based upon patterns of judicial errors in lower courts. We model the behavior of the trial court as minimizing a weighted sum of the probability of sentencing an innocent and that of letting a guilty defendant free. We define racial bias as a situation where the relative weight on the...
Article
Gender-based taxation (GBT ) satisfies Ramsey's rule because it taxes at a lower rate the more elastic labor supply of women. We study GBT in a model in which labor elasticities emerge endogenously from intrahousehold bargaining. We explore the cases of superior bargaining power for men, higher male wages, and higher female home productivity. In al...
Article
Elections between black and white candidates tend to involve close mar-gins and high turnout. Using a novel dataset of municipal vote returns during the rise of black mayors in U.S. cities, this paper establishes new facts about turnout and competition in close interracial elections. In the South, but not the North, close black victories were more...
Article
Full-text available
The current study finds that societies which historically engaged in plough agriculture today have lower fertility. We argue, and provide ethnographic evidence, that the finding is explained by the fact that with plough agriculture, children, like women, are relatively less useful in the field. The plough requires strength and eliminates the need f...
Article
Protectionism is a costly mechanism to redistribute from the average citizen to special-interest groups, yet protectionist political platforms have a surprising popular appeal. At the same time, I present evidence of a Dracula e¤ect: protec-tion declines when public information is greater. I explain both facts through an electoral model with hetero...
Article
This paper investigates whether or not the adoption of the Euro has facilitated the introduction of structural reforms, defined as deregulation in the product markets and liberalization and deregulation in the labor markets. After reviewing the theoretical arguments that may link the adoption of the Euro and structural reforms, we investigate the e...
Article
This paper investigates whether or not the adoption of the Euro has facilitated the introduction of structural reforms, defined as deregulation in the product markets and liberalization and deregulation in the labor markets. After reviewing the theoretical arguments that may link the adoption of the Euro and structural reforms, we investigate the e...
Article
We study which policy tool and at what level would be chosen by majority voting to reduce negative externalities, such as pollution. We consider three instruments: a rule, that sets an upper limit to the polluting activity, a quota that obliges to proportional reduction, and a tax on the activity. For all instruments the majority chooses too restri...
Article
Full-text available
Female labor force participation can be influenced by persistent dif-ferences in cultural norms about the perception of women in society. We empirically examine where these differences come from. Central to our explanation are historic differences in agricultural technologies, which generated historical differences in the organization of market ver...
Article
The fundamental question for economists is to understand why certain countries, (nations, regions) have developed successfully while others are lagging behind. Answering this question will of course help in understanding how to defeat poverty. In recent years economists have made progress by extending the realm of variables included in their models...
Article
In this paper we critically review the literature on the political economy of monetary policy, with an eye on the questions raised by the recent financial crisis. We begin with a discussion of rules versus discretion. We then examine the issue of Central Banks independence both in normal times, in times of crisis. Then we review the literature of e...
Article
Evidence from the International Crime Victimization Survey and the World Business Environment Survey suggests that actual corruption experience is a weak predictor of reported corruption perception, and that some of the factors commonly found to "reduce" corruption, such as economic development, democratic institutions or Protestant traditions, sys...
Article
Europe experienced a "Commercial Revolution" in the late Middle Ages. We present new data that document this transformation using information on city incorporation and market establishment. We then test whether universities played a causal role in expanding economic activity, examining the consequences of their exogenous establishment in Germany fo...
Article
Flexible labor markets requires geographically mobile workers to be efficient. Otherwise, firms can take advantage of the immobility of workers and extract monopsony rents. In cultures with strong family ties, moving away from home is costly. Thus, individuals with strong family ties rationally choose regulated labor markets to avoid moving and lim...
Article
Full-text available
Given falling birth rates, ageing baby boomers approaching retirement age as well as a pension crisis in most advanced economies, understanding the characteristics of the labour supply function of the elderly have taken on a new significance. Even in developing countries, with labour surplus economies, this is a major issue as these poor countries...
Article
This paper provides a survey on studies that analyze the macroeconomic effects of intellectual property rights (IPR). The first part of this paper introduces different patent policy instruments and reviews their effects on R&D and economic growth. This part also discusses the distortionary effects and distributional consequences of IPR protection a...
