Brexit, digital money, and (Super) Mario, oh my!

Fall 2019 roundup of CaixaBank Research by Barcelona GSE alumni


It’s time once again to check in with Barcelona GSE Alumni who are now Economists and Senior Economists at CaixaBank Research in Barcelona. As part of their duties, they regularly publish working papers and reports on a range of topics. Below are some of their latest contributions.

(If you’re a Barcelona GSE alum and you’re also writing about Economics, Finance, or Data Science, let us know where we can find your stuff!)

The «sense and sensibility» of the ECB’s communication

Gabriel L. Ramos ’19 (Finance) and Adrià Morron ’12 (Economics)

Communication is one of the most powerful monetary policy tools. For this reason, CaixaBank Research has developed an index to measure the sentiment of the ECB’s statements.Our ECB sentiment index shows a strong correlation with euro area economic activity indicators and foresees changes in the reference interest rate. The index notes a significant deterioration in ECB sentiment between late 2017 and Q3 2019 and shows how geopolitical uncertainty has affected the ECB’s view of the economic outlook.

The United Kingdom’s potential for Spain after Brexit

Javier Ibañez de Aldecoa ’18 (Economics) with Claudia Canals and Josep Mestres Domènech

In this article, we analyse the extent to which it will be more difficult for Spanish companies to establish relations for international expansion with the United Kingdom following Brexit. We use the CaixaBank Index for Business Internationalisation (CIBI), which classifies foreign countries according to the potential for internationalisation they offer for Spanish companies, and we analyse the impact of the four Brexit scenarios put forward by the Bank of England.

The e-monetary policy of the new digital economy

Adrià Morron ’12 (Economics) and Ricard Murillo ’17 (International Trade, Finance and Development)

Digital technologies permeate the debate on the future of the economy. Monetary policy and its main vehicle, money, are no exception. More and more products are sold over the internet and cash is used less and less. This new digital economy creates new demands on the financial sector and digital money emerges as a new means of payment that appeals to consumers. How does all this affect monetary policy? What can central banks do (and what are they doing) about it?

The farewell of (Super) Mario Draghi

Adrià Morron ’12 (Economics)

Mario Draghi ends his eight-year mandate at the ECB on October 31, leaving the central bank at the cutting edge of monetary policy. Under Draghi’s leadership, the ECB has offered significant support to the recovery of the euro area. However, the latest measures have raised doubts over the margin for action and effectiveness of monetary policy. Christine Lagarde, with a less technical profile but a vision of continuity in monetary policy, will take over in a sombre economic environment in which signs of fragmentation between ECB members have appeared.

Source: CaixaBank Research

Why we need to discuss gender in a different way

Economics ’18 alumni Eva Schoenwald, deputy chair, and Iakov Frizis, editor-in-chief, of the Women in Economics Initiative

Originally posted by the authors on Women in Economics

Recent years have seen significant improvements in female representation in the workplace. Information campaigns, feminist associations, female employment quotas and a rising number of female role models all contribute to an improved gender balance in Western European and US workplaces.

Despite this progress, we remain far from achieving gender balance in the workplace. A significant contributor to the reform slowdown is the emergence of diversity fatigue and inclusion backlash among many companies trying to implement more gender inclusion in the workplace. It becomes increasingly clear that we need to find a way to redefine popular gender discourse if we wish to deliver more inclusion. 

According to the 2018 Global Gender Gap Report, current projections place the closing of the gender gap at 108 years from now. Yet success stories of female economists such as Esther Duflo, Christine Lagarde and Laurence Boone make it easy to cast data aside. They often let us forget about the existence of glass cliffs, implicit gender bias in recruitment and publication processes, pregnancy discrimination, sexual harassment, office favouritism, lack of role models, and restroom gossip, just to name a few. As compelling as success stories might be, they seem not to be bellwethers for reform. 

In the fight against gender discrimination, we face an elusive enemy. A recent International Labour Organisation survey found discrimination and unconscious gender bias to be among the five main challenges for women holding leadership positions. Unconscious bias stems from social norms, values, and experiences that contribute to decision-making. Such bias often manifests itself in an overall masculine corporate culture, along with preconceptions related to social roles and abilities of men and women, and the masculine nature of management positions.

