Research Seminar

The research seminar invites external researchers on a regular basis and is open to the public. It is part of the RTG day and takes place Tuesdays from 16:15 to 17:30 in room GD 02/338 at Ruhr-Universität Bochum during the Wintersemester 2019/2020.

Further information will be released on this website.

22 October 2019

Jos van Ommeren (VU Amsterdam)

The congestion relief benefit of public transit: evidence from Rome

We estimate the effect of public transport supply on travel times of motor-vehicle and bus users in Rome, Italy. We apply a quasi-experimental methodology exploiting hourly information on public transport service reductions during strikes.We find that a 10 percent reduction in public transit supply increases the travel time of motor-vehicles by about 1.6 percent in the morning peak. The effect on bus travel time is similar. The congestion-relief benefit of public transport is thus sizeable and bus travel time gains account for an important share of it. We also examine the welfare effects of providing bus lanes. All else given, a bus lane reduces bus travel time by at least 29 percent. We find that bus lanes are undersupplied in Rome, despite the potential costs due to reducing capacity available to cars.

29 October 2019

Andreas Peichl (CESifo, LMU Munich)

Measuring Unfair Inequality: Reconciling Equality of Opportunity and Freedom from Poverty

Rising income inequalities are widely debated in public and academic discourse. In this paper, we contribute to this debate by proposing a new family of measures of unfair inequality. To do so, we acknowledge that inequality is not bad per se, but that its underlying sources need to be taken into account. Thereby, this paper is the first to reconcile two prominent fairness principles, namely equality of opportunity and freedom from poverty, into a joint measure of unfair inequality. Two empirical applications provide important new insights on the development of unfair inequality both over time (in the US) and across countries (in Europe). First, unfair inequality shows different time trends and country rankings compared to total inequality. Second, average unfair inequality doubles when complementing the ideal of an equal opportunity society with poverty aversion. Furthermore, we show that an exclusive focus on top incomes may misguide fairness judgments.

5 November 2019

Christian Hilber (LSE)

On the Economic Impacts of Constraining Second Home Investments

We investigate how political backlash against wealthy second home investors in high natural amenity places affects local residents. We exploit a quasi-natural experiment: the ‘Swiss Second Home Initiative’, which banned the construction of new second homes in desirable seasonal tourist locations. Consistent with our model, we find that the ban substantially lowered (increased) the price growth of primary (second) homes and increased the unemployment growth rate in the affected areas. Our findings suggest that the negative effect on local economies dominated the positive amenity-preservation effect. We conclude that constraining second home construction in seasonal tourist locations where primary and second homes are not close substitutes may reinforce wealth inequality.

12 November 2019

Philipp Breidenbach (FDZ Ruhr)

„RWI-GEO“ – Small-Scale data from the FDZ Ruhr at RWI

The research data center FDZ Ruhr at RWI forms a research unit as well as a service unit providing data services. These services comprise the preparation of Scientific Use Files, the support of (potential) users and the provision of data for internal and external researchers. Both, research and services focus on small scale and regional data, allowing analyses of regional developments, disparities and local housing markets. In line with these topics, FDZ Ruhr has built up experience and knowledge in geoprocessing, Big Data and web scraping. This talk will give an overview of services and research of FDZ Ruhr and explore priorities of the collaboration of the RTG and the FDZ.

19 November 2019

Melanie Krause (University of Hamburg)

Regional Convergence at the County Level: The Role of Commuters

Commuters spend a substantial portion of their income in a different place from where they earn it, thereby constituting an important channel for cross-regional economic dependencies. In this paper, we analyze their role for economic convergence. Commuter flows are inherently asymmetric which implies a stronger shock propagation from large economic centers to rural regions than in the opposite direction. This is in contrast to the symmetric network structure implied by the conventional geographic weights in spatial econometric models that are based on contiguity or geographical distance measures. Motivated on the grounds of the neoclassical growth model, extended for spatial spillover effects, we use German county-level data from 2002 to 2014 to estimate a panel data model that is dynamic both across time and space. We find that the speed of convergence is substantially overestimated when ignoring spatial spillover effects, irrespective of the choice of the spatial weights matrix. The estimates of the spillover effects themselves are smaller using commuter weights than geographical measures due to the restricted feedback to large economic centers.

