Journal articles

"International Inequality and Demand for Redistribution in the Global South" 

Political Science Research and Methods, 12(2), 407-415, 2024 [DOI]

Despite considerable progress, inequality between countries remains at staggering levels. However, we know surprisingly little about demand for international redistribution in the Global South. This is unfortunate as it hinders our understanding of the pressures governments experience to cooperate internationally. Therefore, this paper studies perceptions of international inequality and attitudes towards international aid, an important instrument for redistribution, in Kenya, a major recipient of aid. It features an SMS-based survey experiment, in which respondents are treated with information about international income differences. It is found that most respondents underestimate these differences and that providing accurate information lowers inequality acceptance. However, this does not translate into demand for aid. The findings question often-made assumptions about the popularity of aid and call for further investigation of other internationally redistributive policies.

"License to Educate: The Role of National Networks in Colonial Empires" (with Carina Schmitt)

World Development, 169, 2023 [DOI]

Colonial Africa was shaped by a variety of European actors. Of foremost importance in the educational sector were both colonial governments and Christian mission societies. While their activities and long-term implications are often analyzed in isolation, few systematic studies investigate relationships between them. However, it is well-known that underfunded colonial governments supported mission societies, who used schools to attract new converts, as low-cost educational providers. In this paper, we argue that mission societies that shared national ties with colonial governments benefited from increased support and engaged in more extensive educational activities. Using new historical data on Protestant mission societies from the interwar period in Africa, we demonstrate that national alignment between mission societies and colonizer’s identity in British Africa was associated with more primary schools and higher enrolment. We discuss and explore potential channels underlying this dynamic, including financial support for missionary activities as well as the granting of access to more favourable locations. Our findings show that national networks are an important but understudied aspect of colonial empires. Furthermore, analyzing the early expansion of education provides insights on the causal links often assumed by studies focused exclusively on long-term effects.

"The Colonial Struggle over Polygamy: Consequences for Educational Expansion in sub-Saharan Africa"

Economic History of Developing Regions, 37(1), 27-49, 2022 [DOI]

Christian missions in colonial Africa have contributed significantly to the expansion of formal education and thereby shaped the continent’s long-term economic and political development. This paper breaks new ground by showing that this process depended on local demand for education. It is argued that disagreements over norms, and in particular the struggle over polygamy, which resulted from missions’ insistence on monogamy in traditionally polygamous areas, lowered African demand for education. Analyses of geocoded data from historical and contemporary sources, covering most of sub-Saharan Africa, show that the struggle is associated with worse educational outcomes today. Effects are not limited to formal attainments but carry over to informal outcomes, in particular literacy. The findings attest to considerable heterogeneity in missionary legacies and suggest that local conditions should be given greater consideration in future studies on the long-term consequences of colonial-era interventions. 

"Mapping Missions: New Data for the Study of African History" (with Christine Hedde-von Westernhagen)

 Research Data Journal for the Humanities and Social Sciences, 7(1), 2022 [DOI] [DATA]

The study of societal and institutional change has greatly benefited from a growing number of studies exploring sub-national variation in colonialism and its legacies. One vibrant stream in this literature focuses on the role of Christian missionaries in European empires. However, advances are often hampered by the quality and scarcity of available historical data. In this paper, we introduce a new geospatial dataset of Catholic and Protestant mission stations in colonial Africa that offers a more complete picture than currently used data sources. We illustrate the greater coverage our data provides and demonstrate its utility by replicating the effect of missions on the expansion of formal education, one of the most established legacies of Christian missionaries.

"Caught in the Middle! Wealth Inequality and Conflict over Redistribution" (with Hanna Lierse, Davy-Kim Lascombes)

Social Justice Research, 35, 2022 [DOI]

A vast literature documents that wealth inequality has risen throughout advanced democracies, especially the accumulation of wealth among the rich. Yet, instead of increasing wealth redistribution, governments have done the seemingly opposite. Key to understanding why democratic governments do not increase wealth redistribution in times of rising inequalities is to shed light on the public’s preferences. In this paper, we map the public’s redistributive preferences in fourteen countries based on new survey data. We show that traditional socioeconomic cleavages in preferences for wealth redistribution are undermined by diverging mobility expectations. People who expect to climb up the wealth distribution, mostly lower wealth groups, are less supportive of redistribution than people with high stakes of major wealth losses, mainly upper wealth groups. We show that future expectations among the rich and the poor have a highly moderating role for the class conflict over wealth redistribution. Moreover, the middle class, the decisive group in democracies, is highly unresponsive to future prospects. The findings suggest that the middle class does not have much to lose or to win, and therefore, wealth redistribution is of low salience among this group. 

