Federica LO POLITO 's PhD Thesis, June 21th, 2024

June 21, 2024 Research

Federica LO POLITO will defend her thesis on Friday 21 June 2024 at 17:30 pm (only online via Zoom)
« Essays in Political Economy and Cultural Economics »
Supervisor Professor Mohamed SALEH

To attend the conference, please contact the secretariat Christelle Fotso Tatchum

Memberships are:

  • Mohamed SALEH : Associate professor in Economics, London School of Economics Directeur de thèse
  • Karine VAN DER STRAETEN, CNRS Senior researcher, TSE Examinatrice
  • Vasiliki FOUKA : Associate professor in Economics, Stanford University Rapporteure
  • Samuel BAZZI : Professor in Economics, University of California, San Diego Rapporteur

Abstract :

This thesis studies the interplay between culture - in the sense of identity, social norms and collective preferences - and politics. This work is divided in three chapters that study, respectively, i) how exposure to immigrants influences the formation of cultural values and political preferences of natives; ii) how cultural transmission from natives influences the political attitudes of immigrants and their assimilation; iii) how gender norms affect the size and composition of public expenditures by female mayors.

In the first chapter, I investigate the effects of intergroup contact with immigrants on natives’ attachment to national identity. During the European refugee crisis, the Italian government implemented an emergency reception policy to address the unprecedented number of refugees. Using data on the universe of reception centers opened between 2014 and 2018 and exploiting time and geographic variation in the opening of such centers, I first examine the effect of contact with refugees on behavior-based proxies of attachment to the nation. I find that the presence of refugees reduces support for regionalist political movements and increases the likelihood of voting for parties that promote national unity and identity. Municipalities with refugees also exhibit increased social capital, which is proxied by consent to organ donation, and a significant increase in expenditures for non-excludable goods and transfers received from other levels of government. Finally, I construct an index of national identity by leveraging on rich data from Google Trends on terms related to Italian culture. Results show a significant increase in the search volume for these terms in municipalities that experienced intergroup contact. Overall, the evidence suggests that intergroup contact strengthens national identity among Italians.

In the second chapter, with Jerome Gonnot, we use data from the European Social Survey to document the political assimilation of immigrants and examine the role of cultural transmission in facilitating this process in 23 European countries. We find that foreign – born immigrants display attitudes towards redistribution and gay rights that are similar to those of natives, but exhibit more positive attitudes towards European integration, immigration policy, and trust in political institutions. These differences increase with immigrants' age at the time of migration, but the gap in attitudes towards immigration policy and trust in political institutions diminishes with immigrants' time spent at destination, closing after 25 and 15 years, respectively. Further analysis on cultural transmission reveals that the convergence of immigrants to regional culture and to the political preferences of native-born peers is strongly influenced by the degree of exposure to the host environment and is attitude-specific.

The last chapter, with Luisa Carrer and Lorenzo De Masi, studies how gender norms mediate the impact of mayor's gender on the size and composition of public expenditures by female officials. While past research shows policy preferences differ by gender, increased female presence in local councils does not seem to affect public expenditures in developed countries. We exploit mixed gender electoral races with narrow victory margins to examine whether local gender norms help explain this lack of effects across Italian municipalities. To capture gender norms at the municipal level, we use a Facebook-based Gender Norms Index (GNI). In line with prior research, we first confirm that the mayor's gender does not significantly affect public expenditures’ size or composition in Italian municipalities. We then introduce the GNI and show that gender norms impact the composition of local expenditures but that their effect overall does not vary with the mayor’s gender. There are exceptions: female mayors spend more than men on local government within the most progressive towns and on education in the most conservative towns.