J. Peter Nilsson

Institute for International Economic Studies

Stockholm University

Welcome to my webpage. I'm a Professor of Economics at IIES, Stockholm University, a guest professor at Linnaeus University, and a research fellow at IFAU, the Uppsala Center for Labor Studies, and CESifo in Munich.

My research focuses on labor and health economics

NEW stuff:

I wrote a testimony for the Public hearing for bill HB-5045 in support for efforts to reduce lead exposure in children in Connecticut.

I have written a report (Swedish summary/English report) for the Swedish Corona Commissions second interim report

I will join the editorial board of The Economic Journal as an Associate Editor starting October 1, 2021.

New (revised) NBER working paper: Do Employees Benefit from Worker Representation on Corporate Boards?

... with BFI summary here

New paper forthcoming in American Economic Review:

Risk-based Selection in Unemployment Insurance: Evidence and Implications

... with VOXEU summary here


Alcohol Availability, Prenatal Conditions, and Long-term Economic Outcomes

Journal of Political Economy, vol. 125, no.4, 2017).

This study examines how a policy that sharply increased alcohol availability during 8.5 months affected the labor productivity of those exposed to it in utero. Compared to the surrounding cohorts, the prenatally exposed children have substantially worse labor market and educational outcomes and lower cognitive and non-cognitive ability. Effects on earnings are found throughout the distribution but are largest below the median. Males are more affected than females, consistent with growing evidence that boys are less resilient to early environmental insults. The long-term effects seem primarily driven by changes in prenatal health, rather than changes in the childhood environment.

Understanding How Low Levels of Early Lead Exposure Affect Children’s Life-Trajectories

Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 128, Issue 9, 2020 (with Hans Grönqvist (Uppsala) and Per-Olof Robling (SOFI),

We study the impact of lead exposure from birth to adulthood and provide evidence on the mechanisms producing these effects. Following 800,000 children differentially exposed to the phaseout of leaded gasoline in Sweden, we find that even a low exposure affects long-run outcomes, that boys are more affected, and that changes in non‑cognitive skills explain a sizeable share of the impact on crime and human capital. The effects are greater above exposure thresholds still relevant for the general population, and reductions in exposure equivalent to the magnitude of the recent redefinition of elevated blood-lead levels can increase earnings by 4%.

NOTE: This paper is an extension and merger of two earlier manuscripts, my dissertation chapter Nilsson (2009) "The Long-term Effects of Early Childhood Lead Exposure: Evidence from the Phase-out of Leaded Gasoline" and Grönqvist, Nilsson, and Robling (2014) "Early Childhood Lead Exposure and Criminal Behavior”, working paper SOFI, Stockholm University.

Normally, the temperature decreases with altitude, allowing air pollutants to rise and disperse. During inversion episodes, warmer air at higher altitude traps air pollutants at the ground. By merging vertical temperature profile data from NASA with pollution monitors and health care records, we show that inversions increase the PM10 levels by 25% and children’s respiratory health problems by 5.5%. Low-income children are particularly affected, and differences in baseline health seem to be a key mediating factor behind the effect of pollution on the SES health gap. Policies that improve dissemination of information on inversion status may hence improve child health, either through private action or via policies that curb emissions during inversion episodes.

.... SNS summary (in Swedish) can be found here: Luftkvalitet och barns hälsa. Erfarenheter från två naturliga experiment, SNS Analys 70, mars 2021

Congestion Pricing, Air Pollution and Children's Health

Journal of Human Resources, forthcoming , NBER w24410, March 2018 (w. Janet Currie (Princeton), Emilia Simeonova (Johns Hopkins), Reed Walker (Berkeley).

This study examines the effects of implementing a congestion tax in central Stockholm on both ambient air pollution and the population health of local children. We demonstrate that the tax reduced ambient air pollution by 5 to 10 percent, and this reduction in air pollution was associated with a significant decrease in the rate of acute asthma attacks among young children. The change in health was more gradual than the change in pollution suggesting that it may take time for the full health effects of changes in pollution to be felt. Given the sluggish adjustment of health to pollution changes, short-run estimates of the pollution reduction programs may understate the long-run health benefits.

....VOXEU summary (here)

Alcohol Availability, Parental Selection, and Child Outcomes

(with Jenny Jans (SOFI), Mårten Palme (SU), Per Pettersson-Lidbom(SU), Mikael Priks(SU) )

send email for manuscript.

Betydelsen av anställda och anhörigas sociala nätverk för smittspridning av COVID-19 på äldreboende under 2020 (Swedish summary/English Report)

(The role of employees and close relatives social networks for the transmission of COVID-19 in nursing homes during 2020)

Underlagsrapport till SOU 2021:89 Sverige under pandemin Stockholm 2021

Report for the Corona Commission's second interim report where I investigate the role of employees and relatives social networks in the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 into swedish nursing homes


Do employees benefit from worker representation on corporate boards? Economists and policymakers are keenly interested in this question – especially lately, as worker representation is widely promoted as an important way to ensure the interests and views of the workers. To investigate this question, we apply a variety of research designs to administrative data from Norway. We find that a worker is paid more and faces less earnings risk if she gets a job in a firm with worker representation on the corporate board. However, these gains in wages and declines in earnings risk are not caused by worker representation per se. Instead, the wage premium and reduced earnings risk reflect that firms with worker representation are likely to be larger and unionized, and that larger and unionized firms tend to both pay a premium and provide better insurance to workers against fluctuations in firm performance. Conditional on the firm’s size and unionization rate, worker representation has little if any effect. Taken together, these findings suggest that while workers may indeed benefit from being employed in firms with worker representation, they would not benefit from legislation mandating worker representation on corporate boards.

