Mariola Pytliková is another new member of the CERGE-EI faculty, joining us as both Assistant Professor and Researcher. In addition to CERGE-EI, she is also active at the VSB Technical University in Ostrava, which is close to the Beskydy mountains, where she currently lives.
This year, CERGE-EI welcomed five new faculty members, which ranks among the most important hiring successes in CERGE-EI’s history for faculty expansion. One of them is Andreas Menzel, whose arrival marks an enrichment of the existing circle of CERGE-EI microeconomists.
Inattention, why we’re all doing it, and why that’s rational – according to economics.
In the lead up to CERGE-EI’s unique conference on Rational Inattention, Associate Professor with Tenure and Researcher, Filip Matejka, provided a free crash course for students to get a rundown on the subject.
Fairly new to the scene and quickly evolving, the field of Rational Inattention in economics is, quite ironically, gaining attention. On Wednesday 24th of May, graduate students from around the globe, including Stanford, NYU, Columbia, UCLA and more, gathered in Prague to learn and discuss the core issues of the subject. Continue reading Not listening? Well, it’s only rational.
What do you get when you mix three brilliant students, The Dalai Lama and an Ivy League school? Inspired! Over a few months in 2014, Liyousew Borga, Vít Hradil and Branka Marković, journeyed to Princeton University to undertake their Doctorate in Economics alongside top scholars. Now back in Prague, these three CERGE-EI prodigies share their endeavors in the American dream.
As part of the Student Mobility program, PhD students are encouraged to conduct part of their dissertation research in a prestigious university overseas, including Princeton University. With this opportunity Liyousew, Vít and Branka were able to access a wealth of knowledge, guidance and connections that enlivened their PhD experience and enhanced their personal and professional development. Continue reading Invigorated by the Ivy League Experience
It seems like there’s no longer a place for economics as we used to know it. A new generation of economists, calling themselves “behavioral economists“, are challenging a basic principle of classic economics: the assumption that humans only make rational decisions. Continue reading People Don’t Just Make Rational Decisions
Are you charged up by change? Do you thrive on uncertainty? Are you turned on by the quirky? Answer yes to all of the above and you might want to delve deeper into the field of energy economics. And with energy security fast becoming a priority on national agendas, there are increasing career opportunities for economists with specialized energy expertise. Continue reading Energy economics: on bread, yetis and Utopia
Take one ambitious and curious junior researcher. Give him three months in a city that is home to some of the world’s top learning institutions. Offer him the chance to test his ideas with thought leaders in his field. What happened? We asked Vojta Bartos.
Vojta specialises in development and behavioral economics. He is currently investigating how extreme and seasonal shocks impact the enforcement of social norms, focusing on agricultural communities in Afghanistan. He spent the fall semester of 2014 at New York University. Now back in Prague, he shared his recent experience with us.
Continue reading A recipe for inspiration
The following post was written by CERGE-EI PhD Student Lasha Lanchava, originally appearing on the ISET Economist blog.
In October 2007, responding to the problem of very low birthrates in the country, Ilia II. of Georgia, the Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, announced that he would personally baptize any third and subsequent child born to Orthodox families from that time onwards. This promise seems to have had a considerable impact on the reproduction behavior of Georgians. According to the National Statistics Office of Georgia (NSOG), the number of births increased from about 49,000 in 2007 to about 57,000 in 2008 and 63,000 in 2009. This is a remarkable 28% increase in two years’ time, while the number of births from 2000 to 2007 had been fluctuating between 46000 and 49000. At the end of 2008, the Patriarch for the first time baptized thousands of babies at the Sameba Cathedral, and the tradition continues until today.
In March 2009, the BBC brought the enthusiastic headline: “Church leader sparks Georgian baby boom”. The article states that “two years after having one of the lowest birth rates in the world, Georgia is enjoying something of a baby boom, following an intervention from the country’s most senior cleric”. The results are, in the words of the Georgian Orthodox Church, “a miracle”. A report with a similar message was published by CNN on April 2010 in which the Patriarch himself claims credit for the surge in births: “I have already baptized about 5,000 children. […] Parents decided to give birth to these children because they had a chance to be the Patriarch’s godchildren.”
