Welcome to my webpage. I'm an assistant professor at the IIES, Stockholm University and a research fellow at the Uppsala Center for Labor Studies, Uppsala University.

My research focuses on labor and health economics

 

Research:

(i) HEALTH AND WELLBEING
 
1. Alcohol Availability, Prenatal Conditions, and Long-term Economic Outcomes
 (
Journal of Political Economy, vol. 125, no.4, 2017).

    Older working paper: Does a Pint a Day Affect Your Child's Pay? The Effect of Prenatal Alcohol Exposure on Adult Outcomes  , Cemmap working paper  August 2008

    Executive summary in Swedish: Starkölsförsöket: från fosterstadiet till vuxen ålder, SNS analys nr 21 , 2014

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.


  (submitted) (with Hans Grönqvist (Uppsala) and Per-Olof Robling (SOFI))

We exploit the phase-out of leaded gasoline to isolate the impact of early childhood lead exposure on outcomes in adulthood. By combining administrative data on school performance, high school graduation, crime, earnings, and cognitive and non-cognitive skills with a novel measure of lead exposure, we follow 800,000 children from birth into adulthood. We find that reduced lead exposure improves the adult outcomes, particularly among boys. Below certain thresholds, the relationship becomes much weaker. Non-cognitive traits (externalizing behavior, conscientiousness, and neuroticism) follow a similar non-linear dose-response pattern and seem to be the key mediators between early lead exposure and adult outcomes. 

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.


 

3. Economic Status, Air Quality, and Child Health: Evidence from Inversion Episodes (with Jenny Jans (Uppsala) & Per Johansson (Uppsala))

 (revise and resubmit, Journal of Health Economics)

               (Older version: IZA Discussion paper 7929, January 2014 )

This paper exploits inversion episodes to examine whether, to what extent, and why temporary changes in air pollution affect children’s health differentially across socioeconomic groups. On normal days, the temperature decreases with altitude, allowing air pollutants to rise and disperse. During inversion episodes, a warmer air layer at higher altitude traps air pollutants close to the ground. By merging vertical temperature profile data from NASA to ambient pollution monitors, and individual health care records we show that inversions leads to 30 percent higher PM10 levels, and increases children’s respiratory health problems by 5 percent. Children in low-income households are particularly affected, and poor air quality seems to contribute the steepening incomehealth gradient over the child’s lifecycle. We also examine the underlying mechanisms and find that differences in baseline health across income groups seem to be an important mediating factor behind the SES gap. Finally, inversions affects parents labor supply by increasing the incidence of work absence due to care of sick children by 2.9 percent.


4. (NEW, submitted) Congestion Pricing, Air Pollution and Children's Health (with Janet Currie (Princeton), Emilia Simenova (Johns Hopkins), and 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.


(ii) UNEMPLOYMENT
(ForthcomingAmerican Economic Review)

 (with Jonas Kolsrud (Uppsala), 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.


6. (NEW) Risk-based Selection in Unemployment Insurance: Evidence and Implications

(with Camille Landais (LSE), Arash Nekoei (IIES),  Johannes Spinnewijn (LSE), and David Seim (Stockholm)

This paper studies whether adverse selection can rationalize a universal mandate for unemployment insurance (UI). To date no direct evidence exists in the UI context and the desirability of a UI mandate has been untested. Building on the unique institutional setting of Sweden, where workers can buy 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 and that workers who buy the supplemental coverage face higher unemployment risk (with semi-elasticities above 1), even after controlling for a rich set of observables. Exploiting unique variation in risk and in prices to control for moral hazard, we show how this correlation is driven by substantial risk-based selection. Despite the severe adverse selection, we find that allowing for choice welfare-dominates mandating the supplemental coverage. We also show that a large subsidy for supplemental coverage is optimal and complementary to the minimum mandate.

 

 

(iii) PEER EFFECTS


7. Sick of Your Colleagues' Absence? (with Patrik Hesselius (Uppsala) & Per Johansson(Uppsala)) 
    Journal of the European Economic Association, papers and proceedings, 2(2), April 2009: vol. 7, No. 2-3
    IZA Discussion paper 3960, April 2009

 

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.

 
8. Businesses, Buddies, and Babies: Fertility and Social Interactions at Work
(Revise & Resubmit, Journal of the European Economic Association)  
(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. 


9.  Worker Absenteeism: Peer Influences, Monitoring, and Job Flexibility  (with Arizo Karimi (Uppsala) and Per Johansson (Uppsala))
(Revise & ResubmitJournal of the Royal Statistical Society)

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:

01/2014 - 05/2014 Associate Research Scholar, Center for Health and Wellbeing, Princeton University
 
08/2011 -               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

Referee Experience:

American Economic Review, Economic Inquiry, Economic Journal, Health Economics, IFAU, Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, Journal of Health Economics, Journal of Human Resources, Journal of Political Economy, Journal of Public Economics,  Labour, Quarterly Journal of Economics, Review of Economic Studies, Scandinavian Journal of Economics


CV:
Citations