Public Governance working group

The Public Governance working group is online seminar series focused on state of art research in political economy that uses non-traditional data and data-intensive methods.

The working group give a platform for the research on the role of governance in designing and developing better policies. Key features are the political environment, the role of the media, the engagement of stakeholders such as civil society and firms, the market structure and level of competition, and the independence of public regulators, among others. Particular emphasis is placed on research with NLP methods due to the proven usefulness of transforming text into data for further econometric analysis.

Periodicity: Every Monday from 17h30 to 19h.

To attend, please contact Vladimir Avetian:

Upcoming sessions

Past sessions

2024-04-08 at 17:30h

Arianna Ornaghi (Hertie School)

The Returns to Viral Media: The Case of US Campaign Contributions (with Johannes Böken, Mirko Draca, and Nicola Mastrorocco)

Abstract: Social media has changed the structure of mass communication. In this paper we explore its role in influencing political donations. Using a daily dataset of campaign contributions and Twitter activity for US Members of Congress 2019-2020, we find that attention on Twitter (as measured by likes) is positively correlated with the amount of daily small donations received. However, this is not true for everybody: the impact on campaign donations is highly skewed, indicating very concentrated returns to attention that are in line with a ‘winner-takes-all’ market. Our results are confirmed in a geography-based causal design linking member’s donations across states.

2024-03-18 at 17:30h

Gísli Gylfason (Paris School of Economics)

From Tweets to the Streets: Twitter and Extremist Protests in the United States

Abstract: How does social media affect the composition of political protests in the United States? Using early adoption of Twitter at the 2007 South by Southwest (SXSW) festival as a plausibly exogenous source of variation in county-level Twitter penetration (Muller & Schwarz, 2023), and comprehensive data on protest events, this paper finds that Twitter penetration increases the frequency of protests overall, but also radicalizes them. Twitter disproportionately fuels protests with participation of “extreme” groups—groups that are particularly militant, radical, or hateful. These effects do not depend on the topic of the protest nor political lean- ing. I also present survey evidence suggesting that coordination is not the only mechanism driving these results: An increase in county-level Twitter penetration implies an increase in respondent’s willingness to justify violence against other people, normalizing the participation in extreme groups and extreme protests.

2024-03-11 at 17:30h

Rosanne Logeart (Paris School of Economics)

Does Access Mean Success? Connection to Policy-Makers and Lobbying Success of Political Actors

Abstract: This article aims at understanding the policy-making process by examining the relationship between access to policy-makers and lobbying success. I collect unique large-scale textual data on the content of lobbying activities and their subsequent policy changes. I identify instances of lobbying success with two complementary approaches: one based on a plagiarism-detection algorithm and the other on GPT. I match this novel data with meetings held between policy-makers and interest representatives to measure access to policy-makers. It reveals notable disparities in access, with the business sector having more access to policy-makers than the civil society. Moreover, I find that access to policy-makers is associated with a higher likelihood of lobbying success, by 11 percent of one standard deviation. This increased success likelihood is larger for entities with more access, as measured by the number of meetings they have. Distinguishing access to policy-makers contemporaneously or before the discussions on a policy, I find that prior access to policy-makers is also associated with higher chances of success. It suggests that reputation and connection-building play a critical role. These results are driven by the business sector, composed of companies and business associations. It indicates that in addition to having more access to policy-makers and being better politically connected, companies and business associations derive greater benefits from these connections. In contrast, NGOs with access to policy-makers do not display an increased probability of success.

2024-03-04 at 17:30h

Kai Gehring (University of Bern)

Analyzing Climate Change Policy Narratives with the Character-Role Narrative Framework

Abstract: Understanding behavioral aspects of collective decision-making is an important challenge for eco- nomics, and narratives are a crucial group-based mechanism that influences human decision- making. This paper introduces the Character-Role Narrative Framework as a tool to systematically analyze narratives, and applies it to study US climate change policy on Twitter over the 2010- 2021 period. We build on the idea of the so-called drama triangle that suggests, within the context of a topic, the essence of a narrative is captured by its characters in one of three essential roles: hero, villain, and victim. We show how this intuitive framework can be easily integrated into an empirical pipeline and scaled up to large text corpora using supervised machine learning. In our application to US climate change policy narratives, we find strong changes in the frequency of simple and complex character-role narratives over time. Using contagiousness, popularity, and sparking conversation as three distinct dimensions of virality, we show that narratives that are simple, feature human characters and emphasize villains tend to be more viral. Focusing on Donald Trump as an example of a populist leader, we demonstrate that populism is linked to a higher share of such simple, human, and villain-focused narratives.

