The Violent Legacy of Victimization: Post-Conflict Evidence on Asylum Seekers, Crimes and Public Policy in Switzerland, with Mathieu Couttenier, Dominic Rohner and Mathias Thoenig, American Economic Review, December 2019

Versions: Paper, Online Appendix, CEPR Working Paper

Media Coverage: VoxEU, RTS, Le Monde, La Vie Economique

We study empirically how past exposure to conflict in origin countries makes migrants more violent prone in their host country, focusing on asylum seekers in Switzerland. We exploit a novel and unique dataset on all crimes reported in Switzerland by nationalities of perpetrators and victims over the period 2009-2012. Causal analysis relies on the fact that asylum seekers are exogenously allocated across the Swiss territory by the federal administration. Our baseline result is that cohorts exposed to civil conflicts/mass killings during childhood are on average 40 percent more prone to violent crimes than their co-nationals born after the conflict. The effect is stable through the lifecycle and is attenuated for women, for property crimes and for low-intensity conflicts. Further, a bilateral crime regression shows that conflict exposed cohorts have a higher propensity to target victims from their own nationality - a piece of evidence that we interpret as persistence in intra-national grievances. Last, we exploit cross-region heterogeneity in public policies within Switzerland to document which integration policies are able to mitigate the detrimental effect of past conflict exposure on violent criminality. In particular, we find that offering labor market access to asylum seekers and fostering social integration eliminates all the effect.


Green Domestic Product: Netting Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Gross Domestic Product, with Jean-Pierre Danthine and Clémence Gallopin, Enterprise for Society, December 2020

White Paper

Media Coverage: Le Temps

The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is rightly criticized for not being an accurate measure of economic value added since it does not account for the environmental damages caused by the underlying economic activity. In this paper, we propose a simple adjusted measure of domestic product which subtracts the monetary value of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions from GDP to obtain a measure of Green Domestic Product (GrDP). We provide the calculations for Switzerland from 1990 to 2018, a period during which a significant increase in GDP of approximately 60% was compatible with a slight decrease in GHG emissions. This is a noticeable form of decoupling between economic growth and GHG emissions. Assuming a Social Cost of Carbon (SCC) of CHF 96 per ton, we find that GrDP is between 0.62% and 1.5% lower than GDP in 2018 depending on the methodology used for measuring GHG emissions. During the studied period, the growth rate of GrDP was marginally larger than the GDP growth rate. Our sectoral analysis highlights the low and decreasing carbon efficiency of the primary sector. It also suggests that the decoupling between economic growth and GHG emissions is entirely attributable to the increasing relative importance of the significantly more carbon-efficient tertiary sector. From a policy point of view, while the identified decrease in GHG emissions provides a ray of hope, current trends do not appear in line with Switzerland’s commitments to the Paris agreement. More forceful policies and an increased awareness leading to changes in behaviors, notably in regard to individual mobility (land and air transportation) are needed. Our calculations provide a very partial estimate of the economic cost of environmental damages arising from economic activity based on a static backward-looking national income accounting approach. The cost of other forms of pollutions and of lost biodiversity is not accounted for. More complex forward-looking models are needed to make predictions about the path of GHG emissions under alternative policies and their potential cost in terms of foregone economic growth.


Deficiencies in Conditions of Work as a Cost to Labor Migration: Concepts, Extent and Implications, 2017, with M. Aleksynska and S. Kazi Aoul, KNOMAD Working Paper no.28

This paper sets out three goals. First, it provides a conceptual framework for analyzing migration costs associated with deficiencies in the conditions of work abroad, which is an insufficiently explored aspect of the existing theoretical frameworks on migration decision making. Second, using a novel data set, the KNOMAD migration surveys, it examines the nature and extent of the losses that migrant workers experience due to deficiencies in working conditions. Specifically, the paper shows that working conditions, such as contractual status, level of wages and periodicity of wage payments, hours worked, occupational safety and health issues, as well as trade union involvement and discrimination are areas in which migrant workers report substantial short-falls compared with decent work. Expressing these deficits in monetary terms, the analysis finds that the aggregate losses due to deficiencies in the conditions of work abroad represent 27 percent of total actual wages, and are twice as high as the recruitment and travel costs incurred to migrate. These costs vary across migration corridors as well as across migrants’ age, gender, and sector of activity. For example, female domestic workers have some of the highest costs due to prohibitively excessive hours, while men in construction have high costs due to unexpected wage deductions, long hours, exposure to adverse climate conditions, and particularly high incidence of work-related traumatic injuries. Although the data show a relatively low incidence of occupational safety and health problems among domestic workers, this is likely because migrants who suffered from fatal injuries, including as a result of violence or unsafe work, were not captured by the survey. Lastly, the paper empirically shows that deficiencies in working conditions can negatively affect the amount of remittances, and tend to shorten migration duration, warranting policy attention to tackle the migration and development inefficiencies created by poor working conditions.