The BBC also interviewed the head of Georgia’s civil registry, Giorgi Vashadze. More profanely, he attributed the increased birth rates to accelerated economic growth and increased employment in the years after the Rose Revolution: “Who is now creating families? People who five years ago were out of work,” he said. “Previously, they had no income. They could not get married. Today they are working. They have salaries… So I think this is a major factor.” According to the NSOG, Georgia did indeed experience a remarkable growth in real GDP by about 10 % in 2006 and 2007, going down in 2008 due to war with Russia but still remaining significantly higher than in the previous years.
According to the Caucasus Research Resource Center (CRRC), 94% of the Georgians consider the Patriarch to be the most trustworthy man in the society, and likewise, the church is the most trusted institution in Georgia. Therefore, the opinion of Georgian public can be easily swayed in favor of the church. But is the Patriarch really responsible for the stunning increase of the birth rate in Georgia? Using the toolbox of quantitative economic analysis, I wanted to find out…
A NATURAL EXPERIMENT
Religion as an important driver of socio-economic developments can be traced back to Max Weber’s famous 1905 book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, relating the differences in per-capita GDP in Europe to the respective shares of Protestants and Catholics in those countries. Ever since, a huge body of literature has elicited connections between religious beliefs and economic behavior. For example, McCleary and Barro (2003) show that countries with high levels of religious observance (operationalized as attendance at religious services) tend to experience lower GDP growth. Crabtree (2010) explores the link between the share of religious population of a country and its and per-capita incomes. Lipford, McCormick, and Tollison (1993) look at the connection between the rates of church membership and crime and various demographic numbers like divorce, marriage, and fertility.
In our setting, the announcement of the Catholicos-Patriarch’s initiative yields what economists call a “natural experiment”. In the laboratory, it is possible to define a treatment group and a control group, yet many economic questions which are about the society as a whole cannot be answered in the lab. A natural experiment is a situation where for natural reasons there is something like a treatment and something like a control group. In the problem at hand, the majority of Orthodox Christians (OCs), making up 84% of the population, can be considered a treatment group, as they are the only ones to whom the Patriarch’s initiative appeals. The Non-Orthodox Christian (NOC) ethnic minorities, such as Armenians, Azerbaijanis, and other congregations can be considered as a control group, if we assume that the Patriarch’s announcement will not affect their reproduction behavior. The majority of NOC population consists of Armenians and Azerbaijanis who comprise about 15 % share of the total population of Georgia. Armenians are members of the Armenian Apostolic Church and Azerbaijanis are Shiite Muslims. The figure shows the composition of Georgian population by religious belief – the brighter the color, the higher the share of NOC population (except for the occupied territories, which are not included in the analysis).
Using a methodology called difference-in-differences (DID), we can identify whether the religious leader’s initiative had causal impact on the birth rates in Georgia.
We are proud to announce that CERGE-EI doctoral students have taken all three top prizes in this year’s Young Economist of the Year competition of the Czech Economic Society.
Vojtěch Bartoš took the first place for his paper “Sharing Norms during Seasonal Food Shortages: Experimental Evidence from Afghanistan.” Olga Popova came second with “Can Religion Insure against Aggregate Shocks to Happiness? The Case of Transition Countries.” The third prize went to Klára Kalíšková for her paper “Labor Supply Consequences of Family Taxation: Evidence from the Czech Republic.”
The annual competition, which is organized by the Czech Economic Society, seeks to identify and award the most talented young students of economics.
CERGE-EI maintains that it ranks among the best economic institutes in the world. Recently CERGE-EI cooperated with Oxford University in organizing an academic conference focused on the connection between psychology and economics. The prestigious English university specifically requested CERGE-EI’s cooperation in organizing and participating in the conference, and CERGE-EI researchers were given the job of choosing who to invite.
“It’s quite common for individuals to attend academic conferences abroad. But for one institution to invite an entire other institution is quite an honor,” said Filip Matejka of CERGE-EI, who has been specializing in the special topic of the conference (the theory known as ‘Rational Inattention’) since his time as a PhD student at Princeton University.
CERGE-EI already earned a good name for itself two years ago when it organized the first annual ‘Rational Inattention’ conference in Prague. Twenty top economists took part in that conference, including Christopher Sims, who is the 2011 winner of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences and a long-time research collaborator with Matejka. “We have managed to convince our international colleagues that we know how to organize a top-level conference and that we have research expertise in the field,” mentioned Matejka.