2024-02-19 at 17:30h

Jaime Marques Pereira (Lancaster University)

Trumping the News: A High-Frequency Analysis

Abstract: Do mainstream media outlets actively amplify politicians' social media statements, and does this amplification influence individuals' political opinions? I first study cable news coverage of Donald J. Trump's tweets using novel high-frequency coverage measures for CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. I show that Trump was able to set the agenda of cable news outlets through Twitter, with cable outlets covering his tweets minutes after these had been posted. I then leverage a large public opinion survey to investigate the impact of TV coverage of Trump's tweets on public opinion. I find that CNN's coverage of Donald J. Trump's tweets caused CNN viewers to decrease their approval of President Trump hours after coverage. Conversely, coverage on Fox News resulted in an increase in President Trump's approval ratings among Fox News viewers. These findings shed light on a new channel through which social media impacts individuals' political opinions, potentially fuelling political polarization.

2024-02-12 at 17:30h

Masahiro Kubo (Brown University)

French (with Guillaume Blanc)

Abstract: This paper studies nation-building in a fragmented society. We document the adoption of a common language and the construction of a national identity in France. Using a natural experiment and drawing on a novel dataset on the languages spoken across municipalities on the eve of the twentieth century, we establish that state intervention in the provision of education brought homogenization. To understand why nation-building was successful, we study heterogeneity and find that elites and the demand for education were instrumental in driving assimilation. Finally, we document further impacts on identity and ideology in the twentieth century.

2024-02-05 at 17:30h

Sulin Sardoschau (Humboldt University)

Public Signal and Private Action: Right-wing Protest and Hate Crimes against Refugees

Abstract: How does the success of a movement influence the most extreme fractions within it? We examine this question in the context of the ascent of PEGIDA, Germany's most prominent right-wing movement since World War II. We combine a difference in differences strategy with variation in local weather conditions to show that municipalities experience a surge in hate crimes following protest days with a larger number of participants. The effects are most pronounced for municipalities with higher social media penetration and a more economically vulnerable refugee population. We also document that large protests have substantial spill-over effects to other municipalities that propagate through social media networks rather than geographic proximity. Our findings suggest that a public display of support for a movement — measured in terms of protest attendance and favorable public perception — can reduce the social cost of radical behavior and embolden extremist factions within the movement.

2024-01-29 at 17:30h

Agustina Martínez (University of Leicester)

Hate in the Tropics. Bolsonaro's Triumph and the Surge of Online Hate Speech in Brazil (with Diego Marino Fages)

Abstract: How does the advent of new information shape societal norms and, consequently, behavior? We delve into the aftermath of Bolsonaro's triumph in the 2018 Brazilian presidential election, examining its impact on the prevalence of online hate speech. Leveraging Twitter data spanning 2017 to 2019, we employ Natural Language Processing (NLP) techniques to distinguish tweets containing hate speech. To precisely trace the impact of Bolsonaro's election in online expressions of hate, we adopt a difference-in-differences methodology, utilizing the election outcome as an information shock. We observed a significant surge in instances of hate speech via Twitter after the elections. This phenomenon was particularly pronounced in municipalities where Bolsonaro's support was comparatively low. These results find reinforcement in the individual-level analysis, indicating that intensive and extensive margins of individual hate speech contributed to the overall increase. We interpret these findings through the lens of a belief updating mechanism, specifically emphasizing the process of revising social norms dictating what is deemed acceptable to say (or not) in public.

2024-01-22 at 17:30h

Alexey Makarin (MIT Sloan)

The Political Economic Determinants of Nuclear Power Investment: Evidence from Chernobyl (with Nancy Qian and Shaoda Wang)

Abstract: This paper investigates the political-economic determinants of nuclear energy investment using the Chernobyl accident as a natural experiment. We document several facts. First, Chernobyl reduced worldwide growth in the number of nuclear power plants. Second, the reduction is driven by increased construction delays in democracies and results in the prolonged use of older and less safe plants. Third, the nuclear growth slowdown in democracies is more pronounced in the presence of large fossil fuel reserves. Finally, nuclear plant capacity reduces coal-fired power plants and air pollution. The results for the UK parliament and the US Congress provide suggestive evidence that lobbying by energy groups was an important driver of the reduction in nuclear energy investment in democracies and, in the long run, likely undermined efforts to increase nuclear energy safety and moderate climate change.

