Research

My research is primarily in the area of Development Economics, broadly defined to include forays into Political Economy, Comparative Development and Migration Economics with focus on cultural values, geography, institutions, and conflicts. The publications and completed papers are presented below:


Publications

Do migrants think differently? Evidence from Eastern European and post-Soviet states (joint with Ruxanda Berlinschi, KU Leuven) 

This research investigates migrant self-selection on values, beliefs, and attitudes, using data from Eastern European and former Soviet countries. We find that individuals who intend to emigrate are more politically active, more critical of governance and institutions, more tolerant toward other cultures, less tolerant of cheating, more optimistic, and less risk averse. With the exception of risk aversion, all selection patterns are heterogeneous across regions of origin. On the other hand, no self-selection pattern is detected on education, willingness to pay for public goods and economic liberalism. These findings provide new insights into the determinants of international migration and reveal some of its less-known consequences, such as a possible reduction of domestic pressure for political improvements in post-Soviet states, due to politically active citizens’ higher propensity to emigrate.

Forthcoming in International Migration Review.


Culture, diffusion, and economic development: The problem of observational equivalence (joint with Omer Ozak, SMU)

This research explores the direct and barrier effects of culture on economic development. It shows both theoretically and empirically that whenever the technological frontier is at the top or bottom of the world distribution of a cultural value, there exists an observational equivalence between absolute cultural distances and cultural distances relative to the frontier, preventing the identification of its direct and barrier effects. Since the technological frontier usually has the “right” cultural values for development, it tends to be in the extremes of the distribution of cultural traits, generating observational equivalence and confounding the analysis. These results highlight the difficulty of disentangling the direct and barrier effects of culture. The empirical analysis finds suggestive evidence for direct effects of individualism and conformity with hierarchy, and barrier effects of hedonism.

Published in Economics Letters, 158 (2017), 94-100.


Two state disputes and outside intervention: The case of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

The paper proposes a game theoretical model of a dispute between two states. It analyzes the possible outcome of the dispute and the probability of war depending on the distribution of power between those states, the costs for fighting in the war and the level of uncertainty about each other’s costs. The paper also examines two types of outside intervention analyzing their separate and joint effect on the final outcome and the probability of war. The model is applied to the case of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and some concluding remarks are provided regarding the probability of a war break out and possible resolutions of the conflict.

Published in Eurasian Economic Review, 7(1), 69-93.


Working Papers

National Identity and Public Goods Provision

Nation building and creation of strong national identity is believed to have a positive influence on economic and political outcomes and is proposed as a remedy for alleviating the adverse effect of ethnic fractionalization. However, empirical investigations showing the positive effect of strong national identity are still largely absent. The purpose of this paper is to find out the relationship between national identity and public goods provision for a wide cross-section of countries. The paper proposes theories examining the interplay between national identity and public goods provision, then shows empirically that the most nationalistic countries “excel” in poor provision of public goods. It challenges the conventional wisdom on the role of national identity, suggesting that most of the cases it is used as a tool to divert the attention of citizens from most pressing issues such as provision of elementary public goods.

Available upon request.


The Legacy of Common Ancestry on Preferences: Genetic Distances and Cultural Differences (joint with Omer Ozak, SMU)

This research investigates the ancient origins of differences of cultural traits across countries. In particular, using a large set of measures of culture it identifies the cultural traits associated with genetic distances. The results show that genetic distance is mainly associated with differences in average levels of Individualism and Trust. Using an instrumental variable approach the analysis also suggests that these cultural traits are vertically transmitted across generations. These findings shed light on the cultural mechanisms behind the empirical association between genetic distances and various economic, social and political outcomes.

Available upon request.