Research

Publications (Peer-Reviewed Journals)

Wired In? Genetic Traits and Entrepreneurship Around the World (joint with Sorin M. S. Krammer), Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 2021, Vol. 168, Article 120788.

Abstract

Entrepreneurship is a cornerstone of technological innovation and economic development. We posit that the genetic make-up of countries (populations) will affect the extent of their engagement in entrepreneurial activities, in addition to the factors showcased by prior literature (e.g., institutions, culture, socio-economic, demographic, or historical). To test this conjecture we employ a country-level genetic measure that is commonly associated with novelty- and risk-seeking behaviours using the frequency of the 2- and 7-repeat allele variants of the DRD4 exon III gene. Our results confirm a systematic, positive association between genetics and entrepreneurial activities across 97 countries using a large set of controls and battery of robustness tests. These findings reconcile the "nature versus nurture" debate with respect to entrepreneurial activities around the world and provide some valuable insights on the significance of different determinants of entrepreneurship.

Link to publication: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.techfore.2021.120788

Genetic, Cultural, and Historical Determinants of Knowledge Creation, 2021, Macroeconomic Dynamics, forthcoming.

Abstract

Knowledge creation has been a pivotal ingredient of endogenous growth theory to understand differences in standards of living across countries. Yet, the identification of key drivers explaining cross-country differences in knowledge creation still remains a topic of central interest in this research field. In this paper, I provide a framework to hypothesize and empirically test the persistent effects of novelty-seeking traits on cross-country differences in scientific knowledge creation. The results suggest a positive and statistically significant relationship between both outcomes that is consistent with the hypothesis that the prevalence of novelty-seeking traits in society facilitates scientific knowledge creation through beneficial human behaviors related to risk-taking and explorative behavior. The empirical findings remain qualitatively unaffected when controlling for additional historical, biogeographical, and socioeconomic factors that appear as additional important determinants in the creation of scientific knowledge in society.

Link to publication: https://doi.org/10.1017/S1365100521000092

Absorption of Foreign Knowledge: The Impact of Immigrants on Firm Productivity (joint with Jürgen Bitzer and Sanne Kruse-Becher), 2020, Industrial and Corporate Change, forthcoming.

Abstract

What role do immigrants play in firms’ ability to absorb and apply foreign knowledge? Based on a matched employer-employee dataset from Danish manufacturing firms over the period 2001 to 2011, this study examines the impact of foreign knowledge accessible by firms’ immigrant employees on firm-level total factor productivity (TFP). We construct various firm-specific absorbable foreign knowledge measures that link firms’ immigrant employees to the technological knowledge base of their country of origin. The empirical results suggest that firms employing immigrant employees have higher firm-level TFP outcomes and a higher probability of new firm-level patent applications. The average productivity gain associated with the hiring of one immigrant employee is about 1.5 percent in the year following the firm’s hiring decision. Additional results show that the estimated productivity increase varies with the level of education and the occupational positions of the immigrant employees. The results are robust to the inclusion of a large range of firm-specific controls and various sensitivity checks.

Link to publication: https://doi.org/10.1093/icc/dtaa047

Consequences of Linguistic Distance for Economic Growth, Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Vol. 80, Issue 3, June 2018, Pages: 625-658.

Abstract

This paper advances a new country‐level measure of ethno‐linguistic diversity, making use of Greenberg's definition of diversity by synthesizing information on the share of different ethno‐linguistic groups in a country's population and, more importantly, information on intergroup linguistic distances derived from a recently developed lexicostatistical approach. I show that this measure captures ethno‐linguistic diversity at lower levels of linguistic aggregation. However, unlike the commonly used phylogenetic language tree approach, I found that these distance‐weighted diversity measures continue to have a strong negative statistical association with economic growth that is not sensitive to the underlying resemblance function between ethno‐linguistic groups.

Link to publication: https://doi.org/10.1111/obes.12205

The Persistent Effects of Novelty-Seeking Traits on Comparative Economic Development, Journal of Development Economics, Vol. 126, May 2017, Pages: 112-126.

Abstract

The issue of novelty-seeking traits have been related to important economic attitudes such as risk-taking, entrepreneurial, and explorative behaviors that foster technological progress and, thus, economic development. However, numerous molecular genetic studies have shown that novelty-seeking bearing individuals are prone to certain psychological “disadvantages” such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), leading to occupational and educational difficulties in modern societies. Using a recent compilation of DRD4 exon III allele frequencies – a particular gene variant that population geneticists have found to be sometimes associated with the human phenotype of novelty-seeking behavior – this paper advances a new country-level measure on the prevalence of novelty-seeking traits for a large number of countries worldwide. The results suggest a stable non-monotonic inverted U-shaped relationship between the country-level DRD4 exon III allele frequency measure and economic development. This finding is suggestive of the potential “benefits” and “costs” of novelty-seeking traits for the aggregate economy.

Link to publication: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jdeveco.2016.12.009

The Biogeographic Origins of Novelty-Seeking Traits, Evolution and Human Behavior, Vol. 37, Issue 6, 2016, Pages: 456-469.

Abstract

This paper empirically investigates the evolutionary drivers of between-population variation of the human DRD4 exon III locus, a particular gene associated with the human personality trait of novelty-seeking behavior. Providing a novel compilation of worldwide DRD4 exon III allele frequencies in a large sample of indigenous populations around the world, this study employs population-specific biogeographic indicators to test the hypothesis of natural selection acting on the set of DRD4 exon III allele variants. The estimates suggest that migratory distance from East Africa and various population-specific biogeographic indicators, such as latitude, land suitability for agriculture, pasture land, and terrain ruggedness, contributed significantly to overall between-population DRD4 exon III polymorphism.