2023-12-04 at 17:30h

Ulrich Matter (University of St. Gallen's SEPS-HSG)

Who Owns the Online Media

Abstract: We examine the ownership structure and reach of thousands of news websites in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. By combining data on domain registrants, firm ownership, and domain-level web traffic, we draw detailed ownership networks behind news domains. We find that more than half of these websites have one ultimate owner. Otherwise, they tend to have highly diversified ownership structures, making it non-transparent as to who is ultimately responsible for the content. Moreover, the market concentration for online news is moderate to high and varies substantially across countries. Financial industry firms ultimately own substantial shares in the online news market.

2023-11-27 at 17:30h

Joao Pereira dos Santos (ISEG & Queen Mary University of London)

The Electoral Impact of a Large Return Migration Shock in a Nascent Democracy

Abstract: We study the causal impact of a large and unexpected return migration episode on political outcomes during a democratic transition that was characterized by severe political and economic instability. We analyse how the forced displacement of close to half a million settlers from Portuguese speaking African countries, motivated by the eruption of civil wars in these territories, influenced election outcomes after the 1974 Carnation Revolution in Portugal. We apply a difference-in-differences with a continuous treatment assignment based on the share of repatriates per municipality. To deal with potential endogeneity issues, we instrument this with two shift-share variables that rely on very detailed census data covering the universe of repatriates and including information on their regions of birth. We find that repatriates significantly increased voting for right-wing parties in the ten years after the Revolution.

2023-11-06 at 17:30h

Florencia Hnilo (Stanford University)

Scars of the Gestapo: Remembrance and Privacy Concerns

Abstract: We study how remembrance of an authoritarian regime impacts privacy concerns. Our main hypothesis is that Germany's culture of Holocaust remembrance (Erinnerungskultur) focuses Germans’ attention on the risks associated with private data ending up in the wrong hands. One example of this culture of remembrance are the Stolpersteine, plaques on the sidewalk signalling that a victim of Nazi persecution lived at a given address. We first use a detailed street-level imagery dataset of Berlin to relate the location of the Stolpersteine to a novel geolocated measure of privacy concerns: whether a person asks for their building to be blurred on a street-level imagery provider. We show that there exists a positive relationship between the amount of Stolpersteine near a person’s house or workplace, and the probability that this person will ask the imagery provider to blur the front of their house. This relationship is very localized, as most of the effect concentrates on Stolpersteine that are less than 10 meters away. We show through an experiment that when Germans are primed to think about the Stolpersteine and the Nazi Era, they respond by reading the experiment's consent form more thoroughly, which we take as another alternative measure of privacy concerns.

2023-10-30 at 17:30h

Alexander Yarkin (LISER & UC Davis)

Lobbying for Industrialization

Abstract: This paper develops a model of lobbying over industrialization policies and tests its predictions against the data on public petitions to the British Parliament and the US Congress in the 18th-19th centuries. Our theory integrates endogenous lobbying over industrial policies into the standard two-sector model of structural change, and predicts that the intensity of such lobbying first increases at the early stages of structural change, and then declines when the traditional sector contracts. This prediction finds support in the data on industrialization-related petitions in both Britain and the US. Moreover, the model predicts that places with historically more concentrated capital ownership are more successful in lobbying for industrialization. The opposite holds for the concentration of land ownership. We find support for these predictions in (i) data on petitions, (ii) counterfactual simulations, and (iii) historical examples from the 19th century Prussia and from the Middle East.

2023-10-23 at 17:30h

Kritika Saxena (University of Groningen)

Religiously-Inspired Baby Boom: Evidence from Georgia

Abstract: We study the impact of a change in the content of religious practice on fertility decisions. We do so in the context of the Georgian Orthodox Church, where in December 2007, in a move to reverse declining fertility rates, the church’s Patriarch began to personally baptise third- or higher-parity children. At the macro level, using a synthetic control method and interrupted time series analysis, we find suggestive evidence that Georgian fertility rates did rise in response to this intervention. We validate this result using microdata on fertility histories and religion from a representative sample of Georgian women, exploiting variation in religion, ethnicity, marital status, and prior parity to identify women exogenously treated by the patriarch’s campaign. We find that the baptism campaign significantly increased fertility for treated women (i.e. Georgian Orthodox women, especially if married). It also increased marriage and reduced reported abortion. All of these outcomes were desired targets of the intervention. Our results show that even in industrialized, educated, low-fertility societies, traditional authority figures making use of religious discourses may be able to influence fertility patterns.