"Significant Others? Social Groups, Income Expectations, and Redistributive Preferences"

Social Science Research, 100, 2021 [DOI]

While inequality between individuals is known to be an important determinant of redistributive preferences, research on inequality between groups has increased only recently. This paper argues that individuals infer income expectations from the economic standing of their social group, in particular groups based on characteristics determined at birth, such as sex, race, or parents class. High group incomes can lead individuals to oppose redistribution, even if they are currently poor. Analyses of US survey data from 1978 to 2014 support this argument. The uncovered effects on preferences exceed those of individual income by more than three times in magnitude.

"Temporal Change in Inequality Perceptions and Effects on Political Attitudes"

Political Research Exchange, 3(1), 2021 [DOI] [PDF]

Widespread unawareness and indifference arguably contribute to growing inequalities. However, previous studies have paid little attention to the applicability of these arguments over time. This paper demonstrates that perceptions of inequality and their effects on attitudes towards inequality and redistribution can change considerably. Using social survey data from the United States (1987–2009), it is shown that perceptions of income inequality do not have the same effect on attitudes throughout the period under study. Perceptions of opportunity inequality, which have received less attention in prior studies, produce more stable results. Accounting for and explaining such changes is necessary to advance research on inequality and public opinion. 

"Mind the Income Gaps? Experimental Evidence of Information's Lasting Effect on Redistributive Preferences"

Social Justice Research, 33(2), 2020 [DOI] [PDF] [DATA]

Individuals reject economic inequality if they believe it to result from unequal opportunities. This paper argues income gaps between groups determined at birth, based on sex, race, or family background, can serve people as an indication of unequal opportunities. Findings from a survey experiment show Americans underestimate these gaps. When confronted with accurate information, participants correct their perceptions and adjust redistributive preferences. A follow-up survey finds these effects to last for over one year. In sum, this paper contributes to political economy scholarship that links individual preferences to objective characteristics of the income distribution. Focusing on income gaps offers new ways to explore the political consequences of structural economic change. 

"Behind the Curve and Beyond: Calculating Representative Predicted Probability Changes and Treatment Effects for Non-Linear Models"

Advances in Methodology and Statistics, 15(1), 2018 [LINK] [PDF]

Parameter coefficients from non-linear models are inherently difficult to interpret, and scholars frequently opt for computing and comparing predicted probabilities for variables of interest. In an influential article, Hanmer and Ozan Kalkan (2013) discuss the two most common approaches, the average case respectively observed values approach, and make a strong case for the latter. In this paper, I propose a further refinement of the observed values approach for the purpose of computing predicted probability changes. This refinement concerns the use of counterfactual values for the independent variable of interest. I demonstrate that accounting for non-linearities with regards to the variable of interest is important to avoid estimation biases. I also discuss the implications of this insight for estimating average treatment effects from observational data.

"Promoting Renewable Electricity Generation in Emerging Economies" (with Doris Fischer)

Energy Policy, 56, 2013 [DOI]

China, India, and South Africa have recognized the importance of renewable electricity for their future development. In this paper, we investigate the experience of the three countries in applying generation-based policies to promote renewable electricity. We show that they have developed approaches that deviate from what the European experience suggests as successful. With a special focus on feed-in tariffs and auction-based tariffs, our comparison highlights the importance of policy choice and policy design specifications in meeting specific objectives. All three emerging economies face the necessity to promote electricity from renewable energies while keeping electricity prices low. Hence, they experiment with policies and design options, and arrive at country specific solutions. Despite applying different policy instruments and designs that put strong emphasis on low cost solutions, all three countries seem able to reach their ambitious deployment targets. 


