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 completed papers are presented below:


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. Written as a Master Thesis.


Working Papers

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

This research investigates the effect of cultural traits on migration. In particular, it analyzes the effect of individual values, beliefs and attitudes on the likelihood of emigrating from Eastern European and post-Soviet States. The results show that cultural traits affect emigration decisions. Self-selection patterns are detected in several dimensions, such as the evaluation of home country governance and institutions, political activism, generalized trust, and risk aversion, while they are absent in other dimensions, such as views on economic liberalism and democracy. The results also indicate that the relationship between cultural traits and emigration is heterogeneous across regions of origin. These findings shed light on the understanding of emigration determinants, as well as of its consequences on the dynamics of governance and institutions, such as reduction domestic pressure for political improvements in post-Soviet states due to emigration of politically active citizens.

2nd R&R at International Migration Review. Available as LICOS Discussion Paper 381/2016 .

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.

The draft of the paper is 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.

The draft of the paper is available upon request.