The Optimal Timing of Unemployment Benefits: Theory and Evidence

American Economic Review, April 2018, 108(4)) (with Jonas Kolsrud (KI), Camille Landais (LSE) and Johannes Spinnewijn (LSE) )

This paper provides a simple, yet robust framework to evaluate the time profile of benefits paid during an unemployment spell. We derive sufficient-statistics formulae capturing the marginal insurance value and incentive costs of unemployment benefits paid at different times during a spell. Our approach allows us to revisit separate arguments for inclining or declining profiles put forward in the theoretical literature and to identify welfare-improving changes in the benefit profile that account for all relevant arguments jointly. For the empirical implementation, we use administrative data on unemployment, linked to data on consumption, income and wealth in Sweden. First, we exploit duration-dependent kinks in the replacement rate and find that, if anything, the moral hazard cost of benefits is larger when paid earlier in the spell. Second, we find that the drop in consumption affecting the insurance value of benefits is large from the start of the spell, but further increases throughout the spell. In trading of insurance and incentives, our analysis suggests that the at benefit profile in Sweden has been too generous overall. However, both from the insurance and the incentives side, we find no evidence to support the recent introduction of a declining tilt in the profile.

Risk-based Selection in Unemployment Insurance: Evidence and Implications

(American Economic Review 111 (4), 1315-55 ) (with Camille Landais (LSE), Arash Nekoei (IIES), David Seim (Stockholm University) and Johannes Spinnewijn (LSE).

This paper studies whether adverse selection can rationalize a universal mandate for unemployment insurance (UI). Building on a unique feature of the unemployment policy in Sweden, where workers can opt for supplemental UI coverage above a minimum mandate, we provide the first direct evidence for adverse selection in UI and derive its implications for UI design. We find that the unemployment risk is more than twice as high for workers who buy supplemental coverage. Exploiting variation in risk and prices, we show how 25-30% of this correlation is driven by risk-based selection, with the remainder driven by moral hazard. Due to the moral hazard - and despite the adverse selection - we find that mandating the supplemental coverage to individuals with low willingness-to-pay would be sub-optimal. We show under which conditions a design leaving choice to workers would dominate a UI system with a single mandate. In this design, using a subsidy for supplemental coverage is optimal and complementary to the use of a minimum mandate.

Sick of Your Colleagues' Absence?

Journal of the European Economic Association, papers and proceedings, 2(2), April 2009: vol. 7, No. 2-3 (with Patrik Hesselius (Uppsala) & Per Johansson(Uppsala))

We utilize a large-scale randomized social experiment to identify how co-workers affect each other's effort as measured by work absence. The experiment altered the work absence incentives for half of all employees living in Göteborg, Sweden. Using administrative data we are able to recover the treatment status of all workers in more than 3,000 workplaces. We first document that employees in workplaces with a high proportion of treated co-workers increase their own absence level significantly. We then examine the heterogeneity of the treatment effect in order to explore what mechanisms are underlying the peer effect. Although a strong effect of having a high proportion of treated co-workers is found for the non-treated workers, no significant effects are found for the treated workers. These results suggest that pure altruistic social preferences can be ruled out as the main motivator for the behavior of a non-negligible proportion of the employees in our sample.

Businesses, Buddies, and Babies: Fertility and Social Interactions at Work

(with Lena Hensvik (IFAU,Uppsala) and Magne K. Asphjell (NHH))

This paper examines how fertility decisions are transmitted within the workplace. Informed by a simple real options model of investments under uncertainty, we show that recent births among coworkers affect women’s subsequent childbearing using population-wide matched employer-employee panel data. We further document that the peer effect varies with the degree of similarity between co-workers, and that social influences, rather than social learning, seems to be the key mechanism behind the fertility peer effect.

Worker Absenteeism: Peer Influences, Monitoring, and Job Flexibility

Journal of the Royal Statistical Society- Series A,(2019). 182, Part 2, (with Arizo Karimi (Uppsala) and Per Johansson (Uppsala))

We study the presence of other-regarding preferences in the workplace by exploiting a randomized experiment that changed the monitoring of workers’ health during sick leave. We show that workers’ response to an increase in co-worker shirking, induced by the experiment, is much stronger than the response to a decrease in co-worker shirking. The asymmetric spillover effects are consistent with evidence of fairness concerns documented in laboratory experiments. Moreover, we find that the spillover effects are driven by workers with highly flexible and independent jobs, suggesting that co‑worker monitoring and peer pressure may be at least as important as formal monitoring in alleviating shirking in the workplace.

Academic Appointments:

05/2020 - Full Professor, IIES

03/2019 - 04/2020 Associate Professor, IIES, Stockholm University

06/2018 - 02/2019 Assistant professor w. tenure

01/2014 - 05/2014 Associate Research Scholar, Center for Health and Wellbeing, Princeton University

08/2011 - 06/2018 Assistant Professor, Institute for International Economic Studies (IIES), Stockholm University

08/2010 - Research Fellow, Uppsala Center for Labor Studies (UCLS), Uppsala University

08/2010 - 07/2011 Postdoctoral Fellow, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR), Stanford University

Associate Editor The Economic Journal, 2021-

Referee Experience:

Addiction, American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Review, American Economic Journal: Applied, American Economic Journal: Policy, Economic Inquiry, Economic Journal, European Journal of Epidemiology, Drug and Alcohol Review, Health Economics, IFAU, Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, Journal of the European Economic Association, Journal of Health Economics, Journal of Human Resources, Journal of Political Economy, Journal of Political Economy: Microeco, Journal of Public Economics, Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, Labour, Quarterly Journal of Economics, Review of Economic Studies, Scandinavian Journal of Economics

Institute for International Economic Studies

Stockholm University, SE-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden

tel. +46 (0)8 16 25 27