Working Papers

Magistro, B., Loewen, P., Bonikowski, B., Borwein, S., and Lee-Whiting, B. Attitudes toward automation and the demand for policies addressing job loss: the effects of information about trade-offs. R&R

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Does providing information about the costs and benefits of automation affect support for automation and for different policies in response? To answer this question, we use a combination of survey and conjoint experiments across four advanced economies (Australia, Canada, the UK, and the US). Our results show that despite people’s relatively fixed policy preferences, their evaluation of automation—and therefore potentially the issue’s political salience—is sensitive to information about its trade-offs, especially to price changes. This suggests that automation may have different political consequences depending on how it is framed by the media and political actors.

Borwein, S.,  Magistro, B., Loewen, P., Bonikowski, B., and Lee-Whiting, B. The Gender Gap in Attitudes Toward Workplace Technological Change. Under Review

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We provide one of the first systematic analyses of gender’s effect on attitudes toward workplace automation and artificial intelligence (AAI). Using data from a survey of ten advanced economies, and comparing the gender gap in attitudes toward automation with the gender gap in attitudes toward offshoring and market changes, we provide evidence of a significant gender gap in attitudes toward the perceived fairness of technological adoption in the workplace. Drawing in part on insights from the literature on gender differences in attitudes toward other economic shocks, we examine four sets of potential explanations for this gap: differences in economic self-interest, knowledge gaps, different levels of sociotropic concern, and differences in social status perceptions. We find that accounting for these various explanations does not substantially reduce the gender gap in automation preferences. We conclude with analysis using the Kitagawa-Blinder-Oaxaca decomposition method to gain insight into the sources of this gap.

Borwein, S., Bonikowski, B., Loewen, P., Magistro, B. and Lee-Whiting, B. Who Can Assert Ownership Over Automation? Workplace Technological Change, Populist and Nationalist Rhetoric, and Candidate Support. R&R

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Technological change has dramatically reshaped labour markets, but technology’s distributional implications have to date been less politicized than other economic shocks. However, as technological advances accelerate, political parties may face growing incentive to “claim” the issue. Candidates proposing to protect workers against technological change may appeal directly to workers’ economic concerns, but if technology is perceived similarly to other economic shocks, research suggests workers may also be mobilized through populist and ethno-nationalist appeals. This paper asks: compared to other shocks, what kind of messaging around workplace technological change resonates with voters? We examine this question through a ten-country survey experiment that randomizes respondents into reading about a candidate proposing to protect workers against offshoring, automation and AI, or changing consumer demand, using either populist rhetoric, populist and ethno-nationalist rhetoric, or no additional messaging. We find that overall support for protecting workers against technology is lower than for other shocks, but that all types of candidate messaging appeals to workers who feel vulnerable to technology.

Aslett, K., Magistro, B. and Wack, M. Sports-Washing? Evidence from English Premier League Fans after Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine.

Can investment from authoritarian regimes in sports clubs based in democratic countries reduce public criticism levied against them? To address this question, we study the case of Roman Abramovich, a famous Russian owner of the popular Chelsea Football Club. Using 750,000 tweets written by British soccer fans, we investigate how fans of the Chelsea Football Club discuss the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine in the weeks after February 24th, 2022. Using a fine-tuned BERT machine learning model, we classify whether tweets written by supporters of top-flight English Premier League clubs in London discuss the Ukraine-Russia conflict, denounce the Russian invasion of Ukraine, support Ukraine, and/or criticize the west. We find evidence that supporters of Chelsea Football Club are much less likely to discuss the conflict in Ukraine, criticize Russia for its invasion, and voice support for Ukraine. This paper presents, for the first time, empirical findings that support the sports-washing hypothesis that authoritarian regimes can reduce public criticism of their regimes by investing in popular sports clubs.

Magistro, B. and Menaldo, V., How Populism Harms Prosperity: Unified Populist Rule Reduces Investment, Innovation, and Productivity. Under Review

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The economic cost of populism is high. This paper finds that when a populist executive rules alongside a populist majority in the legislature, this reduces a country’s growth rate of real Per Capita Income by 3.7% below its trend, a phenomenon that spans over a 12-year period before returning to the pre-populist equilibrium. We also outline the mechanics behind these numbers, and provide systematic evidence for our argument. Populists from either the left or right, in rich or poor countries, in nations open to trade or more autarkic ones, and across both liberal democracies and authoritarian regimes, tend to converge on a similar political economic model: protectionism, crony capitalism, and redistribution. This undermines productivity by increasing the size of government without parallel investments in infrastructure, basic science, and education, and by reducing private investment, R&D spending, researchers per capita, and patents per capita. We arrive at these findings by estimating ARDL dynamic panel models via System GMM, which increases our confidence that these long run effects run from populism to economic underdevelopment. To do so, we introduce a new measure of populism that identifies whether populists control both the executive and legislative branches and illustrate how Argentina’s post World War II political and economic history elucidates our framework. 

Borwein, S., Bonikowski, B., Loewen, P., Lee-Whiting, B. and Magistro, B. Perceived automation threat, populism, and vote choice: evidence from 15 European democracies. . Under Review

The political consequences of Automation and Artificial Intelligence has become the focus of some populism and nationalism literature. We contribute to this literature by drawing from a data set of over 15,000 respondents from 15 European countries to estimate how respondents’ egotropic and sociotropic fears about automation and job loss relate to party support. We find a positive relationship between personal automation risk and left voting, but a negative relationship between personal automation risk and support for populist right parties. We find that nativism suppresses the overall negative relationship between personal automation fear and populist right party support. We also find that that perceptions of collective threat increases intentions to vote for populist right parties, but not other party families. Overall, our analysis suggests that both non-populist and populist left parties could be positioned to make substantial gains when citizens feel more personally exposed to automation and AI.

