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Continuing Last Year’s Success at the Second Conference in Applied Economics

Excitement and Fun

Fabian Slonimczyk, an Associate Professor at HSE’s International College of Economics and Finance, was serving on the conference’s organizing team for the second year in the row. ‘This is a very exciting event,’ he said. ‘For a long time, we did not have a workshop specifically dedicated to applied work in economics at HSE. Since last year, and thanks to the university's support, we have been able to invite a group of top researchers from some of the best universities in the world to come and present their latest work. It is a great opportunity to showcase the university and make long-lasting connections. It is also a lot of fun!’

The first conference was a considerable success, meeting everyone’s expectations as Fabian noted.

‘I personally keep in touch with all of last year's participants. And the paper presented last year on the effects of the Unified State Exam reform on student mobility recently got published in the European Economic Review,’ he said.

The article ‘Democratizing access to higher education in Russia: The consequences of the unified state exam reform’ was co-authored by Fabian Slonimczyk, his colleague Anna Yurko, who serves as Associate Professor at ICEF, and Marco Francesconi, a Professor of Economics at the University of Essex. 

While the Unified State Exam remains a priority topic for Fabian, he is also occupied with other pursuits, such as a new project that looks at comparisons of wage growth profiles across countries. Fabian has also developed a new course on Big Data and Machine Learning for ICEF's Master’s students.

One of the great features of the conference is that every paper was assigned a discussant. Fabian Slonimczyk was discussing a paper on issues of financial literacy with Laura Botazzi, Full Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Bologna.

Genes and Fertility

Marco Francesconi, Professor of Economics at the University of Essex, came to Moscow to present what is considered the first paper in economics that looks directly at the influence of genetics on a wide range of female fertility outcomes (from age at menarche to age at first birth to age at menopause). 

‘We find there is an important impact of genetics on fertility that accompanies the more conventional and better known impact of the environment in which women grow up,' said Marco.

 An important role is also played by gene-environment interactions, suggesting that fertility outcomes are not just a question of genes or individual decisions.

 

Marco’s research interests cover several topics in applied empirical economics, ranging from labour and family economics to health and education economics and policy evaluation. He devotes special attention to intergenerational links, expectations, heterogeneity, and measurement error. While he says that he chose these topics out of intellectual curiosity, he did emphasize that he has a preference for issues that are policy relevant and have far reaching consequences.

In addition to his paper on genes and fertility, he is also working on a project concerning expectations and pension reforms in Europe, another on the impact that stricter drink driving regulations have on road accidents, a project on how better measurement of business income can affect our understanding of income inequality, and finally a project on the impact that maternity leave policies have on the employment strategies used by firms.

Climate and Conflicts

David-Enrique Castells-Quintana, visiting professor in the Department of Applied Economics at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, presented a paper on 'Climate, Displacement, and Conflict: the Effects of Floods on Urban Social Disorder.’

‘Climate change has already become a major factor in the process of economic development in many countries worldwide,’ said Castells-Quintana when asked about his reasons for choosing this topic. ‘One key dimension in this regard is conflict: several ongoing major conflicts in the world are in large part an outcome of deteriorating conditions driven by climate change. With my co-authors, we wondered whether climate change could also help us understand more minor conflict in urban areas. 

 The main takeaway is that climate change can fuel social conflict in urban areas, and the reason for this is that climate change is currently a major force displacing population from rural to urban areas, making cities grow very rapidly and in an unplanned way.

Castells-Quintana specializes in topics related to economic development, in particular the concentration of resources in both personal and spatial dimensions. Currently, he is studying the impacts of climate change on the spatial distribution of population and economic activity and what this means for several socio-economic dynamics.

He plans to continue studying the impact of climate change on the process of economic development. Beyond his research on conflict, he is also working on a paper on climate change and the spatial distribution of population and economic activity within countries, and on another paper on cities and pollution.