Publications

Working Paper
Alesina, Alberto, Bryony Reich, and Paola Giuliano. Working Paper. “Nation Building, Nationalism and Wars”. Abstract
The increase in army size observed in early modern times changed the way states conducted wars. Starting in the late 18th century, states switched from mercenaries to a mass army by conscription. In order for the population to accept to fight and endure war, the government elites began to provide public goods, reduced rent extraction and adopted policies to homogenize the population with nation-building. This paper explores a variety of ways in which nation-building can be implemented and studies its effects as a function of technological innovation in warfare.
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Alesina, Alberto, Omar Bariero, Carlo Favero, Francesco Giavazzi, and Matteo Paradisi. Working Paper. “The Effects of Fiscal Consolidations: Theory and Evidence”. Abstract
We investigate the macroeconomic effects of fiscal consolidations based upon government spending cuts, transfers cuts and tax hikes. We extend a narrative dataset of fiscal consolidations, with details on over 3500 measures for 16 OECD countries. We show that government spending cuts and cuts in transfers are much less harmful than tax hikes, despite the fact that nondistortionary transfers are not classified as spending. Standard New Keynesian models robustly match our results when fiscal shocks are persistent. Wealth effects on aggregate demand mitigate the impact of a persistent spending cut. Static distortions caused by persistent tax hikes cause larger shifts in aggregate supply under sticky prices.
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Alesina, Alberto, Elie Murad, and Hillel Rapaport. Working Paper. “Immigration and Attitudes toward Redistribution in Europe”. Abstract
We examine the relationship between immigration and attitudes to redistribution by assembling a new dataset of immigrant stocks at the regional level in 140 regions of 16 Western European countries. We combine census and population register records with attitudinal data from the biannual 2002-2014 rounds of the European Social Survey. This data allows us to estimate this relationship by exploiting within-country variations in the share of immigrants across regions and by holding constant welfare policies set at the national level. We find that, relative to other co-nationals, native Europeans have lower support for redistribution when the share of immigrants in their region of residence is higher. This negative relationship between immigration and redistribution is robust to the inclusion of a rich set of regional and individual controls, as well as to using six alternative measures of preferences for redistribution. This negative correlation is confined to self-reported right-wing respondents while the preferences of left-leaning ones remain unaffected by the level of immigration. While immigration from EU15 countries have no detectable effects, immigration from non-European countries is strongly associated with lower support for redistribution. Results suggest the more culturally distant and the poorer are the immigrants, the stronger is the antiredistribution effect on natives
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Alesina, Alberto, Stefanie Stantcheva, and Armando Miano. Working Paper. “Immigration and Redistribution”. Abstract
We design and conduct large-scale surveys and experiments in six countries to investigate how natives' perceptions of immigrants influence their preferences for
redistribution. We find strikingly large biases in natives' perceptions of the number and characteristics of immigrants: in all countries, respondents greatly overestimate the total number of
immigrants, think immigrants are culturally and religiously more distant from them, and are economically weaker -- less educated, more unemployed, poorer, and more reliant on government transfers-- than is the case. While all respondents have misperceptions, those with the largest ones are systematically the right-wing, the non-college educated, and the low-skilled working in immigration-intensive sectors.
Support for redistribution is strongly correlated with the perceived composition of immigrants -- their origin and economic contribution. Given the very negative baseline views that respondents have of immigrants, simply making them think about immigration in a randomized manner makes them support less redistribution. To the contrary, experimentally showing respondents information about the true i) number, ii) origin, and iii) ``hard work'' of immigrants in their country manages to counteract and even outweigh the negative priors and generate more support for redistribution, including actual donations to charities.
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Alesina, Alberto, Carlo Favero, and Francesco Giavazzi. Working Paper. “'What do we know about the effects of austerity?'”.
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Alesina, Alberto, Carlo Favero, Francesco Giavazzi, Omar Barbiero, and Matteo Paradisi. Working Paper. “The Effects of Fiscal Consolidations: Theory and Evidence”. Abstract

 

We investigate the macroeconomic effects of fiscal consolidations based upon government spending cuts, transfers cuts and tax hikes. We extend a narrative dataset of fiscal consolidations, finding details on over 3500 measures. Government spending and transfer cuts are much less harmful than tax hikes. Standard New Keynesian mod- els match our results when fiscal shocks are persistent. Wealth effects on aggregate demand mitigates the impact of a persistent spending cut. Static distortions caused by persistent tax hikes cause larger shifts in aggregate supply under sticky prices. This channel explains different sizes of multipliers found in fiscal stimuli compared to consolidation plans.

