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Research

I am an applied economist undertaking research in macroeconomics and development economics. Within macroeconomics, I am studying the theory of dynamic stochastic general equilibrium models, with applications to environmental and resource economics, and I have recently begun to consider macroeconomic models investigating the role of informal markets in developing countries. My research interests in development economics are broad, intersecting with public economics, economic history, economics of religion, and health economics. In this area, I am currently evaluating government policies and examining the co-evolution of formal and informal culture and institutions, with a focus on addressing the pervasive question of how to eradicate poverty, eliminate early-life mortality, improve equality of opportunity and outcomes, and promote overall socio-economic performance.

Publications

A cross-country analysis of the roles of border openness, human capital and legal institutions in explaining economic development

The Journal of International Trade & Economic Development, July 2021. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09638199.2021.1949380

Globalisation, human capital, and institutions have been widely recognised in the literature to be causally important for economic development. Most of the available studies, however, treat measures of these determinants either separately or as substitutes. In this paper, we study the income effects of border openness to migration, education, and the rule of law (our proxies for globalisation, human capital, and institutions, respectively). Using cross-country data covering all regions of the world, and employing instrumental variables for all three factors, we establish that they each have a robust, positive, and strong association with economic development. We then consider whether there are any useful interrelations between the three factors in explaining income. On the interaction effects, the results show that the impact on income of: (i) migration can be materially affected by cultivating good institutions but this effect is not dependent on the education level; (ii) education is important irrespective of the levels of migration and institutions; and (iii) institutions is significantly improved by raising the level of education but is not influenced by migration level. Our paper makes a significant contribution as the first investigation into the effects of migration, education, and institutions jointly and as complements.

Final version

Finance and inequality in a panel of US states

Empirical Economics, January 2021. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00181-020-01976-3

We examine the impact of sector-based reform on income inequality, concentrating on state banking deregulation in the USA, for which we employ annual balanced panel data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, covering the period from 1970 to 2000, for our baseline analysis. The estimation strategy exploits the variation across states and years in the enactment of laws that remove restrictions on in-state bank branch geographical expansion and cross-state bank business operational expansion to compute the effects of developments in the financial sector on income inequality. We find evidence that inequality on average decreases with within-state branching reform, whereas it on average increases with between-state banking deregulation. Utilizing five different measures of inequality (top decile income share, Atkinson index, the Gini coefficient, relative mean deviation, and Theil entropy index), we determine that our  finding materially depends on which measure of income inequality is being considered. We argue that this has not been stressed in the previous literature.

Final version

Where do people live longer?

Research in Economics, November 2020. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rie.2020.10.010

Can historical exposures of non-European countries to European migrants explain part of their current health outcomes? We find that higher European share of the colonial population robustly raised life expectancy and reduced both fertility and infant mortality rates of present-day population in these former colonies. Specifically, after controlling for other plausible determinants, our baseline results imply that, on average, countries at the 95th percentile of the European share of the colonial population, compared to those at the 5th percentile, live 17 years longer, have 1 less child, and experience 54 fewer infant deaths per 1000 live births. A causal interpretation is given to these results by considering various identification strategies. Overall, our results indicate that health fortunes around the world, on average, improved because of European colonial settlers and that differences in the current levels of health performance can be traced back to differential levels of European colonial settlements, where countries that experienced higher influx of colonial Europeans have better health prosperity nowadays than countries with lower inflow of colonial Europeans. A puzzlement arises, however, as countries with no colonial European settlements have outperformed countries with low colonial European settlements. Thus, explaining this phenomenon and exploring how historical migration holds such an enduring influence on the health of nations today opens up an important avenue for future research.