2023-06-19 at 17:30h

Milena Djourelova (University of Chicago)

Experience, Narratives and Climate Change Beliefs

Abstract: We study the media discourse and public opinion on climate change in the aftermath of extreme weather events. In both cable news and local media, and for both national-interest and local events, we find that left-leaning media consistently increase their coverage of climate change in the aftermath of natural disasters, while conservative media do not, despite equal disaster-related coverage. We then link the experience of disasters to concerns about climate change and the environment expressed in large-scale electoral surveys. We find a polarizing effect: disaster experience increases environmental concerns among liberal respondents, but has the opposite effect on conservative respondents. Both effects are driven by areas where the ideology of the respondent is in the minority.

2023-06-05 at 17:30h

Carlo Schwarz (Bocconi University)

The Effect of Content Moderation on Online and Offline Hate: Evidence from Germany's NetzDG

Abstract: Social media companies are under scrutiny for the prevalence of hateful content on their platforms, but there is scarce empirical evidence of the consequences of regulating such content. We study this question in the context of the ``Network Enforcement Act'' (NetzDG) in Germany, which mandates major social media companies to remove hateful posts within 24 hours. Using a difference-in-differences strategy, we find that the law was associated with a statistically significant reduction in toxic posts by far-right social media users. Further, we show that the NetzDG reduced anti-refugee hate crimes in towns with more far-right Facebook users. Together, these findings suggest that online content moderation can curb online hate speech and offline violence.

2023-05-22 at 17:30h

Julian Dyer (University of Exeter Business School)

Words as Data: Evidence on Cultural Convergence and Change

Abstract: In this presentation we discuss our work based on a global, sub-national data set on cross-societal transmission. We use data on how words sound, how they are spelled, and what they mean, to estimate the etymological roots of each word and identify loanwords, using machine learning techniques. Societies with more loanword exchange share more societal traits in common, reinforcing the idea that cross-societal linguistic transmission proxies more generally for the diffusion of traits between groups. We use this to show that improved gains from trade causes cultural convergence, but that economic leverage determines the direction of convergence within a pair of language groups. Finally, we introduce a purely language data-driven approach to exploit the relevant information encoded in language to estimate the geographic origins of a historical phenomenon. We apply the methodology by tracing the history of religious words back to their originating languages to estimate the geographic origin of religious spread for each of Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity within 500km of historical estimates.

2023-04-17 at 17:30h

Apurav Bhatiya (University of Birmingham)

Do Enfranchised Immigrants Affect Politicians' Behaviour?

Abstract: Immigrants are a large and growing unenfranchised group across many developed countries. Does immigrants' enfranchisement affect how politicians respond to immigration? I study the unique UK context, where immigrants from Ireland and the Commonwealth have voting rights in all elections immediately upon arrival, but these rights are not accorded to other immigrants. I analyse how politicians discuss immigration using text analysis of the universe of speeches in the UK parliament and how MPs vote on immigration bills between 1972 and 2011. I use a shift-share instrument exploiting pre-existing settlement patterns to address immigrants' endogenous location choice. I find that politicians exposed to higher enfranchised immigration spend more time in the parliament discussing issues that affect immigrants positively, yet they vote to increase immigration restrictions. Enfranchisement leads to more political engagement of immigrants, and politicians respond to this engagement. The political cost of favouring enfranchised immigrants is compensated by restricting future immigration.

2023-04-03 at 17:30h

Clément Gorin (University of Toronto)

The Emergence, Growth, and Stagnation of Cities: France 1760-2020

Abstract: This paper analyses the evolution of French urban areas from a historical perspective. Using building footprints extracted from collections of digitised historical maps covering mainland France in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, we define consistently urban areas and analyse their trajectories along the urban hierarchy. Our findings highlight increasing urbanisation with fewer and larger urban areas, consistent with agglomerations economies. Disaggregate analysis reveals significant heterogeneity, with the emergence, persistence, disappearance of urban areas.

2023-03-20 at 17:30h

Léo Picard (University of Basel)

Political Metaphors in U.S. Governor Speeches (with Dominik Stammbach)

Abstract: How do politicians use metaphors in their speeches? To provide evidence on this question, we apply a deep-learning-based metaphor detection model to a historical corpus of annual State of the State speeches given by U.S. governors, ranging from 1995 to 2022. Across 9 socio-economic topics, we present the following descriptive findings. First, metaphors are most commonly used on fiscal and economic issues. Second, Democratic governors employ more metaphors on environmental issues relative to Republican governors, who in turn express more metaphors on moral values. Third, we confirm that the language used to express political metaphors is emotionally charged, with a degree of heterogeneity. Our emotion scores increase the most in presence of a metaphor on subjects related to the economy, fiscal issues, and moral values.