 

 

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Alesina, Alberto, Gualtiero Azzalini, Carlo Favero, Francesco Giavazzi, and Armando Miano. Working Paper. “Is it the "How" or the "When" that Matters in Fiscal Adjustments?”. Abstract

 

Using data from 16 OECD countries from 1981 to 2014 we specify
a model that determines the output effect of fiscal adjustments as a function of the composition of the adjustment and the state of the cycle. We find that both the "how" and the "when" matter, but the heterogeneity related to the composition is more robust across different specifications. Adjustments based upon spending cuts are consistently much less costly than those based upon tax increases. Our results are not explained by different reactions of monetary policy. However, when the domestic central bank can set interest rates - that is outside of a currency union - it appears to be able to dampen the recessionary effects of tax-based consolidations implemented during a recession.

 

 

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Alberto Alesina, Stefanie Stantcheva, Edoardo Teso. Working Paper. “Intergenerational Mobility and Preferences for Redistribution”. Abstract

 

Using new cross-country survey and experimental data, we investigate how beliefs about
intergenerational mobility affect preferences for redistribution in France, Italy, Sweden, the
U.K., and the U.S.. Americans are more optimistic than Europeans about social mobility. Our randomized treatment shows pessimistic information about mobility and increases support for redistribution, mostly for “equality of opportunity” policies. We find a strong political polarization. Left-wing respondents are more pessimistic about mobility, their preferences for redistribution are correlated with their mobility percep- tions, and they support more redistribution after seeing pessimistic information. None of these apply to right-wing respondents, possibly because they see the government as
a “problem” and not as the “solution.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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NBER Working Paper No. 23027

Alesina, Alberto, and Francesco Passarelli. Working Paper. “Loss Aversion, Politics and Redistribution”. Abstract

We study loss aversion in majority voting.  First, we show a status quo
bias. Second, loss aversion implies a moderating effect. Third, in a dynamic setting, the effect of loss aversion diminishes with the length of the planning horizon of voters; however, in the presence of a projection bias, majorities are partially unable to understand how fast they will adapt. Fourth, in a stochastic environment, loss aversion yields a significant distaste for risk, but also a smaller attachment to the status quo. The application of these results to a model of redistribution leads to empirically plausible implications.
 

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Alesina, Alberto, Caterina Gennaioli, and Stefania Lovo. Working Paper. “Public Goods and Ethnic Diversity: Evidence from Deforestation in Indonesia”. Abstract

 

This paper shows that the level of deforestation in Indonesia is positively related
to the degree of ethnic fractionalization at the district level. To identify a casual rela- tion we exploit the exogenous timing of variations in the level of ethnic heterogeneity due to the creation of new jurisdictions. We provide evidence consistent with a lower control of politicians, through electoral punishment, in more ethnically fragmented districts. Our results bring a new perspective on the political economy of defor- estation. They are consistent with the literature on (under) provision of public goods and social capital in ethnically diverse societies and suggest that when the underlying communities are ethnically fractionalized decentralisation can reduce deforestation by delegating powers to more homogeneous communities.
 

 

 

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NBER WP 20504

2018
Alesina, Alberto, Sebastian Hohmann, Stelios Michalopoulos, and Elias Papaioannou. 2018. “Intergenerational Mobility in Africa”. Abstract
We investigate the evolution of inequality and intergenerational mobility in educational attainment in Africa. Using census data covering more than 50 million people in 23 countries we document the following regularities. First, since independence, inequality has fallen across countries and intergen-erational mobility has risen, reflecting the rise in education across the continent. Second, the overall drop in African inequality can be attributed mostly to declines in within-country, within-region and within-ethnicity components. Third, the initially moderate regional and ethnic differences in education persist, revealing strong inertia across these lines. Fourth, we describe the geography of educational mobility across regions and ethnic groups uncovering strong “poverty-trap” dynamics. Educational mo-bility is higher in regions and ethnicities with above-country-average schooling at independence. Fifth, we explore the geographic, historical, and contemporary correlates of intergenerational mobility both across regions and ethnic lines. Colonial investments correlate strongly with educational mobility, while geography and pre-colonial features play a lesser role. The analysis further uncovers “Gatsby Curve” dynamics with intergenerational mobility being low in regions with high inequality.
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2017
Alesina, Alberto, Bryony Reich, and Alessandro Riboni. 2017. “Nation-Building, Nationalism and Wars”. Abstract

The increase in army size observed in early modern times changed
the way states conducted wars. Starting in the late 18th century, states switched from mercenaries to a mass army by conscription. In order for the population to accept to fight and endure war, the government elites began to provide public goods, reduced rent extraction and adopted policies to homogenize the population with nation-building. This paper explores a variety of ways in which nation-building can be implemented and
studies its effects as a function of technological innovation in warfare.