Final version

Papers

Persistence of religious states

State history, state capacity, state religion, state regulation of religion

The relationship between state and religion has deep roots in history, being recognised as one of the oldest alliances, or antagonists, known to mankind. Recent evidence suggests that a wall of separation between the two have become widespread. Yet, among our sample of 147 countries, 56 had state religion in 2000. This paper offers an inquiry into why—despite modernity, diversity, etc.—religious states persist in some countries, and not in others, to the present. Our work establishes two reasons. First, a state may act as an ‘institutional carrier’ of the history of being a religious state, which we see as a necessary condition. Second, a state may act as an ‘institutional barrier’ to the potential discontinuity of this history, which we view as a sufficient condition. Our analysis construes these ‘carrier’ and ‘barrier’ functions of a state as producing a reinforcement bias and we operationalise them by exploiting cross-national disparities in the stock of state history. Consistent with this understanding that longer state history upholds the persistence of religious states, we obtain a remarkably robust positive link between our indicators of state history and religious states, even after controlling for a broad set of probable confounders (e.g., legal origins, colonial heritage, geographic controls, continent dummies, and measures of economic development, political ideology and religious heterogeneity). Finally, by highlighting the significant role of historical processes in determining the formation and persistence of religious states, our results also underline state history to be a prototypical source of cross-national differences in other proxies for socio-institutional qualities.

Current version

Life may be unfair, but do democracies make it any less burdensome?

The Journal of Economic Inequality, R&R

Using a large panel of countries, this paper studies whether, or not, democracies can disproportionately produce better economic outcomes for the poor than non-democracies. To deal with the endogeneity of democracy and inequality, a regional democratisation wave is used to isolate the exogenous variation in country-level democracy. Our main finding is that the exogenous component of democracy significantly and robustly decreased inequality, after controlling for key inequality determinants. We identify that two potential mechanisms through which democracy affects inequality are structural transformation and middle-class bias channels.

Current version

Global shocks in the US economy: Effects on output and real exchange rate (with David Meenagh and Patrick Minford)

This paper studies the effects of global shocks, relative to domestic shocks (productivity, mark-up, and demand shocks), in accounting for US business cycle fluctuations. We do this by developing and estimating a two-sector open economy dynamic stochastic general equilibrium model that features several real frictions and structural shocks. The central finding from the estimated model is that global shocks are the main driver of movements in many US macroeconomic aggregates. Particularly, we find that they explain around 40% of the variations in our main variables of interest—output and real exchange rate. This important quantitative contribution is achieved by using indirect inference estimation techniques to test the model. We identify exogenous world demand, oil price shocks, preference for exported energy-intensive goods, and the price of imported energy-intensive goods as the global shocks most prominent in causing the largest variations in economic outcomes. By contrast, foreign interest rates and preference for aggregate exported goods are found to be bystanders.

Current version

Democracy and the poor reassessed

By using life expectancy as our core indicator of a country's health status, this paper empirically reassesses the political foundations of human biological development. Our overarching question is: does democracy drive the health of nations? To investigate this, we use both the level and change measures of democracy in our regressions. Our overriding discovery can be summarised as follows: accounting for the various country and time features, a one standard deviation increase in the level of democracy is associated with a 0.11 standard deviation increase in life expectancy. This is an increase in life expectancy of around 5 years for a country initially with a mean life expectancy of 54 years. These results are robust to employing alternative model specifications, to using different subsamples of the data, and to alternative estimation techniques. We, therefore, conclude that the material role of democratic institutions in promoting human welfare is of first-order relevance.

Current version

How resilient is the U.S. economy to foreign disturbances?

We assess the relative importance of domestic and foreign disturbances in explaining fluctuations in key macroeconomic variables and find that both types of shocks are equally important. We reach this conclusion within a constructed two-sector open economy DSGE model context, where we isolate the relative contributions of each group of disturbances to post-WWII U.S. business cycles. Our approach is to apply indirect inference method to test the model’s fit against a four-equation VAR(1) of output, real exchange rate, energy use and consumption. Our main result is that foreign disturbances are pivotal to driving movements in these home variables; accounting for 38% of the variability in aggregate output, 73% of the variation in the real exchange rate, 45% of the variance of energy use, and 84% of the volatility of consumption. Further, foreign disturbances are also identified to be crucial for some other home macroeconomic variables, explaining larger fractions in changes to investment, labour hours, and real interest rate. However, the U.S. economy appears to be resilient to foreign disturbances with respect to certain macroeconomic variables; in particular, exports, imports, real wages, and domestic absorption.

Current version