Limited reflection on the effect of unconscious bias towards women in the workplace risks understating the urgency to push for more equality, allowing for a feeling of diversity fatigue to set in. Cundiff and Vescio (2016) show that individuals with strong gender stereotypes are less prone to attribute workplace gender disparities to discrimination. In 2017, James Damore, a Google engineer, unintentionally sided publicly with Cundiff and Vescio when he sued his employer on the grounds of intolerance against individuals holding unpopular political beliefs. The lawsuit came as a response to Google terminating the contract of Mr. Damore, following his drafting of an internal memo in which he argued that female underrepresentation in the tech industry is due to abilities, rather than flagrant discrimination. 

The Google case describes too well the feeling of exhaustion towards diversity and inclusion issues that motivates us to take action. The recent gender inclusion backlash points to a need to revisit how we discuss gender. We should both question the validity of the design of inclusion programmes and acknowledge that we still have a long way to go until we reach equality of opportunity between genders. 

We need to reinvent the way we discuss gender by taking the focus away from high-level gender policies and fairness approaches. Instead, we propose to address gender stereotypes and to develop a strong performance-oriented approach to discussing inclusion. Only by acknowledging that our profession has a gender issue will we be able to revisit this old problem through a new perspective – one that brings together practitioners across both genders, to work towards a more inclusive workplace. 

About the Women in Economics Initiative

Together with some friends, we have recently launched the Women in Economics Initiative (WiE). The Women in Economics Initiative was established to advance gender equality in the field of economics. Our goal is to encourage equal opportunity and a balanced representation of genders in the economics profession across the academic, business and public sectors. To achieve this, we offer a platform that highlights the work of women economists, a network to connect and exchange ideas and interactive data about the status of diversity in economics.

We are looking for new members, supporters as well as submissions of articles from women economists on their work.

Eva Schoenwald ’18 is a quantitative researcher at Nesta and deputy chair of WiE. She is an alum of the Barcelona GSE Master’s in Economics.

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Iakov Frizis ’18 is a senior economist at PwC Luxembourg and editor-in-chief of WiE. He is an alum of the Barcelona GSE Master’s in Economics.

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Measuring horizontal inequity in healthcare utilisation

Publication by Mohammad Habibullah Pulok ’12 (HEP)

My first paper from PhD is out in the European Journal of Health Economics: “Measuring horizontal inequity in healthcare utilisation: a review of methodological developments and debates”

Paper abstract

Equity in healthcare is an overarching goal of many healthcare systems around the world. Empirical studies of equity in healthcare utilisation primarily rely on the horizontal inequity (HI) approach which measures unequal utilisation of healthcare services by socioeconomic status (SES) for equal medical need. The HI method examines, quantifies, and explains inequity which is based on regression analysis, the concentration index, and the decomposition technique. However, this method is not beyond limitations and criticisms, and it has been subject to several methodological challenges in the past decade.

This review presents a summary of the recent developments and debates on various methodological issues and their implications on the assessment of HI in healthcare utilisation. We discuss the key disputes centred on measurement scale of healthcare variables as well as the evolution of the decomposition technique. We also highlight the issues about the choice of variables as the indicator of SES in measuring inequity. This follows a discussion on the application of the longitudinal method and use of administrative data to quantify inequity.

Future research could exploit the potential for health administrative data linked to social data to generate more comprehensive estimates of inequity across the healthcare continuum. This review would be helpful to guide future applied research to examine inequity in healthcare utilisation.

About the author


Mohammad Habibullah Pulok ’12 is a post-doc researcher at Dalhousie University in Canada. He is an alum of the Barcelona GSE Master’s in Health Economics and Policy (now EPP).

How Destructive is Innovation?

Publication in Econometrica by Daniel Garcia-Macia ’11 (Economics)

cover image

Daniel’s paper “How Destructive is Innovation?” (with Chang-Tai Hsieh & Peter Klenow) has been published in Econometrica (September 2019).

