Research

Working Papers:

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

One crucial puzzle in political economy is why most high-income earners support progressive taxation. This empirical pattern holds across countries with vastly different economic and political characteristics and is not well accounted for in existing models of political economy. This article explains why most affluent individuals fail to recognize that they belong to the high-income income group and how this misperception affect their preferences over progressive tax rates. To explain this mechanism theoretically, I propose a model of generating perceptions about income distribution through self-comparison to an endogenous reference group. These perceptions, in turn, affect preferences over progressive taxation. Relying on ISSP data and an original survey experiment, I find strong evidence for the model's empirical implications: most high-income earners support progressive taxation when they identify with the lower groups. Additionally, individuals who overestimate the annual income of the high-income group are more likely to support progressive tax rates.

Paper.

 
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Ethno-religious Diversity, Authoritarian Rule and Public Goods Provision: Evidence from Ottoman Istanbul

This paper uses water provision data from Ottoman Istanbul to examine how politi- cal geography and ethno-religious identity impact the provision of local public goods in authoritarian regimes. Exploiting the fact that water fountains, built and maintained by the political elite as private endowments, were the only means of providing drink- ing water to most in Ottoman Istanbul, I demonstrate that the ruling class is more likely to contribute to public goods when the system is designed to deliver exceptional benefits to the benefactors’ co-ethnic group. Using an original dataset from 1580-1800, on the spatial distribution of fountains in Istanbul and ethno-religiously segregated neighborhoods, I find a systematic relationship between the choice of fountain site and the benefactor’s own ethnic community. The finding provides a novel answer for why political elites are more willing to fund social services certain groups in authoritarian settings. This finding may be generalized to a broad range of similar cases.

 
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Economic Harbingers of Ottoman Political Modernization: Evolving Anatomy of Power in Istanbul, 1600-1839 (with Timur Kuran)

The modernization drive of the the Ottoman Empire’s final century is typically attributed to pressures from foreign powers and the foresight of Ottoman leaders. This paper ascribes a fundamental role to prior shifts in economic and political power from Muslims to non-Muslims, and  from certain military and religious elites to commoners. These shifts, all under way in the 1700s, motivated Ottoman political elites to begin, with the Gülhane Edict of 1839, the abrogation of age-old economic and political structures grounded in Islamic law and sultanic customs of governance. Despite its momentous provisions, the edict generated only minor resistance, because it merely legitimated trends unfolding for generations. The argument relies on a methodology tailored to measuring power shifts in pre-modern urban contexts. It involves comparing the wealth trajectories of groups defined according to honorific titles. 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 traditional Islamic institutions and toward groups that stood to gain from Westernization.

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The Distributive Basis of Tax Compliance (With Pablo beramendi and ray 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.

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

In this paper we consider the extent to which local healthcare provision is effective in buying electoral votes. We collect new data on the geographical distribution of votes and healthcare provision. Using original data, we measure healthcare provision in terms of geographical proximity to clinics that offer universal and freely accessible primary health- care services in Istanbul, Turkey. This paper makes an empirical contribution to the public goods literature by proposing a new disaggregated measure of visible local public goods. Our identification comes from a nationwide healthcare reform where these primary health- care centers were built and staffed with respect to population thresholds. We estimate that a ten-minute decrease in walking time to the nearest clinic increases the vote share of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) by about 6 percentage points in the 2014 local elections. The effect is more pronounced for voters in non-AKP municipalities. When we run a horse-race between visibility and quality, we reveal an education cleavage: While low-educated voters only care about visibility, highly-educated voters only value quality of healthcare. Our analysis provides an empirical foundation on voter perceptions by education. We argue that spatial distribution of public service provision captures the available information to voters, which in turn, influences political outcomes.