Publications

2014
Alesina, Alberto, and Paola Giuliano. 2014. “Family Ties.” Handbook of Economic Growth, edited by Philippe Aghion and Steven N Durlauf, 2A: 177-215. The Netherlands: North Holland, 2A, 177-215.Abstract

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 the World Values Survey to measure the strength of family ties and economic attitudes, controlling for country fixed effects. We study several economic attitudes, toward working women, society, generalized morality and civic engagement. Individuals with strong family ties have more traditional beliefs about the role of women in society, are more reluctant to accept changes in society and innovation and show a lower level of trust. We also uncover interesting correlations at the country level, where the strength of family ties is associated with lower GDP and lower quality of institutions. These results remain valid if one exploits the correlation between inherited family values and current institutions and level of development, indicating a strong persistence in family values. The quality of family relationships, on the positive side, increases happiness, life satisfaction, and self-reported health.

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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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2013
Alesina, Alberto. 2013. “Regional Reckonings.” City Journal, 23, 1. Download article
Alesina, Alberto, and Veronique de Rugy. 2013. “Austerity:The Relative Effects of Tax Increases versus Spending Cuts”. Download paper
Mercatus Center Working Paper
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 articleAbstract
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, Dorian Carloni, and Gianpaolo Lecce. 2013. “The Electoral Consequences of Large Fiscal Adjustments.” Fiscal Policy after the Great Recession, edited by Alberto Alesina and F Giavazzi, 531-572. Chicago: University of Chicago Press and NBER, 531-572.
2012
Alesina, Alberto. 2012. “The Kindest Cuts.” City Journal. Download article
Autumn 2012
Alesina, Alberto, Guido Cozzi, and Noemi Mantovan. 2012. “The Evolution of Ideology, Fairness, and Redistribution.” The Economic Journal 122 (565): 1244–1261. Download articleAbstract
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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2011
Alesina, Alberto, Alberto Carasquilla, and Roberto Steiner. 2011. “Governance in Colombia's Central Bank.” Central Banking, 11, 39-42.
Alesina, Alberto, Andrea Stella, B Friedman, and M Woodford. 2011. “The Politics of Monetary Policy.” Handbook of Monetary Economics, Ch. 8 1000-1054. Amsterdam: North Holland, Ch. 8 1000-1054.
Alesina, Alberto, Paola Giuliano, A Bisin, and J Benhabib. 2011. “Preferences for Redistribution.” Handbook of Social Economics, 93-132. North Holland, 93-132. Upload paper
Alesina, Alberto, William Easterly, and Janina Matuszeski. 2011. “Artificial States.” Journal of the European Economic Association 9: 246-77. Download articleAbstract
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. Download paper
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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Alesina, Alberto, and Ekaterina Zhuravskaya. 2011. “Segregation and the Quality of Government in a Cross Section of Countries.” American Economic Review, 1872-1911.Abstract
This paper has three goals. The first, and perhaps the most important, is to provide a new compilation of data on ethnic, linguistic and religious composition at the sub-national level for a large number of countries. This data set allows us to measure segregation of different ethnic, religious and linguistic groups within the same country. The second goal is to correlate measures of segregation with measures of quality of the polity and policymaking. The third is to construct an instrument that helps to overcome the endogeneity problem which arises because groups move within country borders, partly in response to policies. We find that more ethnically and linguistically segregated countries, i.e., those where groups live more spatially separately, have a substantially lower quality of government. In contrast, we find no relationship between religious segregation and the quality of government.
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