What is your main research topic?
My work falls into two fields of economics: (applied) Microeconomic Theory and Political Economy. My job market paper is on the topic of Persuasion. Games of Persuasion consider instances in which a decision-maker must make a decision in a risky environment. To inform this decision, better-informed but self-interested experts are asked to provide information. Although the fact that experts are biased is a concern, it is typically thought that relying on polarized experts helps reaching a satisfying outcome. I revisit this issue in a model that puts emphasis on the incentives experts have to gather information. What I find is somewhat surprising since I show that when polarized experts have high stakes in the decision, which is being made, it can be the case that there is generally little diversified information being provided. The benefits typically associated to polarization are diminished. I am currently working on an empirical strategy to test the model’s predictions using data on Civil litigation.
I am also working on a series of papers, together with fellow TSE student Simone Meraglia, investigating the determinants of political and economic institutions. In these projects, we are particularly interested in the role played by the threat of expropriation by the state (e.g. the military, the bureaucracy) in the shaping of institutions. Our main contention is that market economies are fragile in that the created wealth is easily appropriable. As a result, to foster trade and extract large revenue from taxation, the state has no choice but to grant political institutions to curb its own strength. We make the case that this logic explains particularly well the grant of autonomy to towns involved in trade in Medieval times.
Did this visit help you to advance your research project(s)?
Absolutely. It allowed me to discuss my work with some of the leading researchers in my fields by giving talks in various universities and U.S. conferences. On that note, I found that coming from Toulouse usually facilitated these interactions: TSE students enjoy a good reputation abroad. This experience also helped me understand better what made a good job market paper. For instance, the great emphasis put on empirical relevance convinced me to test some of the predictions of my model on Persuasion. Finally, I made great use of Harvard’s library to have immediate access to History books relevant for my work on Institutions.
Did you like the academic environment there? Is it very different from that of TSE? What are the main differences?
I did like the academic environment at Harvard, although I wouldn’t say that it is very different from that of TSE. Several differences between Harvard and TSE do however come to my mind. PhD students are supervised by several Faculty members there, which I think is a good way of fostering student-faculty relations and having students work on both theoretical and empirical analyses of their topics. I also think it is much more common for PhD students to work as research assistants, which is a good way of developing research skills early in the PhD. On the other hand, students in Toulouse seem to cooperate more and better amongst themselves. In terms of teaching, greater emphasis seems to be put on the acquisition of modeling tools in Toulouse.
Overall, did you enjoy this experience? Do you recommend to other TSE students to visit another university for some months during their PhD studies? Do you want to add anything else about your experience?
My spell at Harvard was a tremendously positive experience and I certainly recommend such experiences to other students in Toulouse. I think it is best to do such a visit in the third year of the program, once a field of research has already been chosen. As a last piece of advice, I recommend to TSE students visiting other departments to present frequently in seminars, as this is the best way of connecting with fellow students and Faculty members. Staying anonymous in big departments is easy!