Current research

Trust, Ethnic Diversity, and Personal Contact: Experimental Field Evidence
with Torbjørn Hanson, Åshild Johnsen, Andreas Kotsadam and Gaute Torsvik
We combine a lab and a field experiment in the Norwegian Armed Forces to study how close personal contact with minorities affect in-group and out-group trust. We randomly assign majority soldiers to rooms with or without ethnic minorities and use an incentivized trust game to measure trust. First, we show that close personal contact with minorities increases trust. Second, we replicate the result that individuals coming from areas with a high share of immigrants trust minorities less. Finally, the negative relationship between the share of minorities and out-group trust is reversed for soldiers who are randomly assigned to interact closely with minority soldiers. Hence, our study show that social integration involving personal contact can reduce negative effects of ethnic diversity on trust.

Labour Immigration and Union Strength
with Marianne Røed and Pål Schøne
To what extent is labour mobility in the European Union a threat to the strength of unions? We argue that the combination of cheap labour, workforce heterogeneity, and low unionization among labour immigrants’ is a potential challenge for unions. The challenge will be particularly severe if immigrant competition affects natives’ propensity to unionize. We examine this claim using Norwegian administrative data in a natural experiment framework. The 2004 EU expansion led to a rapid increase in labour migration to the construction sector. Licensing demands, however, protected some workers from immigrant competition. Comparisons of protected and exposed workers reveal negative labour market effects of the EU expansion for exposed workers, but no effect on union membership. Our results question important theories of unionization and are relevant for research on immigration, political behaviour and collective action.

How Settlement Locations and Local Networks Influence Immigrant Political Integration
with Bernt Bratsberg, Jeremy Ferwerda, and Andreas Kotsadam
To what extent do early experiences in the host country shape the political integration of immigrants? We argue that the initial neighborhoods immigrants settle in establish patterns of behavior that shape downstream political participation. Drawing on Norwegian administrative register data, we leverage quasi-exogenous variation in the placement of quota refugees to assess the consequences of assignment to particular neighborhoods. We find that the difference in electoral turnout between refugees initially placed in 20th and 80th percentile neighborhoods is 12.6 percentage points, which is 47 percent of the observed gap between refugees and residents. To assess the mechanism, we draw on individual-level data on all neighbors present at the time of each refugees’ arrival, and evaluate the relative impact of local socioeconomic characteristics and available social networks. Our findings suggest that while neighborhood socioeconomic factors play a limited role, early exposure to politically engaged peer networks increases immigrants’ subsequent electoral participation.

Taxing the Rich or Insuring the Poor
with Erling Barth and Kalle Moene
Key controversies in the debate over social insurance and redistribution revolve around the issue of the income elasticity of the demand for social insurance and redistribution. This paper provides a theory of micro motives and an empirical test of the relationship between voters’ demand for public transfers and their income, using the US’ General Social Survey 1984-2010 and Norwegian election studies 1977-2009. We find that the demands for social insurance transfers and for redistributive taxation are driven by different mechanisms. First, we replicate the well-known negative correlation between income and support for public transfers in cross sectional data. Next, we show that for social insurance transfers, this correlation turns positive once we control for the individual’s relative position in the income distribution. We do not find this pattern for typical redistribution programs.

The Effects of Small group Instruction in Mathematics for Pupils in Lower Elementary School
with a team of researchers from NIFU, ISF, and NTNU
We conduct a randomized controlled trial where schools in the treatment group receive resources to hire an additional teacher to teach mathematics in small groups of pupils in lower elementary school. The project includes 160 schools from ten municipalities, randomized into equally sized treatment and control groups using stratified randomization. The project runs for four school years, with cross-cohort variation in the intensity and timing of treatment. The main outcome variable is test scores in the national tests in fifth grade, but we also collect our own pre-treatment and end-of-the-year test scores to measure short term effects. The analysis of test scores in fifth grade is pre-registered in a pre-analysis plan.

Social Democratic Representation and Welfare Spending: A Quantitative Case Study
The welfare state literature argues that Social Democratic party representation is of key importance for welfare state outcomes. However, few papers are able to separate the influence of parties from voter preferences, which implies that the partisan effects will be overstated. I study a natural experiment to identify a partisan effect. In 1995, the Labour Party (Ap) in the Norwegian municipality of Flå filed their candidate list too late and could not participate in the local election. Ap were the largest party in Flå in the entire post-World War period, but have not regained this position. I use the synthetic control method to study the effects on welfare spending priorities. I find small and insignificant partisan effects.

The Immigrant-Native Gap in Union Membership: A Question of Time, Sorting or Culture?
with Sara Cools and Magnus Rasmussen
We study trade union membership among immigrants in Norway. We ask how quickly immigrants’ unionisation rates catch up with that of natives, and we investigate the role of labour market skills and sorting in explaining the gap. Last, following social custom theory, we investigate to what extent the remaining differences between immigrant groups can be explained by cultural differences, as proxied by originating country union density. While previous studies are restricted to a small set of origin countries and using survey data, we use high-quality population-wide data from Norway’s administrative registers. We find that conditional on being employed, immigrants’ unionisation rates catch up slowly on average: Some groups catch up after 10-15 years after arrival, others never catch up. The immigrant-native gap is strongly related to sorting in the labour market, as immigrants tend to be employed in firms and industries with lower levels of unionization. We find significant differences between immigrants depending on their country of origin, but these differences can largely be accounted for by individual factors, and do not extend to the second generation.

Do MPs in Party-Centered Systems Respond to Constituency Economic Shocks? Evidence from Parliamentary Debates in the Norwegian Parliament
with Bjørn Høyland and Martin Søyland
We study whether Members of Parliament are responsive to local economic shocks. MPs can signal awareness about conditions in home constituencies through parliamentary speeches, but this possibility may be limited in party-centered systems. We investigate to what extent Norwegian MPs’ parliamentary speeches changed with the 2014/2015 decline in the world prices of oil. The oil price shock affected the local labour and housing market on the west coast, where the oil sector dominates the local economy. Using structural topic models combined with a differences in differences design, we examine whether MPs from the most affected county changed their parliamentary speeches in response to the economic decline. Our results show that affected MPs became more reluctant to discuss the climate concerns from oil production. Thus, climate concerns appear as a luxury topic, which is abandoned in times of economic downturn.

Ancestry Culture, Assimilation, and Voter Turnout in Two Generations
with Andreas Kotsadam and Javier Polavieja
We study the importance of gender culture for political participation of immigrants and their children using Norwegian administrative register data on voter turnout. Using the so-called epidemiological approach, we compare first and second generation immigrants from different cultures living in similar institutional environments. We find strong evidence of assimilation in the levels of turnout both within and across generations. However, while we find that assimilation in the first generation is strongly related to age at arrival, it is not more so for women. Therefore the effects of gendered ancestry culture completely fades out only across generations. The results suggests that early institutional exposure is important for political assimilation.

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