Stockholm university

Johanna RickneProfessor

About me

I am a professor of Economics at SOFI, Stockholm University. My research interests include labor economics, gender economics, and political economics. 

Research projects


A selection from Stockholm University publication database

  • All the Single Ladies

    2020. Olle Folke, Johanna Rickne. American Economic Journal 12 (1), 260-287


    We study how promotions to top jobs affect the probability of divorce. We compare the relationship trajectories of winning and losing candidates for mayor and parliamentarian and find that a promotion to one of these jobs doubles the baseline probability of divorce for women, but not for men. We also find a widening gender gap in divorce rates for men and women after being promoted to CEO. An analysis of possible mechanisms shows that divorces are concentrated in more gender-traditional couples, while women in more gender-equal couples are unaffected.

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  • Gender Quotas and the Crisis of the Mediocre Man

    2017. Timothy Besley (et al.). The American Economic Review 107 (8), 2204-2242


    We develop a model where party leaders choose the competence of politicians on the ballot to trade off electoral success against their own survival. The predicted correlation between the competence of party leaders and followers is strongly supported in Swedish data. We use a novel approach, based on register data for the earnings of the whole population, to measure the competence of all politicians in 7 parties, 290 municipalities, and 10 elections (for the period 1982-2014). We ask how competence was affected by a zipper quota, requiring local parties to alternate men and women on the ballot, implemented by the Social Democratic Party in 1993. Far from being at odds with meritocracy, this quota raised the competence of male politicians where it raised female representation the most. We argue that resignation of mediocre male leaders was a key driver of this effect.

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  • Who Becomes A Politician?

    2017. Ernesto Dal Bó (et al.). Quarterly Journal of Economics 132 (4), 1877-1914


    Can a democracy attract competent leaders, while attaining broad representation? Economicmodels suggest that free-riding incentives and lower opportunity costs give the less competent a comparative advantage at entering political life. Moreover, if elites have more human capital, selecting on competence may lead to uneven representation. This article examines patterns of political selection among the universe of municipal politicians and national legislators in Sweden, using extraordinarily rich data on competence traits and social background for the entire population. We document four new facts that together characterize an inclusive meritocracy. First, politicians are on average significantly smarter and better leaders than the population they represent. Second, this positive selection is present even when conditioning on family (and hence social) background, suggesting that individual competence is key for selection. Third, the representation of social background, whether measured by parental earnings or occupational social class, is remarkably even. Fourth, there is at best a weak trade-off in selection between competence and social representation, mainly due to strong positive selection of politicians of low (parental) socioeconomic status. A broad implication of these facts is that it is possible for democracy to generate competent and socially representative leadership.

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Show all publications by Johanna Rickne at Stockholm University