Publications by Type: Journal Article

Working Paper
Alesina, Alberto, Davide Furceri, Jonathan D. Ostry, Chris Papageorgiou, and Dennis Quinn. Working Paper. “Structural Reforms and Election: Evidence from a World-Wide New Dataset”.
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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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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

Alberto Alesina, Sebastian Hohmann, Stelios Michalopoulos Elias Papaioannou{. 2020. “Intergenerational Mobility in Africa.” Econometrica. Abstract
We examine intergenerational mobility (IM) in educational attainment in Africa
since independence using census data. First, we map IM across 27 countries and more
than 2,800 regions, documenting wide cross-country and especially within-country
heterogeneity. Inertia looms large as differences in the literacy of the old generation
explain about half of the observed spatial disparities in IM. The rural-urban divide is
substantial. Though conspicuous in some countries, there is no evidence of systematic
gender gaps in IM. Second, we characterize the geography of IM, finding that colonial
investments in railroads and Christian missions, as well as proximity to capitals and the
coastline are the strongest correlates. Third, we ask whether the regional differences
in mobility reflect spatial sorting or their independent role. To isolate the two, we
focus on children whose families moved when they were young. Comparing siblings,
looking at moves triggered by displacement shocks, and using historical migrations to
predict moving-families’ destinations, we establish that, while selection is considerable,
regional exposure effects are at play. An extra year spent in a high-mobility region
before the age of 12 (and after 5) significantly raises the likelihood for children of
uneducated parents to complete primary school. Overall, the evidence suggests that
geographic and historical factors laid the seeds for spatial disparities in IM that are
cemented by sorting and the independent impact of regions.
Alesina, Alberto, Stelios Michalopoulos, and Elias Papaioannou. 2016. “Ethnic Inequality.” Journal of Political Economy 124 (2): 428-488.
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Alesina, Alberto, Omar Barbiero, Carlo Favero, Francesco Giavazzi, and Matteo Paradisi. 2015. “Austerity in 2009-2013.” Economic Policy Journal.
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Alesina, Alberto, and Paola Giuliano. 2015. “Culture and Institutions.” Journal of Economic Literature.
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Alesina, Alberto, Carlo Favero, and Francesco Giavazzi. 2015. “The Output Effect of Fiscal Consolidations.” Journal of International Economics. Abstract

We show that the correct experiment to evaluate the effects of a
…scale adjustment is the simulation of a multi year …fiscal plan rather
than of individual …scale shocks. Simulation of …scale plans adopted
by 16 OECD countries over a 30-year period supports the hypothesis that the effects of consolidations depend on their design. Fiscal
adjustments based upon spending cuts are much less costly, in terms
of output losses, than tax-based ones and have especially low out-
put costs when they consist of permanent rather than stop and go
changes in taxes and spending. The difference between tax-based and
spending-based adjustments appears not to be explained by accompanying policies, including monetary policy. It is mainly due to the
different response of business confidence and private investment.

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Alesina, Alberto, Yann Algan, Pierre Cahuc, and Paola Giuliano. 2015. “Family Values and the Regulation of Labor.” Journal of the European Economic Association. Abstract

Flexible labor markets require geographically mobile workers to be efficient. Otherwise firms can take advantage of the immobility of workers and extract rents at the expense of workers. In cultures with strong family ties, moving away from home is costly. Thus, to limit the rents of firms and avoid moving, individuals with strong family ties rationally choose regulated labor markets, even though regulation generates lower employment and income. Empirically, we do find that individuals who inherit stronger family ties are less mobile, have lower wages, are less often employed and support more stringent labor market regulations. We find a positive association between labor market rigidities at the beginning of the twenty-first century and family values prevailing before World War II, and between family structures in the Middle Ages and current desire for labor market regulation. Both results suggest that labor market regulations have deep cultural roots.

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Alesina, Alberto, and Francesco Passarelli. 2014. “Regulation versus Taxation.” Journal of Public Economics 110: 147-156. Abstract
We study which policy tool and at what level a majority chooses in order to reduce negative externalities, such as pollution. We consider three instruments: a rule that sets an upper limit to the activity which produces the negative externality, a quota that forces a proportional reduction of the activity, and a proportional tax on it. For all instruments the majority chooses levels which are too restrictive when the activity is performed mainly by a small fraction of the population, and when costs for reducing activities or paying taxes are quite convex. Also, a majority may choose an instrument that is different than what a social planner would choose; for instance, a rule when the social planner would choose a tax.
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Alesina, Alberto, and Eliana La Ferrara. 2014. “A Test for Racial Bias in Capital Punishment.” American Economic Review 104 (11): 3397-3433. Abstract

We propose a test of bias based upon patterns of judicial errors. We model the trial court as minimizing a weighted sum of type I and II errors. We define racial bias as a situation where the weight depends on defendant/victim race. If the court is unbiased, the error rate should be independent of the combination defendant/victim race. We test this prediction using an original dataset on all capital appeals in 1973-1995. We find that in the first and last stages of appeal the probability of error is 3 and 9 percentage points higher for minority defendants who killed white (versus minority) victims.