Emigration as a Pacifying Force?, 2016, Geneva School of Economics and Management WPS 16033

Civil conflicts push a significant number of people out of their home countries, as the recent refugee crisis has shown. But what if emigration itself worked as a pacifying force and, by opening their borders, developed countries could alleviate conflict back home? Using a theory-driven instrumental variable approach and country level panel data of 117 developing countries for the period 1985-2010, I find that emigration to developed countries decreases civil conflict incidence in the countries of origin. The identification strategy relies on comparing conflict likelihood in countries in years after proximate developed countries become more attractive to conflict likelihood in years after these countries are less attractive. In terms of mechanisms at play, I find no evidence for the indirect effect of emigration on civil conflict through remittances. In addition, emigration of men reduces the conflict likelihood, while emigration of women has the opposite effect. Finally, I document that home political regimes do not worsen following emigration, which points to the fact that emigration is rather welfare improving. In terms of policy implications, these findings point that, by opening their borders, developed countries could contribute to saving the lives of the migrants as well as of those left home.

Exposure to Immigrants and Voting on Immigration Policy: Evidence from Switzerland, with Tobias Mueller and Tuan Nguyen, 2018, mimeo University of Geneva (available upon request)

Does exposure to immigrants at the local level affect how attitudes of natives towards immigration evolve over time? We focus on the 2000 and 2014 referenda in Switzerland on restricting immigration to analyze the change in anti-immigration attitudes. We fi.nd that the larger the share of immigrants to which natives are exposed, the higher the chances that natives become more tolerant towards them. More speci.cally, a 10 percent higher share of immigrants in 2000 implies a smaller change in the support for restricting immigration between 2000 and 2014 by 2 percentage points. Moreover, we .find that exposure to immigrants who are on average linguistically diffrent from natives makes the latter more favorable to immigration. However, the positive effect of exposure to immigrants is attenuated if unemployment rate or housing prices are rising. These .findings are in line with the inter-group contact theory, namely that exposure to immigrants reduces prejudice and therefore anti-immigration attitudes.

Persistence of Attitudes towards Immigrants: It Matters Where You Grow Up, joint with Tobias Mueller (available upon request)

In this paper, we aim to identify the persistence in attitudes towards immigration by testing whether individual attitudes today are explained by the exposure to a certain public sentiment during the early years of one's lifetime. We make use of the Selects (2011) Swiss survey, which provides answers to several questions on individual attitudes towards immigration, as well as the birth municipality and the current residence municipality. Our measure of public attitudes to which an individual was exposed during childhood is an average of the results of immigration-related referenda which took place between 0-17 years old in his birth municipality. Importantly, we control for canton of birth and canton of residence .xed effects to capture other confounding factors. As expected, we .find that attitudes towards immigration persist over time, especially regarding questions related to labor market or cultural threats. The share of immigrants to which an individual was exposed in his birth municipality negatively impacts the chances that he becomes favorable to immigration later in life, but only regarding labor market worries. We further disentangle the effect of current public attitudes and current immigration share in the residence municipality, but .find less robust estimates.

General Equilibrium Model of Social Conflict with Migration, 2016, mimeo University of Lausanne (available upon request)

This paper provides a general equilibrium model of social conflict with emigration. Conflict is modeled as an appropriation sector where the economic pie is fought for. Individuals make an occupation choice between fighting and working, so conflict results at equilibrium as the share of fighters in the economy. The tradeoff between becoming a rebel or a worker is driven by the fact that if too many individuals get involved into fighting, then less individuals work so less is left for appropriation. I first consider that an exogenous fraction of the population emigrates, which affects incentives for fighting through different channels, leading to an ambiguous effect of emigration on conflict at equilibrium. In the end, the effect which dominates is that emigration discourages conflict by reducing the prize to fight for and increasing the opportunity cost of fighting. However, emigration is very likely to be affected by the expected level of conflict. Therefore, I further endogenize the emigration decision: At equilibrium, conflict decreases with the foreign wage net of migration costs. Finally, I discuss the policy implications and how the model could be extended to identify the effect of immigration on the incentives for unlawful behavior at destination.