Dr. Kai Gehring
Chair of Political Economy - 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 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.

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 regulations 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 (with the words of Frederic Bastiat) to see "the seen and the unseen", 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 not free lunches.

Thus my research is motivated by the aim to understand and empirically investigate puzzling phenomena and urgent economic and political questions. While I am also interested in empirical methods and theory itself, my main motivation is their application to answer urgent economic and political questions in a convincing way. In doing so my motto is "as complicated as necessary, but as simple and understandable as possible".

Research Interests