Link to publication: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2016.04.005

Measuring Capital Services by Energy Use: An Empirical Comparative Study (joint with Jürgen Bitzer), Applied Economics, Vol. 48, Issue 53, 2016, Pages: 5152-5167.

Abstract

From an engineering perspective, the service that a capital good provides is energy conversion – that is, the physical "work" done by a machine. A capital good's service can thus be measured directly by the energy consumed in production. We show important empirical advantages of this approximation over traditional measures. The empirical application reveals that this approach avoids a number of conceptual problems of the latter. Furthermore, this measure captures the utilization of the capital stock more accurately as it is more sensitive to fluctuations in economic activity. With a growth accounting exercise, it is shown that the differences between the new and the traditional measures are important for empirical work. Using the new measure yields significantly different results. Especially in times of global recession it provides higher and more feasible total factor productivity growth rates.

Link to publication: https://doi.org/10.1080/00036846.2016.1173178

How Ethnic Diversity Affects Economic Growth, World Development, Vol. 59, July 2014, Pages: 275-297.

Abstract

This paper investigates the empirical relationship between ethnic diversity, polarization, and economic growth. Ethnicity is assumed to affect economic growth through a number of possible transmission channels that are generally included in cross-country growth regressions. This paper provides an extensive empirical analysis shedding light on the various sources through which ethnic diversity and polarization affects economic growth indirectly. It advances and empirically establishes the hypothesis that ethnic diversity has a strong direct negative impact on economic growth, whereas ethnic polarization has non-negligible indirect economic effects through the specified channel variables.

Link to publication: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.worlddev.2014.01.012

Unpublished Discussion Papers

The Relationship Between Age and Subjective Well-Being: Estimating Within and Between Effects Simultaneously (joint with Philipp Biermann and Jürgen Bitzer), University of Oldenburg, Department of Economics, Working Paper V-421-19, 2019.

Abstract

Based on data from the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP), we used a correlated random effects econometric framework to simultaneously estimate the within and between effects of age on subjective well-being. The proposed approach overcomes the ambiguity in the relationship between age and subjective well-being reported in a series of studies based on cross-sectional and/or longitudinal panel data. Our results suggest that a cubic-type functional relationship between well-being and age fits the data best, leading to highly significant coefficient estimates associated with the age variables, and consistent within and between effects of age on subjective well-being. A linear or quadratic functional relationship between well-being and age is not empirically supported, as the between and within estimates of age on well-being differ significantly from each other. The main findings are robust to the inclusion of a broad range of individual-level sociological, demographic, and economic controls, and to the inclusion of various interviewer controls such as survey experience, survey type, and interviewer fixed effects.

Link to working paper: www.vwl.uni-oldenburg.de/download/V-421-19.pdf

The Educational Burden of ADHD: Evidence From Student Achievement Test Scores (joint with Bernhard C. Dannemann), University of Oldenburg, Department of Economics, Working Paper V-408-18, 2018.

Abstract

This paper hypothesizes and empirically establishes the educational burden of the ADHD-related behavioral symptoms inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity on aggregate cognitive achievement outcomes. We use a novel compilation of the 2- and 7-repeat allele variants of the human DRD4 exon III gene that candidate gene association studies have identified as an important biomarker in the etiology of childhood ADHD. The main results show a negative and statistically significant association between aggregate international student achievement test scores and the DRD4 exon III 2- and 7-repeat allele frequency measure in a cross-section of 81 countries. This finding is robust to the inclusion of additional country-specific historical, cultural, socioeconomic, biogeographic, health-related, educational, genetic, and diversity factors. Additional estimates suggest the predictive power of the country-level DRD4 exon III 2- and 7-repeat allele frequency measure on cross-country differences of estimated ADHD prevalence rates, confirming the reliability of the proposed biomarker for the measurement of ADHD-related behavioral symptoms in the general population.

Link to working paper: http://www.vwl.uni-oldenburg.de/download/V-408-18.pdf

Foreign Aid and Subnational Development: A Grid Cell Analysis (joint with Jürgen Bitzer), University of Oldenburg, Department of Economics, Working Paper V-407-18, 2018.

Abstract

We examine the impact of geo-referenced World Bank development programs on subnational development using equally sized grid cells with a spatial resolution of 0.5 decimal degrees latitude and longitude as the unit of investigation. The proposed grid cell approach solves a number of endogeneity problems discussed in the aid effectiveness literature that make it difficult to identify the true effect of foreign aid on development outcomes due to the presence of unobserved heterogeneity, lack of key country-level controls, aggregation bias, simultaneity and/or the presence of reverse causality in the association between foreign aid and economic growth, measurement errors, and endogenous sample selection bias. The estimates reveal that World Bank foreign aid projects contribute significantly to grid cell economic activity measured by night-time lights growth. This finding is robust to the presence of unobserved country-year and grid-cell-specific unobserved heterogeneity, and to the inclusion of a full set of grid-cell-specific socioeconomic, demographic, conflict-related, biogeographic, and climatic controls. Additional sensitivity tests confirm the robustness of the main findings to various econometric estimators, alternative model specifications, and different spatial aggregation levels.

Link to working paper: http://www.vwl.uni-oldenburg.de/download/V-407-18.pdf

Work in Progress

Statistical Capacity Matters: The Long-Term Effects of Africa’s Slave Trades on Development Reflected by Night-Time Light Intensity (joint with Adalbert Winkler).