Work in progress

The Populist Dynamic: Experimental Evidence on the Effects of Countering Populism (with M. Morelli, T. Tannicini, & P. Stanig), February 202

We evaluate how traditional parties may respond to populist parties on issues aligning with populist messages. During the 2020 Italian referendum on the reduction of members of Parliament, we conducted a large-scale field experiment, exposing 200 municipalities to nearly a million impressions of programmatic advertisement. Our treatments comprised two video ads against the reform: one debunking populist rhetoric and another attributing blame to populist politicians. This anti-populist campaign proved effective through demobilization, as it reduced both turnout and the votes in favor of the reform. Notably, the effects were more pronounced in municipalities with lower rates of college graduates, higher unemployment, and a history of populist votes. This exogenous influence introduced a unique populist dynamic, observable in the 2022 national election where treated municipalities showed increased support for Brothers of Italy, a rising populist party, and decreased support for both traditional parties and the populists behind the 2020 reform. A follow-up survey further showed increased political interest and diminished trust in political institutions among the residents of municipalities targeted by the campaign.

Annuity Puzzle: Evidence from a Swiss pension fund (With P. Bello & A. Brugiavini), November 2023, R&R Journal of Risk and Insurance

We analyze the annuitization decision at retirement in a favorable environment with no adverse selection into the pool of individuals taking the annuitization decision and with low average price of an annuity. Using administrative data from a large Swiss insurance company over the period 2008-2015, we document that annuitization choices strongly respond to financial incentives, by the Money Worth ratio, and the tax rates on annuity and lump sum. However, even in this favorable environment, only 42.6% of the retirees fully annuitize, against 45% taking full lump sum. We provide evidence for "passive" adverse selection, as individuals from high mortality municipalities are less likely to annuitize and more responsive to changes in the annuity price. Our findings show that individual characteristics matter too. Annuitization rates are higher for women and lump-sum payments are more likely among French and Italian speaking individuals. As French and Italian-speaking Swiss are more likely to leave inheritance, these findings provide supporting evidence that individual preferences for bequest effect annuitization decisions.

Gender Gaps in Math Tests: Women under Pressure (with P. Profeta), March 2023 R&R Economic Journal

Women are still largely underrepresented in STEM disciplines. This is partially due to women performing worse than men in the standardized math tests used for admission into STEM.  As these tests feature strict time constraints, we investigate the role of time pressure in originating gender gaps in math tests. We run a randomized experiment with university students, who took a 20-question (10 on logic and 10 on algebra) standardized math test under three different scenarios: high (45 seconds per question), low (20 minutes overall) and no time pressure. We show that eliminating time pressure reduces the gender gaps in the average math score by 40% (50% in logic and 30% in algebra). All students use more time to complete their test under no time pressure, but there is no gender difference in the time increase. Findings from an additional attentiveness and working memory test suggest that time pressure may reduce students’ performance by creating anxiety, which is particularly disruptive for women. Remarkably, the predictive power of the math tests for university performance is equally high under the different time pressure scenarios. Hence, eliminating time pressure from math tests increases gender equality without reducing the effectiveness of the selection process.

Coordination and Incumbency Advantage in Multi-Party Systems - Evidence from French Elections (with K. Dano, F. Ferlenga, C. Le Pennec, V. Pons), December 2023 R&R Journal of the European Economic Association

In theory, free and fair elections can improve the selection of politicians and incentivize them to exert effort. In practice, incumbency advantage and coordination issues may lead to the (re)election of bad politicians. We ask whether these two forces compound each other. Using a regression discontinuity design in French two-round local and parliamentary elections, we find that winning an election increases candidates' chances to win the next election by 25.1 percentage points. Close winners are more likely to run again and more likely to win, conditional on running, than close losers. Incumbents personalize their campaign communication more and face fewer ideologically close competitors, indicating that parties coordinate more effectively on the winning side  than on the losing side. A complementary RDD reveals that marginally qualifying for the runoff also enables candidates to rally new voters, but does not affect the number of competitors on their side. We conclude that party coordination and voters rallying candidates who won or gained visibility in an election both contribute to their success in future races, even absent any actual difference in quality with candidates on the losing side.

The Role of Salience and Memory in Fertility Decisions: Experimental Evidence, June 2023, R&R Population Research and Policy Review.

Public policies use communication campaigns to affect individual behavior. We analyze how providing women with information on the beneficial effects of using formal childcare may affect their realized fertility. We argue that cues in the messages are particularly salient for mothers and women with fertility intensions, since they activate these women’s past memories. Hence, cues induce these women to create mental representations of future actions, such as realized fertility. We exploit a randomized survey experiment run in 2011, which provides information on the positive effects that attending daycare may have on the children’ future cognitive development. Using a follow-up survey run six-year later we show that the treatment increases realized fertility among mothers and women with declared fertility intentions, for whom the communication was more salient. Yet, the treatment did not affect the individual knowledge nor recall of the information provided in the message. Our results carry important policy implications: persuading individuals is difficult, but communication can be effective if salient.

Persuasion and Gender: Experimental Evidence from Two Political Campaigns (with T. Nannicini) March 2023, R&R Public Choice