Stockholm university

Research project Social and Political Economics: Theory and Evidence

These two programs include theoretical as well as empirical research. I give examples of a first set of projects in the two programs, which will be carried out by twelve different collaborators in the U.S., Europe, and Sweden.

Hands holding a globe
Photo: Unsplash

The first research program will apply a common theoretical framework to study how individual and social motives interact in driving individual decisions, a question that has fallen in between the cracks of different approaches in the social sciences. Based on the predictions from suitable modifications of this common framework, I will use different individual-level data sets to study the same general question, namely whether social motives reinforce or weaken the effect of changing individual motives (e.g., due to government policy changes).

The first set of projects in this research will consider different decisions in the social, political, and economic spheres in different countries: (i) decisions in China leading to interethnic marriages and the ethnicity of children in such marriages, (ii) decisions on taxevasion and compliance in the U.K. and Sweden, (iii) decisions to give political campaign contributions in the U.S., and (iv) decisions on child spacing and the number of children in Sweden. More research along similar lines will follow. Using the same approach to study how individual and social motives interact in a set of very different problems, the program can break genuinely new ground on the boundary between economics and sociology.

The second program will study the political economics of Swedish municipalities. The core of the project is a unique data set with a wealth of longitudinal information for about 250,000 municipal politicians over the last 30 years. Depending on the research question, this data will be linked to other detailed information from individual-level registers, and from municipality-level data on spending, accounting and governance. The first set of projects in the program deal with: (i) how the preference-vote system affects the selection of party leaders and municipal policies, (ii) how political representation is chosen by political leaders and how gender quotas shape political representation and candidate competence as well as public policies, (iii) the prevalence of political dynasties (family-kin relations) in municipal politics and how these impinge on the efficiency of public policies, and political rents (iv) relations among politicians, civil servants, and local firms, and how these shape special-interest politics and the efficiency of the municipal administration.

More research along similar lines will follow. The new data set and its future extensions will be uniquely rich in its details, such that genuinely new questions in political economics can be posed and answered. This can lead to real breakthroughs at the boundary between economics and political science.

Project members

Project managers

Torsten Persson


Institute for International Economic Studies
Torsten Persson


Adam Altmejd Selder


Swedish institute for social research
Adam Altmejd