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Alesina, Alberto, George-Marios Angeletos, and Guido Cozzi. 2013. “Fairness and Redistribution: Reply.” American Economic Review 103 (1): 554-561. Abstract
This paper responds to the comment of Di Tella and Dubra (2013). We first clarify that the model of Alesina and Angeletos (2005) admits two distinct types of multiplicity: one that is at the core of their contribution, and a separate one that is at work in Di Tella and Dubra's example. We then proceed to show how Alesina and Angeletos's results are robust to alternative specifications of the voting mechanism.
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Alesina, Alberto, Francesca Lotti, and Paolo Emilio Mistrulli. 2013. “Do Women Pay More for Credit? Evidence from Italy.” Journal of the European Economic Association 11 (s1): 45-66. Download article Abstract
By using a unique and large data set on loan contracts between banks and microfirms, we find robust evidence that women in Italy pay more for credit than men, although we do not find any evidence that women borrowers are riskier than men. The male/female differential remains even after controlling for a large number of characteristics of the type of business, the borrower, and the structure of the credit market. The result is not driven by lack of credit history, nor by women using a different type of bank than men, since the same bank charges different rates to male and female borrowers.
Alesina, Alberto, and Silvia Ardagna. 2013. “The Design of Fiscal Adjustments.” Tax Policy and the Economy 27: 19-68.
Alesina, Alberto, Paola Giuliano, and Nathan Nunn. 2013. “On the Origin of Gender Roles: Women and the Plough.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 128 (2): 469-530. Abstract

The study examines the historical origins of existing cross-cultural differences in beliefs and values regarding 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 of gender norms. We find that, consistent with existing hypotheses, the descendants of societies that traditionally practiced plough agriculture today have less equal gender norms, measured using reported gender-role attitudes and female participation in the workplace, politics and entrepreneurial activities. Our results hold looking across countries, across districts within countries, and across ethnicities within districts. To test for the importance of cultural persistence, we examine the children of immigrants living in Europe and the United States. We find that even among these individuals, all born and raised in the same country, those with a heritage of traditional plough use exhibit less equal beliefs about gender roles today.

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Alesina, Alberto, Guido Cozzi, and Noemi Mantovan. 2012. “The Evolution of Ideology, Fairness, and Redistribution.” The Economic Journal 122 (565): 1244–1261. Download article Abstract
Ideas about what is ‘fair’ influence preferences for redistribution. We study the dynamic evolution of different economies in which redistributive policies, perception of fairness, inequality and growth are jointly determined. We show how including beliefs about fairness can keep two otherwise identical countries on different development paths for a very long time. We show how different initial conditions regarding how ‘fair’ is the same level of inequality can lead to two permanently different steady states. We also explore how bequest taxation can be an efficient way of redistributing wealth to correct ‘unfair’ past accumulation of inequality.
Alesina, Alberto. 2012. “Fiscal Policy after the Great Recession.” Atlantic Economic Journal 40 (4): 429-435. Abstract
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 effects played by discretionary counter-cyclical policies – say, for instance, tax cuts or increased government spending. Disagreement on this topic follows from the fact that it is extremely difficult to isolate the exogenous effect of these policies on GDP. We review several ways in which economists have tried to deal with this problem of estimation. Finally, we discuss why spending-based adjustments are preferable and less likely to be costly than tax-based ones and why large fiscal consolidation accompanied by appropriate policies can be much less costly than what we think.
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Alesina, Alberto, William Easterly, and Janina Matuszeski. 2011. “Artificial States.” Journal of the European Economic Association 9: 246-77. Download article Abstract
Arti…cial states are those in which political borders do not coincide with a division of nationalities desired by the people on the ground. We propose and compute for all countries in the world two new measures how arti…cial states are. One is based on measuring how borders split ethnic groups into two separate adjacent countries. The other one measures how straight land borders are, under the assumption the straight land borders are more likely to be arti…cial. We then show that these two measures seem to be highly correlated with several measures of political and economic success.
Alesina, Alberto, Paola Giuliano, and Nathan Nunn. 2011. “Fertility and the Plough.” American Economic Review Papers and Proceedings 101: 499-503.
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Alesina, Alberto, and Paola Giuliano. 2011. “Family Ties and Political Participation.” Journal of the European Economic Association 9 (5): 817-839. Abstract
We establish an inverse relationship between family ties, generalized trust and political participation. The more individuals rely on the family as a provider of services, insurance, transfer of resources, the lower is civic engagement and political participation. The latter, together with trust, are part of what is known as social capital, therefore in this paper we contribute to the investigation of the origin and evolution of social capital over time. We establish these results using within country evidence and looking at the behavior of immigrants from various countries in 32 different destination places.
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