"Political Economy of Inequality" [under contract]

Matthew Maguire, Graham Wilson (eds.), Elgar Encyclopedia of Business and Government, Edward Elgar

"Colonial Legacies" (with Joan Ricart-Huguet) [under contract]

Armando Barrientos, Matthew Carnes, Huck-Ju Kwon, Herbert Obinger, Leila Patel, Carina Schmitt (eds.), Oxford Handbook of Social Policies in the Developing World, Oxford University Press

"Colonial Legacies in International Aid: Policy Priorities and Actor Constellations"

In Carina Schmitt (ed.), From Colonialism to International Aid, 2020, Palgrave Macmillan [DOI] [PDF]

Most contemporary nation states were, at one point or another, part of European colonial empires. Today, former colonial powers remain heavily involved in countries they once controlled, exerting influence through a variety of economic, political and social channels. One such channel is international aid. In this chapter I explore how colonial models, especially indirect rule in the case of the British Empire and centralization and assimilation strategies in the case of the French empire, affect (1) policy priorities in aid, in particular social protection, and (2) what actors are involved in the distribution of aid. To do so, I rely on a new dataset by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that allows for a more disaggregated analysis of aid flows than data used in earlier studies. While this chapter provides first evidence of colonial legacies in contemporary international aid, it also identifies divergences from colonial models. Explaining both is an important task for further research. 

"Critical Assessment and Outlook" (with Carina Schmitt, Judith Ebeling, and Amanda Shriwise)

In Carina Schmitt (ed.), From Colonialism to International Aid, 2020, Palgrave Macmillan [DOI] [PDF]

This chapter depicts the main results of this book volume in a synthesized way. It elucidates the role played by external actors in social protection in the Global South, from colonialism to international aid in the light of the findings of this book volume. All chapters are summarized with regard to the types of external actors involved, how they exert their influence over time, what their main objectives and preferences with regard to social protection look like and in what ways their influence is conditioned, limited or translated by national factors. Subsequently, we discuss and critically evaluate the findings along several dimensions such as methodological approaches, geographical scope and generalizability of results. A final section provides an outlook on potential future avenues for research. 

"Implementing Green Industrial Policy" (with Anna Pegels)

In A.Pegels (ed.), Green Industrial Policy in Emerging Economies, 2014, Routledge: London [LINK]

Working Papers

"Women on a Mission: Protestant Legacies of Gender Equality in Africa?" (with Felix Meier zu Selhausen)

African Economic History Network Working Paper No. 72, 2023 [LINK] 

Christian missions, especially Protestants missions, have been shown to advance long-run education outcomes and gender equality in Africa. However, the mechanisms behind this benign legacy and the contribution of missionary women, who constituted more than half of all Western mission staff, are not well-understood. We compile a new extensive data set on the locations of missions in colonial Africa, including the gender composition of their staff. In combination with contemporary survey data on one million respondents in 29 African countries, we provide evidence of missions' equalizing effects with regards to education and a wide range of female agency outcomes. We document that Protestant missions left no more benign legacy than Catholics, questioning the Protestant exceptionalism highlighted by prior studies. We also document a strong association between missionary women and girls' school enrollment in colonial times but find no evidence of any lasting gendered effects. Post-independence expansion of public education and the secularization of school curricula may have offset persistence of Africa's earliest centers of female education. 

"Introducing COLDAT: The Colonial Dates Dataset"

SOCIUM SFB 1342 WorkingPapers, 2019(2) [LINK] [DATA]

Book Reviews

"Risk Inequality and Welfare States: Social Policy Preferences, Development, and Dynamics. By Philipp Rehm"

The Journal of Politics, 79(1), January 2017, e13-e14 [DOI]

"Poverty Amid of Plenty in the New India. By Atul Kohli"

Acta Oeconomica, 63(4), November 2013, 528-33 [DOI]

"Poor Numbers: How We Are Misled by African Development Statistics and What to Do about It. By Morten Jerven"

Society & Economy, 35(2), June 2013, 268-71 [DOI]


"Mission education left an uneven legacy: an analysis of 26 African countries"

The Conversation, 24.7.2021 [LINK]

"Interview über Coronabonds: 'Das hat eine politische Dimension'"

Weser Kurier, 30.3.2020 [LINK]

"Here’s how Democratic candidates can change American opinion when talking about inequality"

The Washington Post: The Monkey Cage, 17.10.2019 [LINK] [PDF]