From August 1, 2017, I will be at Hebrew University working on the ERC project "International Integration and Social Identity: Theory and Evidence" with Professor Moses Shayo.

Research Interests: Cultural and Social Economics, Development, Consumer Behavior, International Trade, Inequality

Please download a complete CV for more information.

Professor Thierry Mayer (Main Advisor)
Department of Economics, Sciences Po
+33 (0)1 45 49 52 65

Professor David Atkin
Department of Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Professor Debraj Ray
Department of Economics, New York University


       The Cost of Relative Deprivation: Social Subsistence and Malnutrition in India
          joint with Clément Bellet
Abstract: To be acceptable in society, individuals consume a minimum level of socially valued goods. We call this minimum level social subsistence. In this article, we ask: are malnourished people ready to forgo calories in order to keep up with social subsistence? We consider social subsistence as being driven by the wealthier sections of society. In this case, it increases with relative deprivation, i.e. the aggregate income gap. We use a linear expenditure system to measure good-specific subsistence levels as functions of relative deprivation. Within this demand system, our theory provides guidance to empirically determine which goods are socially valued. The demand system is estimated over nineteen food and non-food categories of expenditure using five Indian National Sample Surveys covering 160,000 Below Poverty Line households. We find that (1) socially valued goods are non-food or less nutritive goods, and (2) the caloric loss due to relative deprivation amounts to 10 to 15 percent of the mean daily per capita calorie consumption. As a counterfactual, we estimate that the number of Below Poverty Line households under malnutrition would be ten percentage points lower in the absence of relative deprivation.


Less Food for More Status: Caste Inequality and Conspicuous Consumption in India, LIEPP Working Paper N°56
joint with Clément Bellet

Abstract: Even under the direst necessity, Indian households do not seem to spend their budget in a rational of survival: households from lower castes choose to consume less food and more visible items than similar households from high castes, and this difference is stronger for the poor. Using variations in upper caste wealth across regions, we show that disadvantaged castes substitute visible consumption for food when upper castes are relatively richer.  In regions where Upper Castes are twice richer, low caste households spend up to 8% more on visible and similarly less on food. For households under $2 dollars a day, it corresponds to a daily budget reallocation of 15 dollar cents. We argue that consumption choices can be partly explained by endogenous preferences for status, which depends on inequality between caste groups. Importantly, preferences are upward-looking between castes: the high caste is society's reference group, and households outside of the caste system are not affected by it. Our results are not driven by general equilibrium effects on prices and no similar effect is observed on other expenditures. They underline the relevance of caste-targeted policies in the process of development.

Abstract: This article aims at assessing to which extent social interactions explain the strong persistence of localized taste. A persistent cultural divide between the North and the South of France in the consumption of butter and oil is exploited as a source of heterogeneity in localized taste. I develop a binary choice model with social interactions leading to a prediction of the evolution of regional food demand in function of peer consumption. The empirical implication is that a higher bilateral distance in native consumption implies a higher dissimilarity in expenditure among migrants otherwise similar in their taste. Using data on the fat expenditure of Mediterranean migrants and French natives across regions, I find that the dissimilarity in migrant fat consumption is 40% to 45% the bilateral distance in native fat consumption. These results show the importance of the social component in food demand.


Market Integration and Convergence in Consumption Patterns
joint with José De Sousa and Thierry Mayer

Understanding Identity Choice: a Revealed Preference Approach Using Food Consumption
joint with David Atkin and Moses Shayo