Sidhu, D.,  Magistro, B., Stevens, B.A., and Loewen, P.  Why do Citizens Support Algorithmic Government?

As governments increasingly adopt algorithms and artificial intelligence (AAI), we still know comparatively little about citizens’ support for algorithmic governance. In this paper we analyze how many and what kind of reasons for government use of AAI citizens support, and how this varies at the individual and country levels. We use a sample of about 17,000 respondents from 16 OECD countries and find that opinions on algorithmic governance are divided. A narrow majority of people (55.6%) support a majority of reasons for using algorithmic governance. This is relatively consistent across countries (ranging from 44.3% in France to 67.2% in Italy). Results from a multilevel model with country random effects suggest that most of the cross-country variation is explained by individual-level characteristics, including age, education, gender, and income. Older and more educated respondents are more accepting of algorithmic governance, while female and low income respondents are less supportive. Finally, we classify the reasons for using algorithmic governance into two main types, “fairness” and “efficiency”. The two are positively correlated, but vary based on individuals’ political attitudes. Specifically, right-wing respondents are more accepting of efficiency reasons, left-wing respondents are more accepting of fairness reasons, while populist respondents are less accepting of fairness reasons.

Magistro, B. Learning about Negative Externalities and Support for a Carbon Tax

PAP Available here

Climate change is one of the most pressing issues facing the world and its negative impacts have already started materializing. However, despite the urgency, climate action has not been adequate and the issue has become one of the most polarized across the political spectrum in many countries, including Canada and the United States.  While polarization may not be easy to overcome with political messages or on ethical grounds, making it about pocketbook evaluations may reduce some of the opposition. This is particularly relevant for a case like climate change, since at the basis of climate action is the understanding of the economic concept of negative externality. Since the extreme polarization on climate change makes any communication on the issue potentially ineffective, one strategy would be to illustrate the concept of negative externality using an alternative framing, for example emphasizing pollution rather than climate change.  For these reasons, this framing might help the climate change cause, both through increasing support for action against air pollution and potentially also increasing support for a carbon tax, once the welfare effects of a corrective tax in the presence of a negative externality become clear. In this paper I intend to use a survey experiment where I manipulate information on the negative externalities of pollution to then infer its effects on policy support for both an air pollution tax and a carbon tax, the latter being the one most often associated with climate action. My hypothesis is that those who learn about and understand the mechanisms of negative externalities in the context of pollution should then be more likely to not only support an air pollution tax, but also a carbon tax. The mechanisms that I anticipate would explain the latter effect are an increase in the salience of the economic dimension of climate change mitigation, and a change in the perceived costs and benefits of a corrective tax. Finally, I am also interested in testing if there is a a relationship between zero-sum thinking on the environment and support for corrective taxes, such as a carbon tax.

Magistro, B. and Menaldo, V., Exploring Economic Populism, a Neglected, but Growing, Phenomenon

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The economic cost of populism is extremely high: after 15 years, GDP per capita is 10% lower compared to plausible non-populist counterfactuals. We seek to look under the hood and explain the mechanics behind these numbers: we provide a framework to make sense of this pattern and explain the systematic, mutually reinforcing association between populism and economic dysfunction and underperformance. Populists emanating from either the left or the right tend to converge on a similar political economic model: protectionism, crony capitalism, and inveterate rent seeking. We also adduce supporting evidence from very different places, Argentina, Chile, Greece, and Italy, and across disparate time periods. We argue that populism almost always ushers in economic collapse. We posit that a key reason for this is that, rather than seeing economic interactions as “win-win” situations, populists are obsessed with zero-sum thinking.

Magistro, B. How durable is the impact of the European debt crisis on attitudes on national and EU democracy and governance? A closing gap.

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Studies find that the European debt crisis and the austerity policies forced upon deficit countries by the EU and the IMF affected citizens’ attitudes on democracy and governance. The conditionality imposed upon peripheral Eurozone countries (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Cyprus, Greece and Spain) reduced institutional trust at both the national and EU levels, creating a trust gap between conditionality and no-conditionality countries. This letter uses a difference-in-difference event study design to investigate whether this gap is permanent or whether it fades away over time. Findings suggest that attitudes on national and EU democracy and governance worsened in 2010 after the European debt crisis in conditionality countries as opposed to other EU countries. However, this gap started to reduce in 2014, and was eventually closed in 2017.

Magistro, B. Becoming patient: A classroom experiment on the effect of financial literacy on time preference

 Available here

Time preference, the ability to delay gratification, matters for a wide range of life outcomes. Patience is relevant in the psychological, economic, and political spheres, as it is shown to affect financial and political behavior. But little is known about factors that explain variation in the degree to which individuals’ discount future payoffs. This paper investigates whether financial literacy changes people’s time preferences. Existing empirical research is plagued by a classic endogeneity problem — do more patient people have a propensity to acquire financial literacy, or does financial literacy actually lower their discount rate? In this paper I address this fundamental question about time preferences by conducting a classroom experiment on a sample of 216 undergraduate students. The results indicate that financial literacy, through learning concepts such as the time value of money, inflation, and capital budgeting, lowers discount rates, and that there is not a selection effect into finance and economics. Furthermore, results show that more education in general does not change time preferences, only financial literacy does.

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