An Experimental Investigation of Election Promises [link]

Political Psychology 2018, with Pieter van Eck & Magnus Johannesson

We analyze the effect of election promises on electoral behavior in a laboratory experiment. In the experiment, politicians can make non-binding election promises about how to split an endowment between themselves and the group. We find that promises affect both voting and voter beliefs about how much the politician will contribute to the public fund. The relationship is inverted U-shaped with decreasing credibility of higher promises. Contributions of politicians are correlated with their promises in a similar pattern. The election promises are generally credible unless particularly high. Politicians keep promises more often if a re-election is possible, and if the politician came into power by vote rather than by random draw. Voters reward high contributions in the previous period and punish promise breaking even after controlling for the contribution in the previous period or voters’ beliefs about future contributions. By controlling for voters’ beliefs we distinguish retrospective from prospective voting. Our results suggest that voters both use promises for prospective voting, and retrospectively punish broken promises.

Gender and Willingness to Lead: Does the Gender Composition of Teams Matter? [link]

Review of Economics and Statistics 2020, with Anna Sandberg & Eva Ranehill

We explore how team gender composition affects willingness to lead by randomly assigning participants in an experiment to male- or female-majority teams. Irrespective of team gender composition, men are substantially more willing than women to lead their team. The pooled sample, and women separately, are more willing to lead female- than male-majority teams. An analysis of mechanisms reveals that a large share of the negative effect of male-majority teams on women's leadership aspirations is accounted for by a negative effect on women's confidence, influence, and expected support from team members.

Does a district-vote matter for the behavior of politicians? A textual analysis of parliamentary speeches [link]

Forthcoming in European Journal of Political Economy with Aljoscha Janssen

In most democracies members of parliament are either elected over a party list or by a district. We use a discontinuity in the German parliamentary system to investigate the causal effect of a district-election on an MP’s conformity with her party-line. A district-election does not affect roll call voting behavior causally, possibly due to overall high adherence to party voting. Analyzing the parliamentary speeches of each MP allows us to overcome the high party discipline with regard to parliamentary voting. Using textual analysis and machine learning techniques, we create two measures of closeness of an MP’s speeches to her party. We find that district-elected members of parliament do not differ, in terms of speeches, from those of their party-peers who have been elected through closed party lists. However, both speeches and voting correlate with district characteristics suggesting that district-elections allow districts to select more similar politicians.

Work in Progress

Promise Competition [link]

Working Paper

This paper studies competition when sellers cannot perfectly commit to the quality of their offers. I propose a model in which two sellers compete by promising service-quality to a one-time-only customer and test its predictions in a laboratory experiment. Sellers have private information about the individual cost of supplying quality and of breaking promises. In equilibrium, sellers pool their promises and competition induces them to promise higher quality than they would provide absent promises. Honest sellers keep their high promise, therefore promise competition raises average service-quality despite non-binding contracts and private information. However, pooling prevents positive selection of better sellers. The experiment confirms these predictions. Promise competition increases the amount participants give and – while participants distinguish themselves by their promises initially – they learn to pool their promises and selecting better seller-types becomes impossible eventually. The results suggest an explanation for the prevalence of promises in market interactions even though promises are non-binding and uninformative.