2023-03-06 at 17:30h

Michael Poyker (University of Nottingham)

Economic Consequences of the U.S. Convict Labor System

Abstract: I study the economic spillovers of convict labor on local labor markets and firms. Using newly collected panel data on U.S. prisons from 1886 to 1940, I calculate each county’s exposure to prisons. I exploit quasi-random variation in a county’s exposure to the capacities of pre-convict-labor prisons as an instrument. I find that competition from cheap prison-made goods led to higher unemployment and reduced wages (particularly for women) in counties that housed competing manufacturing industries. Affected industries innovated away from the competition and thus had higher patenting rates. I also document that technological changes in affected industries were capital-biased.

2023-02-20 at 17:30h

Peiyuan Li (University of Colorado Boulder)

Who Lost (or Won) China? Land Reform and War Mobilization

Abstract: Redistribution could be deliberately designed to trigger a civil war. How did the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) rally millions of farmers to win in 1949? The crucial step was to initiate land reform through class struggle, empowering farmers to violently grab land from landlords. Farmers desired land ownership but feared reprisals from landlords, who were backed by the Kuomintang (KMT) government. Therefore, farmers had to choose between joining the CCP's army to defend their land and free-riding. Adopting a Difference-in-Difference design and examining the death records of 566,161 communist soldiers, I find that for counties within 82 kilometers of KMT forces, a greater share of land redistribution to farmers encouraged farmers to fight, leading to a rise in CCP soldier deaths after land reform. However, for counties that were farther than 82 kilometers from KMT forces, a greater share of land transfer to farmers discouraged farmers from fighting (free-riding), resulting in fewer soldier deaths after land reform. A model of class struggle for land ownership explains the two different patterns. This paper develops a novel theory of war mobilization and partially explains the emergence of communism in the twentieth century.

2023-02-06 at 17:30h

Miao Ben Zhang (University of Southern California)

The Cost of Regulatory Compliance in the United States (with Francesco Trebbi)

Abstract: We quantify firms' regulatory compliance costs from 2002 to 2014 in terms of their labor spending to adhere to government rules. Detailed establishment-level occupation data, in combination with occupation-specific task information, allow us to recover the share of an establishment's wage bill owing to employees engaged in regulatory compliance. Regulatory costs account on average for 1.34 to 3.33 percent of the total wage bill of a firm, totaling between $79 and $239 billion in 2014. We investigate the returns to scale in regulatory compliance and find an inverted-U shape, with the percentage regulatory spending peaking for a firm size of around 500 employees. Finally, we develop an instrumental variable methodology for decoupling the role of regulatory requirements from that of enforcement in driving firms' compliance costs.

2023-01-16 at 17:30h

Nikita Melnikov (Nova School of Business and Economics)

Mobile Internet and Political Polarization

Abstract: How has mobile internet affected political polarization in the United States? Using Gallup Daily Poll data covering 1,765,114 individuals in 31,499 ZIP codes between 2008 and 2017, I perform a difference-in-differences analysis and an instrumental-variable design to show that, after gaining access to 3G internet, Democratic voters became more liberal in their political views and increased their support for Democratic congressional candidates and policy priorities, while Republican voters shifted in the opposite direction. This increase in polarization largely did not take place among social media users. Instead, following the arrival of 3G, experienced internet and social media users from both parties became more pro-Democratic, whereas less-experienced users became more proRepublican. This divergence is partly driven by differences in news consumption between the two groups: after the arrival of 3G, experienced internet users decreased their consumption of Fox News, increased their consumption of CNN, and increased their political knowledge. Polarization also increased due to a political realignment of voters: wealthy, well-educated people became more liberal; poor, uneducated people—more conservative.

2023-01-09 at 17:30h

Annalí Casanueva Artís (PSE)

Can chants in the street change politics’ tune? Evidence from the 15M movement in Spain

Abstract: What are the long term effects of protests? This paper studies how the level of attendance at simultaneous marches organized by the 15M (the Spanish Occupy movement) impacted electoral behavior and political attitudes in the following decade. Using regional variation in weather shocks as an instrumental variable for the level of attendance at simultaneous marches, I find that cities with higher attendance are more concerned about corruption and vote more for left wing and anti-corruption parties and less for far-right parties. Using novel data from Twitter, I document, for the first time, a higher uptake of social media platforms after an offline protest and a persistent difference in online activity in cities with higher attendance. Using survey data, I also show a higher and longer-lasting electoral effect for people that have a social media account. Overall, this paper shows that street protests can have long-lasting effects on political concerns and electoral choices, explained, in part, by the creation of a persistent online social network.


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