26 November 2019

Ola Olsson (University of Gothenburg)

Roman Roads to Prosperity: Persistence and Non-Persistence of Public Goods Provision

How persistent is the provision of public goods? We explore the link between infrastructure investments made during antiquity and the presence of infrastructure today, as well as the link between early infrastructure and economic activity both in the past and in the present. We examine the entire area under dominion of the Roman Empire at the zenith of its geographical extension (117 CE), and find a remarkable pattern of persistence showing that greater Roman road density goes along with (a) greater modern road density, (b) greater settlement formation in 500 CE, and (c) greater economic activity in 2010. Exploiting a natural experiment, we find that the degree of persistence in road density and the link between early road density and contemporary economic development are weakened to the point of insignificance in areas where the use of wheeled vehicles was abandoned from the first millennium CE until the late modern period. Exploring further reasons behind our results, we identify the emergence of market towns from the early medieval period to the modern era as a robust and economically meaningful mechanism sustaining the persistent effects of the Roman roads network. Overall, our results suggest that infrastructure may be one important channel through which persistence in comparative development comes about.

17 December 2019

Hannes Taubenböck (DLR)

Distance creates clarity: Big Earth Data for a better understanding of the century of cities

The largest migration movement that humanity has ever undertaken is in full swing: from the countryside to cities. New cities are emerging. Existing cities are merging into megaregions with more than 70 million inhabitants. Slums grow into the remaining open spaces. Although mankind is in the information age, there are large gaps in knowledge regarding these urban phenomena. In this presentation, the physical transformation of urban landscapes can be experienced through the view from above – with remote sensing data from space. Through the analysis of satellite data, it is possible to document the sprawling urban growth in a global comparison and thus identify the emergence and dimensions of megaregions or even localise areas of urban poverty. The lecture will also show how existing gaps in knowledge can be closed with Big Earth Data in order to make the effects of urbanisation processes on the planet tangible.

7 January 2020

internal seminar

14 January 2020

internal seminar

21 January 2020

Casper Worm Hansen (University of Copenhagen)

How the Other Half Dies: Immigration and Mortality in U.S. Cities

At the turn of the 20th century, immigrants crowded into dense American cities with high mortality penalties. In the 1920s, at a time when urban mortality substantially declined, the U.S. government curtailed immigration by introducing a series of restrictive quota acts. Our estimation approach captures the missing immigrants from this policy change to estimate its effect on urban mortality rates. Using annual city-level by-cause-of-death data, we find that cities with more missing immigrants experienced sharp declines in death rates from infectious and external diseases. Our results are not solely driven by excess immigrant mortality since we show that spillovers to native-born also existed.

28 January 2020

Kerstin Enflo (Lund University)

Regional Disparities in the long-run: Persistence vs. policy

This work deals with three main issues. Firstly, we analyze the long-term relationship between urbanization and economic growth. Urbanization is frequently used to proxy for economic growth in pre-industrial eras when data is missing, but novel databases uncovers that it is a far from perfect proxy and that correlations are changing through time. Using novel indicators, we demonstrate the existence of persistent regional disparities in GDP per capita for pre-industrial times. Secondly, we analyze whether pre-industrial urbanization had any impact on local economic growth. The results suggest that effects are limited to extensive, rather than intensive growth. Yet, urban centers nevertheless are likely to persist through time, and can be promoted through deliberate policies that serve to coordinate expectations.

4 February 2020

Gabriel Felbermayr (IfW Kiel)

From Theory to Policy with Gravitas: A Solution to the Mystery of the Excess Trade Balances

Bilateral trade balances often play an important role in the international trade policy debate. Academic economists understand that they are misleading indicators of competitiveness and of the gains from trade. However, they also recognize their political relevance, calling for accurate statistical measurement and for more scholarly work. Disturbingly, Davis and Weinstein (2002) argue that the canonical gravity model of trade fails when confronted with bilateral trade balances data, dubbing this “The Mystery of the Excess Trade Balances”.

Capitalizing on the latest developments in the theoretical and empirical gravity literature, we demonstrate that the workhorse international trade model actually performs well in explaining bilateral trade balances. Moreover, in our data, only 11 to 13% of the variance in bilateral balances is due to asymmetric bilateral trade costs, belying beliefs that bilateral imbalances are driven by ‘unfair’ manipulation of terms-of-trade. We also perform several general equilibrium experiments within the same structural gravity framework to show that free trade agreements tend to exacerbate bilateral imbalances and that macroeconomic rebalancing leads to adjustment with all trade partners.


Each semester the group meets for an RTG day on Tuesdays. Students and professors will spend the day together at one of the universities discussing their research and ideas. In the morning and early afternoon, first year students will attend their core lectures and in the late afternoon everyone participates in the RTG research seminar. There will be time for bilateral / subgroup meetings discussing joint projects and opportunities for informal discussions e.g. during lunch and coffee breaks. The day will typically close with an informal dinner in a nearby restaurant.

RTG Retreat

The first RTG retreat will take place on October 1st to welcome the first cohort. Professors will present their research agenda and discuss ideas for joint projects within the RTG.

Further events will be announced.

The RTG supports students with children to organize and finance child-care for RTG events taking place outside usual child-care opening hours.