Research

Working Papers:

 
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Who is High-Income, Anyway?: Social Comparison, Subjective Group-Identification, and Preferences over Progressive Taxation

Why are high-income and low-income earners not significantly polarized in their support for progressive income taxation? This article posits that the affluent fail to recognize that they belong to the high-income income group and this misperception affects their preferences over progressive taxation. To explain this mechanism theoretically, I introduce a formal model of subjective income group identification through self-comparison to an endogenous reference group. In making decisions about optimal tax rates, individuals then use these subjective evaluations of their own income group and earnings of other groups. Relying on ISSP data, I find strong evidence for the model's empirical implications: most high-income earners support progressive taxation when they identify themselves with a lower group. Additionally, individuals who overestimate the earnings of the rich are more likely to support progressive taxation.

Paper.

 
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The Rich, the Poor, and the Other: Distributional Consequences of Private Provisioning of Public Goods

A standard result in political economy is that, in the absence of government's control and regulation, a system of voluntary and private donations would undersupply public goods. However, these models rarely theoretically investigate, or empirically test, the allocational consequences of private and voluntary provision, especially in ethnically diverse and socially stratified societies. How do the elite's charitable contributions affect the distributional equilibrium across ethnic groups and social classes? I argue that when the elite is not politically accountable for public goods provisioning, rewards for supplying and the punishment for shirking are operationalized through social and geographic links. Given that one's social class and ethnic group shape personal and geographic ties, I posit that the voluntary contributions of the elites will cause an imbalance that favors localities with which they are connected. Exploiting the fact that water fountains, built and maintained by the Muslim elite as private endowments through the waqf system, were the only source of drinking water in Ottoman Istanbul, I test this argument. I find that the elites systematically supplied significantly more clean drinking water to co-ethnic and elite neighborhoods in Ottoman Istanbul.

Paper.

 
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Economic Harbingers of Ottoman Political Modernization: Peaceful explosion of rights in ottoman istanbul (with Timur Kuran)

The modernization drive of the Ottoman Empire’s final century is typically attributed to pressures from foreign powers and visionary Ottoman leaders. This paper ascribes a fundamental role to prior shifts in economic and political power toward non-Muslims, and away from military and religious elites. These shifts, all under way in the 1700s, motivated Ottoman political leaders to begin, with the Gülhane Edict of 1839, the dismantling of traditional institutions grounded in Islamic law and sultanic customs of governance. Despite its momentous provisions, the edict generated only minor resistance, because it legitimated trends unfolding for generations and also addressed chronic grievances. The data come from the registers of Istanbul’s Islamic courts, 1600-1839. They allow the tracking of group-based changes in wealth, as measured by the founding of waqfs (Islamic trusts) and ownership of tradable productive assets known as gediks. The paper contributes to the literature on the Middle East’s reversal of fortune by identifying how, as the Ottoman Empire passed its prime, power in its capital shifted away from constituencies with a stake in Islamic institutions and toward groups that stood to gain from Westernization.

Paper.

 
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The Distributive Basis of Tax Compliance (With Pablo beramendi and rayMond duch)

By exploring the individual responses in terms of compliance to the specifics in the design of different fiscal systems, this paper offers a deeper exploration of some of the micro-level assumptions in the macro PE literature on tax capacity and tax compliance. It uses the macro comparative taxation literature to illuminate several important mechanisms driving compliance at the individual level, thereby providing a bridge between behavioral economic approaches and macro-political ones. By performing this blending experimentally, the paper contributes to disentangle important elements of the micro-logic of state capacity building free of the important limitations affecting observational research, most prominently in this case the feedback loops connecting state performance and citizens's dispositions to each other.

Paper.

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Out of Sight, Out of Mind? Proximity to Health Care and Electoral Outcomes (With F. Serkant adiguzel and gozde corekcioglu)

It is well established that voters reward incumbent politicians for distributive allocations. However, most of the evidence comes from aggregate measures of changes in the stock of the public goods and does not account for variations in accessibility to public services within administrative units. The objective of this paper is to show that increasing geographic proximity to a new public service increases electoral support for the incumbent party. We use the Family Medicine Program reform in Turkey, which gave rise to an exogenous variation in proximity to the local Family Health Centers, to show that voters whose distance to the nearest clinic have decreased are more likely to vote for the incumbent party. We also show that educated voters reward the incumbent when there is an increase in the quality of the service in the nearest Family Health Center, whereas less educated voters reward increasing proximity.

Paper.

Work in progress:

Local Economies, Local Wealth, and Economic Perceptions (with Ben Ansell)

How Does Wealth Shape Societies? Cross-National Wealth Inequality in Historical Perspective (with Ben Ansell and Jonas Markgraf)

Progressivity, Information, and Redistributive Preferences (with Pablo Beramendi)

Economic Growth, Income Inequality, and Anti-Establishment Attitudes (with Spyros Kosmidis)