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Sharun Mukand


Contact details

Telephone: +44 (0)24 761 50586

Fax: +44 (0)24 765 23032

Email: S dot Mukand at warwick dot ac dot uk

Room: S1.124

Advice and feedback hours: By appointment.

Research Interests

  • Political Economy
  • Behavioural Economics

Research papers

I. Political Economy of Liberalism and Identity:

Persecution and Escape: Academic Networks and High Skilled Emigration from Nazi Germany (with Sascha Becker, Volker Lindenthal and Fabian Waldinger) American Economic Journal: Applied Economics (forthcoming)

The paper examines whether professional networks had a role in facilitating the escape of persecuted academics from Nazi Germany. Our study encapsulates the universe of German Jewish academics from the luminaries such as Hannah Arendt, Max Born, Albert Einstein and Ernst Schrodinger, but also the relatively unknown academic. This paper touches on issues that are important in light of what has been happening in Turkey, Hong Kong, Hungary and elsewhere.

Scholars at Risk: VoxEU column 3 September 2023

Persecution, Pogroms and Genocide: A Conceptual Framework and New Evidence (with Sascha Becker and Ivan Yotzov). Explorations in Economic History (2022)

Persecution, pogroms, and genocide have plagued humanity for centuries, costing millions of lives and haunting survivors. We provide a novel conceptual framework which highlights the inter-relationship between the intensity of persecution and migration patterns across dozens of historical episodes. Using this framework as a lens, we take several tentative steps towards explaining the differences in survival rates of European Jews in the 20th century.

Leadership and Propaganda in Nation Building (with Arthur Blouin). published in Nation Building: Big Lessons from Successes and Failures, published by CEPR edited by Dominic Rohner and Ekaterina Zhuravskaya.(2023)

Mistaking Noise for Bias: Victimhood and Hutu-Tutsi Reconciliation (with Arthur Blouin)

The difficulty in resurrecting inter-ethnic cooperation in the aftermath of violence and genocide is one of the biggest challenges facing post-conflict societies. Using experimental data from post-genocide Rwanda and Burundi, this paper shows that an unwarranted tendency to blame others for negative outcomes is a behavioural barrier that makes reconciliation difficult. We show that individuals systematically (and mistakenly) blame accidental negative shocks (noise) to the deliberate intent of individuals (bias). This “victimhood bias” wherein individuals ascribe bias to noise is much larger for (a) individuals for whom ethnic identity is salient; (b) for those who have had greater exposure to inter-ethnic violence. Further, we observe that both inter-ethnic contact and economic development are associated with a decline in this victimhood bias. Finally, those with a lower victimhood bias are more likely to behave cooperatively in inter-ethnic relationships. Our results suggest that insurance agreements that limit negative shocks and reduce noise, can encourage reconciliation by mitigating feelings of victimhood.

Erasing Ethnicity? Propaganda, Nation Building and Identity in Rwanda (with Arthur Blouin).

forthcoming Journal of Political Economy (2019).

This paper provides the first systematic empirical evaluation of nation building in Rwanda. We show that despite operating in the shadow of one of the worst genocides ever and an environment of deep ethnic mistrust and hostility, the Rwandan government has helped 'bridge' the ethnic chasm between Hutus and Tutsis. In particular, we observe that exposure to government propaganda has encouraged nation building in the form of greater inter-ethnic trust and cooperation. Second, we provide evidence arguing that while part of this nation building has been due to a direct improvement in individual inter-ethnic attitudes and preferences, at least some of it has been driven by fear of social or government sanctions. Third, we provide some of the first evidence to show that ethnicity is a political construct that can be altered or 'erased' even in a relatively short time frame. In doing so, we introduce new methodological tools from cognitive psychology with applications to the economics of identity and stereotypes.

Discussion in Nature Human Behaviour.

Economic Interests, Worldviews and Identities: Theory and Evidence on Ideational Politics (with Elliott Ash and Dani Rodrik), (2021) NBER WP 29474. CEPR DP16699

We distinguish between ideational and interest-based appeals to voters on the supply side of politics, and integrate the Keynes-Hayek perspective on the importance of ideas with the Stigler- Becker approach emphasizing vested interests. In our model, political entrepreneurs discover identity and worldview “memes” (narratives, cues, frames) that shift beliefs about voters’ identities or their views of how the world works. We identify a complementarity between worldview politics and identity politics and illustrate how they may reinforce each other. Furthermore, we show how adverse economic shocks may result in a greater incidence of ideational politics. We use these results to analyze data on 60,000 televised political ads in U.S. localities over the years 2000 through 2018. Our empirical work quantifies ideational politics and provides support for the key model implications, including the impact of higher inequality on both identity and worldview politics.

"The Political Economy of Liberal Democracy" (with Dani Rodrik), NBER Working Paper 21540. Forthcoming 2020. The Economic Journal

This paper develops a taxonomy of political regimes that distinguishes between three sets of rights—property rights, political rights and civil rights. The truly distinctive nature of liberal democracy is the protection of civil rights (equal treatment by the state for all groups) in addition to the other two. The paper shows how democratic transitions that are the product of a settlement between the elite (who care mostly about property rights) and the majority (who care about political rights), generically fail to produce liberal democracy. Instead, the emergence of liberal democracy requires low levels of inequality and weak identity cleavages.

The Puzzle of Liberal Democracy (with Dani Rodrik), Project Syndicate, May 13, 2015

"The puzzle is not why democracy so often turns out to be illiberal. It is that liberal democracy can ever emerge....we should not be surprised by how uncommon it is in practice. Only rarely do political forces align to produce a sustainable version of it."

