Dr. Kai Gehring
University of Zurich


I am a senior researcher in economics at the University of Zurich, funded by a 4-year "Ambizione Grant" of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF). My main research interests are in public economics, political economy and economic development, and my SNF project investigates the relationship between resources, group identities and political stability.

I analyze issues from a polito-economic perspective, by creating formal models or deriving hypotheses from the literature and putting those to rigorous empirical tests. Thereby, I emphasize the identification of causal effects through a variety of strategies ranging from intensive fixed effects models, natural experiments, difference-in-differences to regression discontinuity designs. Depending on what is best suited to answer the research question, I use both contemporaneous and historical data, and consider developing and developed countries.

My main motivation to do research is the interest to better understand how political and market institutions work. By creating knowledge, I hope to contribute to making the world a free, wealthier and happier place. As an researcher my aim is to find out which institutions and structure are most likely to make societies function well, and which might not despite being intended to do so. In my view, the role of an economist in society is (based on Frederic Bastiat) to consider "the seen and the unseen" consequences of policies, and not fall prey to common sense and make-believe. Don't trust simplistic explanations and remember that the world is full of trade-offs, and unfortunately no free lunches.

Research Interests