Article
Full-text available
This paper provides a survey on studies that analyze the macroeconomic effects of intellectual property rights (IPR). The first part of this paper introduces different patent policy instruments and reviews their effects on R&D and economic growth. This part also discusses the distortionary effects and distributional consequences of IPR protection a...
Article
We examine the evidence on episodes of large stances in fiscal policy, both in cases of fiscal stimuli and in that of fiscal adjustments in OECD countries from 1970 to 2007. Fiscal stimuli based upon tax cuts are more likely to increase growth than those based upon spending increases. As for fiscal adjustments, those based upon spending cuts and no...
Article
Full-text available
In 2003, Congress introduced new legislation to subsidize prescription drug insurance for Medicare recipients; Medicare "Part D" will cost nearly $1 trillion over the next ten years. In this paper, I analyze the incidence of this subsidy by inferring producer surplus from the stock market returns to pharmaceutical firms. I first obtain a measure of...
Article
Full-text available
In einem weltweiten Appell vom 2. Oktober 2008 haben führende Ökonomen aus Europa und den USA, darunter DIW-Präsident Klaus F. Zimmermann, die europäischen Staaten zu einem ge meinsamen Vorgehen in der Finanzmarktkrise aufgerufen. Die Krise sei noch be-herrschbar – nur ein schnelles, europaweit koordiniertes Vorgehen könne aber verhindern, dass sie...
Article
Full-text available
This study analyzes the effects of right-wing extremism on the well-being of immigrants based on data from the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) for the years 1984 to 2006 merged with state-level information on election outcomes. The results show that the life satisfaction of immigrants is significantly reduced if right-wing extremism in the nativ...
Article
This paper provides a survey on studies that analyze the macroeconomic effects of intellectual property rights (IPR). The first part of this paper introduces different patent policy instruments and reviews their effects on R&D and economic growth. This part also discusses the distortionary effects and distributional consequences of IPR protection a...
Article
Full-text available
This paper investigates the relationship between the size of interest groups in terms of voter representation and the interest group's campaign contributions to politicians. We uncover a robust hump-shaped relationship between the voting share of an interest group and its contri-butions to a legislator. This pattern is rationalized in a simultaneou...
Article
This paper investigates whether or not the adoption of the Euro has facilitated the introduction of structural reforms, defined as deregulation in the product markets and liberalization and deregulation in the labor markets. After reviewing the theoretical arguments that may link the adoption of the Euro and structural reforms, we investigate the e...
Article
We provide a new compilation of data on ethnic, linguistic, and religious composition at the subnational level for a large number of countries. Using these data, we measure segregation of groups within the country. To overcome the endogeneity problem that arises because of mobility and endogenous internal borders, we construct an instrument for seg...
Article
Time and value are related concepts that influence human behaviour. Although classical topics in human thinking throughout the ages, few environmental economic non-market valuation studies have attempted to link the two concepts. Economists have estimated non-market environmental values in monetary terms for over 30 years. This history of valuation...
Article
We analyze a model in which voters are uncertain about the policy preferences of candidates. Two forces affect the probability of electoral success: proximity to the median voter and campaign contributions. First, we show how campaign contributions affect elections. Then we show how the candidates may wish to announce a range of policy preferences,...
Article
Full-text available
What determines the enforcement of reform of business regulation? What are the outcomes of such reform? We address these questions using an episode of a drastic reform in Russia between 2001 and 2004 which liberalized registration, licensing, and inspections. Based on the analysis of micro-level panel data on regulatory burden, we find that: 1) On...
Article
Policies are typically chosen by politicians and bureaucrats. This paper investigates first the normative criteria with which to allocate policy tasks to elected policymakers (politicians) or non-elected bureaucrats. Politicians are preferable if there is uncertainty about social preferences and flexibility is valuable, or if policy complementariti...
Article
Full-text available
Fiscal policy is procyclical in many developing countries. We explain this policy failure with a political agency problem. Procyclicality is driven by voters who seek to "starve the Leviathan" to reduce political rents. Voters observe the state of the economy but not the rents appropriated by corrupt governments. When they observe a boom, voters op...