 

 

 

 

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2016
Alesina, Alberto, and Andrea Passalacqua. 2016. “The Political Economy of Government Dept.” Handbook of Macroeconomics, 2: 2599-2651. North Holland.
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Alesina, Alberto, Salvatore Piccolo, and Paolo Pinotti. 2016. “Organized Crime, Violence and Politics”. Abstract

We show that in Sicily Mafia killings of politicians increase before elections and
have negative effects on the vote received by parties not captured by the Mafia. Then, using a very large data set of electoral speeches, we find strong evidence that anti-mafia activities by politicians elected in Sicily are, in fact, negatively correlated with the levels of pre-electoral violence. Using data on homicides in all regions of Italy starting from the end of the nineteenth century, we identify a political cycle of homicides only in regions with organized crime. We also show how this electoral cycle changes as a function of different electoral rules and the relative strength of captured and non-captured parties. All these empirical findings are rationalized by a simple signaling model in which criminal organizations exert pre-electoral violence to inform adverse politicians about their military strength.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Alesina, Alberto, Benedetta Brioschi, and Eliana La Ferrara. 2016. “Violence Against Women: A Cross-cultural Analysis for Africa”. Abstract

Using a new dataset, we investigate the determinants of violence
against women in Africa. We focus on cultural factors arising from pre-colonial customs and find evidence consistent with two hypotheses. First, ancient socioeconomic conditions determine social norms about gender roles, family structures and intrafamily violence which persist even when the initial conditions change. Norms about marriage patterns, living arrangements and the productive
role of women are associated with contemporary violence. Second, women’s contemporary economic role affects violence in a complex way which is itself related to traditional norms in ancient times and current bargaining power
within the marriage.

alesinabrioschilaferrara_violence_against_women.pdf
Alesina, Alberto, Stelios Michalopoulos, and Elias Papaioannou. 2016. “Ethnic Inequality.” Journal of Political Economy 124 (2): 428-488.
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Alesina, Alberto, Johann Harnoss, and Hillel Rapoport. 2016. “Birthplace Diversity and Economic Prosperity”. Abstract

We propose an index of population diversity based on people’s birthplaces and decompose it into a size (share of foreign-born) and a variety (diversity of immigrants) component. We show that birthplace diversity is largely uncorrelated with ethnic, linguistic or genetic diversity and that the diversity of immigration relates positively to measures of economic prosperity. This holds especially for skilled immigrants in richer countries at intermediate levels of cultural proximity. We partly address endogeneity by specifying a pseudo-gravity model predicting the size and diversity of immigration. The results are robust across specifications and suggestive of skill-complementarities between immigrants and native workers.

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2015
Alesina, Alberto, Benedetta Brioschi, and Eliana La Ferrara. 2015. “Violence Against Women: A Cross-cultural Analysis for Africa”. Abstract

Using a new dataset constructed matching the Demographic Health Surveys with Murdock's Ethnographic Atlas, we investigate the determinants of violence against women in Africa. We focus on cultural determinants of violence arising from ancient living arrangements, types of economic activities and marriage patterns. Our outcomes include both violence actually experienced by women and attitudes towards domestic violence reported by men and women. We nd evidence consistent with two hypotheses. First, ancient socioeconomic conditions determine social norms about gender roles, family structures and intrafamily violence which persist over time even when the initial conditions change. We show that norms about marriage patterns, living arrangements and the productive role of women in ancient times are associated with contemporary violence. Second, women's economic role aects violence in a complex way. On the one hand, in societies where in pre-colonial times women had an active economic role and/or a brideprice was paid upon marriage, implying a high economic value of women, men are less prone to violence today. On the other hand,we find increases in domestic violence for couples where the woman is currently economically independent, i.e., where she may have more bargaining power and pose a threat to the husband.

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Alesina, Alberto, Traviss Cassidy, and Ugo Troiano. 2015. “Old and Young Politicians.” NBER WP 20977.
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NBER WP 20977

Alesina, Alberto, Michele Battisti, and Joseph Zeira. 2015. “Technology and Labor Regulations: Theory and Evidence”.
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NBER WP 20841

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