Fields of study

Political economy; labour and development economics; income inequality, growth, and measurement; social and health policies; comparative politics.

I am interested in the evolution and distribution of income and living standards. In particular, I look at income measurement using a variety of micro and macro sources, and how labour market developments such as international trade, technological change, or changes in labour market institutions affect income, employment, time use, or preferences of individuals and households.

Published papers

Papers in reviewing process

China’s rapid rise on the global economic stage has substantial and unequal employment and wage effects in advanced industrialised democracies given China’s large volume of low-wage labour. Thus far, these effects have not been analysed in the comparative political economy literature. Building on pooled time‐series data, we analyse the effects of Chinese trade competition across 17 sectors in 18 countries. We devote attention to a new channel, increased competition from China in foreign export markets. Our empirical findings reveal overall employment declines in sectors more exposed to Chinese imports. Furthermore, effects on wages and employment are not equally shared across skill levels. For the high skilled, Chinese competition yields neutral or positive effects whilst the low skilled bear the brunt.

Divergence between the evolution of GDP per capita and the income of a “typical” household as measured in household surveys is giving rise to a range of serious concerns, especially in the USA. This paper investigates the extent of that divergence and the factors that contribute to it across 27 OECD countries, using data from OECD National Accounts and the Luxembourg Income Study. While GDP per capita has risen faster than median household income in most of these countries over the period these data cover, the size of that divergence varied very substantially, with the USA a clear outlier. The paper distinguishes a number of factors contributing to such a divergence, and finds wide variation across countries in the impact of the various factors. Further, both the extent of that divergence and the role of the various contributory factors vary widely over time for most of the countries studied. These findings have serious implications for the monitoring and assessment of changes in household incomes and living standards over time.

Technological change is widely considered to be a key driver of the economic and occupational structure of affluent countries. Current advances in information technology have led to a significant substitution of routine work by capital, while occupations with abstract or interpersonal manual task structures are complemented or unaffected. We develop a simple theoretical framework in which individuals in routine task-intensive occupations prefer public insurance against the increased risk of future income loss resulting from automation. Moreover, we contend that this relation will be stronger for richer individuals who have more to lose from automation. We focus on the role of occupational elements of risk exposure and challenge some general interpretations of the determinants of redistribution preferences. We test the implications of our theoretical framework with survey data for 17 European countries between 2002 and 2012. We find vulnerability to automation to be more significant than other occupational risks emphasized in the literature.

How should aid be allocated among countries? Past research efforts to answer this question followed three steps: (1) the definition of an objective function; (2) the characterization of its functional form; and (3) the estimation of its parameters. Each step has been heavily criticized. While thought provoking, all attempts to refine the objective function and its functional form have increased complexity, overburdening the already too fragile parameterization step. We argue that a complete rethinking and reversal of this paradigm is needed. We start by examining what can be estimated with “sufficient” credibility. We then define five key properties or axioms which are justified in terms of fairness, proportionality, and encouragement domestic investments. Finally, we combine these elements into an allocation formula. The framework is applied to the allocation of development assistance for health.

  • Thewissen, S., Been, J. “Time reallocation and extended income of mothers: Quasi- experimental evidence from cuts in childcare subsidies in the Netherlands” (under review)

This paper analyzes reallocation of time in market work and home production and consequences for extended income of mothers when facing a shock in the costs of formal childcare. For causal identification, we rely on a difference-in-difference estimation where we exploit a substantial cut in childcare subsidies in the Netherlands as a natural experiment. We provide a more encompassing view of effects of policy changes on wellbeing by examining effects on extended income, calculated as the sum of market income and monetized home production. We make use of three methods to monetize home production. We find that mothers are able to avoid a loss in their extended income when facing increased costs in formal childcare. This suggests that mothers are able to keep their wellbeing constant by reallocating their time use when facing a shock in their money budget.

This paper uses LIS and OECD data to examine how both median incomes and income inequality have evolved between 1980-2013. There are striking differences across OECD countries in median income growth and overall inequality. A significant negative association between changes in Gini and median income is found, and a significant negative relationship with changes in top shares when controlling for economic growth. Economic growth and inequality trends together leave much of the variation in median incomes unaccounted for, so direct measures of how these incomes are evolving need to be central to monitoring progress towards inclusive growth.

Work in progress

Dutch publications