My research agenda currently focuses on two main topics: the political consequences of technological change and the experiences and preferences of political elites.
"Not so Disruptive after All: How Workplace Digitalization Affects Political Preferences", Working Paper 1063, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics. With Thomas Kurer and Nikolas Schöll New digital technologies are transforming workplaces, with unequal economic consequences depending on workers' skills. Does digitalization also cause divergence in political preferences? Using an innovative empirical approach combining individual-level panel data from the United Kingdom with a time-varying industry-level measure of digitalization, we first show that digitalization was economically beneficial for a majority of the labor force between 1997-2015. High-skilled workers, the winners of digitalization, did particularly well. Economic trajectories are mirrored in political preferences: Among high-skilled workers, exposure to digitalization increased voter turnout, support for the Conservatives, and support for the incumbent. An instrumental variable analysis, placebo tests and multiple robustness checks add confidence to a causal interpretation of the results. The findings complement the dominant narrative of the "revenge of the left-behind": While digitalization undoubtedly produces losers, there is a large and often neglected group of winners who react to technological change by supporting the status quo.
Technological change, trade, and preferences for redistribution: Experimental evidence With Alex Kuo, Pepe Fernández-Albertos and Dulce Manzano A recurring concern in the media and among economists is that the adoption of new digital technologies in the workplace can displace workers. This paper asks if the general public is concerned about technological unemployment and which policies do citizens demand to deal with workers who become unemployed due to technological change. To study these questions, we collect novel data from a large survey in Spain with embedded survey experiments. All the experiments compare technological change with change driven by international trade. Our findings suggest that citizens believe that the impact of the introduction of digital technologies in the workplace is positive for society and for their own jobs on average. However, preoccupation varies substantially with vulnerability: workers more exposed to change are also more likely to view the impact of technology as negative. Turning to policy demands in case of technological unemployment, we find no evidence that citizens are more likely to support an unconditional cash transfer for workers affected by technological shocks than by workers affected by trade shocks. Finally, we find that economic shocks with clear outgroup beneficiaries are more likely to produce anger and lead to more demand for the government to step in and stop the change. We speculate that there are several reasons why Luddism is not widespread: the public sees technological change at the workplace as a benign force, most workers are not concerned about being personally affected, and automation does not produce clear outgroup beneficiaries to mobilize against. Draft available on request
"Educated Politicians: Effects on Performance and Fiscal Policy" With Marta Curto Highly educated citizens are dramatically over-represented among politicians. Is this bias desirable, troubling or irrelevant? Recent studies argue that highly educated politicians perform better in office, but others find no effects. We advance a third possibility which is that education affects the preferences and beliefs of politicians, and leads them to pursue different goals and fiscal policies. Our empirical analysis is based on a novel dataset with information about the education, age and gender of elected local politicians in Spain and detailed economic and fiscal data collected between 2003 and 2011. Applying a Regression Discontinuity design, we find that when parties with more educated politicians win the election, municipalities have higher unemployment rates and do not perform better in other respects. Further analyses reveal that educated politicians are more fiscally conservative, spend less in capital investment, and prioritize different spending areas. Our results are consistent with the interpretation that more educated politicians are more fiscally conservative rather than with the claim that education is a proxy of quality. To conclude, we discuss how the elitism in the educational composition of governments can undermine political representation. Draft available on request
Gendered language in Political Communication: A Machine Learning Approach (revise and resubmitt) With Javier Beltrán, Alba Huidobro, Lluís Padró and Enrique Romero How do male and female politicians differ when they communicate directly with the public on social media? And do citizens address them differently? A large literature demonstrates that male and female politicians are portrayed differently in traditional media. We ask if gender differences persist when politicians can communicate directly with the public online. Using over 328000 tweets written by and addressed to members of the Spanish national and regional Parliaments, we first show that male and female politicians on average use very similar language, but some words are used to different extents. We apply Lasso logistic regression models to identify the linguistic features that most differentiate language used by or addressed to females or males politicians. Words related to politics, sports, ideology, and infrastructure are more likely to be used by male politicians, while female politicians are more likely to talk about gender and social affairs. The choice of emoticons also varies starkly across genders. Finally, we find that female and male politicians receive different insults and that mentions to physical aspect and infantilizing words are more predictive of text addressed to females. To conclude, we discuss the potential of machine learning to study gender differences in political communication. Draft available on request
Who Lies in Politics?: Evidence from a Survey of Spanish Mayors With Katharina Janezic Honesty is one of the most valued traits in politicians, yet because most lies remain hidden from public view it is difficult to study if some politicians lie more than others. This paper examines which individual characteristics are correlated with honesty and if higher salaries attract more or less honest politicians. In order to measure lying, we included a novel incentivized non-monetary lying game in a survey of 920 Spanish mayors conducted in Autumn 2018 (40% response rate). Mayors were first asked how interested they were in obtaining a detailed report about the survey results and at the end of the survey they had to flip a coin to decide whether they would be sent the report. We use the fact that the probability of heads is known to estimate the proportion of mayors who lied to obtain the report. The findings suggest that a large proportion of mayors lied. Women were not less likely to lie, but educated politicians lied less. To study the impact of salaries, we exploit the fact that arbitrary population thresholds determine the maximum salary that can be paid to mayors using a regression discontinuity design. Our results suggest that offering higher salaries can help attract honest citizens to office. Draft available on request
How Social Media Feedback Contributes to Gender Differences in Issue Attention: Twitter Evidence (with Gaël Le Mens and Niko Schöll) Male and female politicians specialize in different policy issues. It is well known that female politicians are more likely to emphasize gender issues such as childcare, domestic violence, or pay gaps. Gender specialization has been attributed to two reasons: politicians’ preferences about issues or the allocation of tasks within parties. We propose a third mechanism that can contribute to the emergence of gender differences in issue attention: Politicians are sensitive to feedback from citizens as it allows them to learn about their preferences. Thus, if female politicians obtain more positive feedback from citizens for about gender issues, this motivates them to emphasize these issues further. Thus, citizen feedback can have the positive aspect of tightening the link between descriptive and substantive representation and making politicians more responsive to citizens’ demands. However, it can also contribute to placing female politicians in the relatively narrow gender niche. Running a topic model on a large sample of Tweets written by Spanish politicians, we first document that female politicians write more about gender issues and receive relatively more feedback for doing so. Second, we show a reinforcement effect: receiving positive feedback for writing about gender topics increases the share of gender topics when they tweet again, an effect which is stronger for female politicians. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first attempt to trace the link between citizen feedback and issue attention by politicians. In the specific case of gender topics, we show that social media feedback reinforces women’s specialization on gender issues among politicians. Draft available on request
OTHER WORK IN PROGRESS Unemployment Experiences of Political Elites and their Social Policy Preferences (with Alba Huidobro)
Family structure and women political representation: From historical legacies to rapid change (with Ana Tur-Prats and Dídac Queralt)
The political legacies of violence: Evidence from the Spanish Civil War (with Laia Balcells, Elena Costas, Catherine de Vries and Hector Solaz)