The Political Economy of Ideas (with Dani Rodrik) April 2018

How do Elites Manage to hijack voter ideas of themselves (with Dani Rodrik). Aeon June 2018

"The Leader as Catalyst: On Mass Movements and the Mechanics of Institutonal Change" (with Sumon Majumdar). Working Paper (Latest Version)

II. Political Economy of Policymaking and Development

"Policy Gambles" (with Sumon Majumdar), American Economic Review (2004)

[Why do policymaker take gambles that they know are unlikely to be successful? We throw light on not only why Lyndon Johnson would persist with a military strategy in Vietnam (or Bush in Iraq), but also why leaders may have an incentive to gamble with escalation in the first place. At a broader level this paper throws light on the incentives of a policymaker to experiment (or not) with policy innovations over the course of his time in office.]

"Redistributive Promises and the Adoption of Economic Reform" (with Sanjay Jain) American Economic Review (2003)

"Walk the Line: Conflict, State Capacity and the Political Dynamics of Economic Reform" (with S. Jain and S. Majumdar) Journal of Development Economics (2015) 

Why do economic reforms that are proceeding successfully run into a political impasse? We address this issue in a dynamic model and show that a reform’s initial success may have a negative impact on its political sustainability. Second, we demonstrate that greater state capacity, to make compensatory transfers to those adversely affected by reform, need not always help the political sustainability of reform, but can also hinder it. Finally, we argue that in ethnically divided societies, economic reform may be completed not despite ethnic conflict, but because of it.

"Democracy, Visibility and Public Good Provision" (with Anandi Mani) Journal of Development Economics (2006)

Despite their large benefits, why do governments in developing countries neglect the provision of several essential public goods, despite their considerable benefits? Furthermore, why are voters apathetic towards government neglect of essential public goods? We develop a simple framework that emphasizes the `visibility' of public goods as being key to understanding these differences.

"Politics, Information and the Urban Bias" (with Sumon Majumdar and Anandi Mani), Journal of Development Economics (2004)

Institutions and Political Accountability (with Sumon Majumdar), Journal of Public Economic Theory (2014)

"The Political Economy of Policy Reform" The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics (2009)

III. Globalization and the International Economy

"Globalization and the 'Confidence Game' " Journal of International Economics (2007)

[Why would a government deliberately enact policies that it knows are likely to be inefficient? Why will a government's desire to earn the approval and confidence of international capital markets not have a positive 'disciplining' effect?]

"In Search of the Holy Grail: Policy Convergence, Experimentation and Economic Performance" (with Dani Rodrik), American Economic Review (2005)

This is the first paper to systematically develop and explore the idea that we live in a world in which appropriate policies and institutional arrangements have a large element of specificity. Such specificity could arise from differences in historical trajectories, institutional settings and cultural conditions. Given this, policy experimentation is key to discovering what works locally. Reforms that succeed in one setting may perform poorly or fail completely in other settings. For example, two-track reform may work well in Deng’s China but not in Gorbachev’s Soviet Union. Gradualism may be appropriate to India, but not Chile. Import-substitution may foster competitive industries in Brazil, but not in Argentina and so on. We explore the implications of this specificity for policy experimentation, economic growth and policy spillovers.

The Economics of High Visibility Terrorism (with S. Jain), European Journal of Political Economy (2004)

Globalization, State Capacity and the (In)Disciplining of Nations (with Arthur Blouin and Sayantan Ghosal), (2017)

"Workers Without Borders? Culture and the Political Economy of Globalization" (with Sanjay Jain and Sumon Majumdar), Working Paper [under revision]

[Increasing international labor mobility is arguably the one policy reform that will yield the largest gains in world output and welfare. Why do we not see greater cross-border worker mobility? This paper analyzes the role of culture in driving migration policy. In doing so this paper provides a framework to engage in some practical mechanism design - and suggests politically sustainable Pareto improving policy reforms.]

Policy Briefing Paper: Culture and the Case for Greater Labour Mobility

Media Coverage in The Economist Magazine

IV. Behavioral Economics: Applications To Politics And Development

Mistaking Noise for Bias: Victimhood and Hutu-Tutsi Reconciliation (with Arthur Blouin) Journal of Development Economics (2022)

The paper identifies a "victimhood bias" where individuals systematically (and mistakenly) blame accidental negative shocks (noise) to the deliberate intent of individuals (bias). This “victimhood bias” wherein individuals ascribe bias to noise is much larger for (a) individuals for whom ethnic identity is salient; (b) for those who have had greater exposure to inter-ethnic violence. Further, we observe that both inter-ethnic contact and economic development are associated with a decline in this victimhood bias.

The Meritocratic Illusion: Inequality and the Cognitive Basis for Redistribution (with Arthur Blouin, Anandi Mani and Daniel Sgroi). Working Paper.

The Persistence of Partisanship: Evidence from 9/11 (with Ethan Kaplan)

[The paper empirically identifies a new source of inefficiency in policymaking in democracies - namely, the persistence of partisanship. In particular, the mere act of registering (or not) with a political party today can years later have an impact on the trajectory of politics.]

Press Coverage in Slate (Washington Post) : "You Never Forget Your First"

The Tongue Set Free

* May 24, 1980

* Your Lifelong PrisonerLink opens in a new window

The Torch In My Ear

* Taraf de Haidouks Culai "Neacscu"

* To Let Myself Go

The Play Of The Eyes

"We will not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time"
from Little Gidding and Nirvaan Mukand