The paper has received media attention in NBER Digest, Chicago Booth Review, Financial Times, and Bloomberg.

Paper abstract

Entrants and incumbents can create new products and displace the products of competitors. Incumbents can also improve their existing products. How much of aggregate productivity growth occurs through each of these channels? Using data from the U.S. Longitudinal Business Database on all nonfarm private businesses from 1983 to 2013, we arrive at three main conclusions: First, most growth appears to come from incumbents. We infer this from the modest employment share of entering firms (defined as those less than 5 years old). Second, most growth seems to occur through improvements of existing varieties rather than creation of brand new varieties. Third, own‐product improvements by incumbents appear to be more important than creative destruction. We infer this because the distribution of job creation and destruction has thinner tails than implied by a model with a dominant role for creative destruction.

Daniel Garcia-Macia ’11 (PhD, Stanford University) is an Economist at the International Monetary Fund. He is an alum of the Barcelona GSE Master’s in Economics.

Small Numbers, Big Concerns: Practices and Organizational Arrangements in Rare Disease Drug Repurposing

Publication by Burcu Kucukkeles ’12 (Economics)

Burcu Kücükkeles (Economics ’12) has published a paper in the Academy of Management Discoveries. In this paper, “Small Numbers, Big Concerns: Practices and Organizational Arrangements in Rare Disease Drug Repurposing,” Burcu and her colleagues looked into the societal challenge of developing drugs for rare diseases (a rare disease is a condition that affects less than 200,000 people in the United States or 1 in 2,000 people in the European Union).

By studying the market and government failures in rare diseases and practices of two nonprofit organizations, Burcu and her colleagues contribute to the Agenda on the Sustainable Development Goals beyond the implications of their study to the management literature.

Burcu is currently a PhD candidate at the Chair of Strategic Management and Innovation, Department of Management, Technology, and Economics, ETH Zurich. Voice readers are welcome to email her for access to the full paper or with any questions about this research: burcuk [ at ] ethz [. ]ch

Paper Abstract

Due to their small market size, many rare diseases lack treatments. While government incentives exist for the development of drugs for rare diseases, these interventions have yielded insufficient progress. Drawing on an in-depth case study of rare diseases therapies, we explore how the practices of two nonprofit organizations allowed them to circumvent the endemic market and government failures involving positive externalities by using generic drug repurposing—i.e., seeking new therapeutic applications for existing generic drugs. Beyond elucidating the potential of generic drug repurposing for those suffering from rare diseases, our discoveries provide important insights into the mutual constitution of organizational arrangements for societal challenges and the practices they host. By showing how organizational arrangements can both reinforce and extend practices such that they enable practitioners to achieve a standard of excellence, our study advances practice theory and research on the comparative efficacy of alternative organizational arrangements for tackling societal challenges.


Burcu Kucukkeles ’12 is PhD Candidate at ETH Zurich and an alum of the Barcelona GSE Master’s in Economics.

How do firms adjust to rises in the minimum wage? Survey evidence from Central and Eastern Europe

Publication by Nataša T. Jemec ’09 (Economics) and Ludmila Fadejeva ’11 (Macro)

Nataša Todorović Jemec ’09 (Economics) and Ludmila Fadejeva ’11 (Macroeconomic Policy and Financial Markets) have published a paper in the IZA Journal of Labour Policy, together with a few other colleagues from central banks of new EU member states. The paper, “How do firms adjust to rises in the minimum wage? Survey evidence from Central and Eastern Europe,” studies the transmission channels for rises in the minimum wage using a unique firm-level dataset from eight Central and Eastern European countries.

They wrote the publication within the ECB Wage Dynamics Network (WDN). At the time, Nataša and Ludmila were working at the Central Bank of Slovenia and the Central Bank of Latvia respectively, and they were their banks’ representatives in the WDN. Increase of the minimum wage was a common topic of many new EU members, and they decided to write a paper on that based on the data that they collected through a WDN survey in their countries.

Researchers can use this form to request access to the data of the WDN network which includes many EU countries.

Paper abstract

We study the transmission channels for rises in the minimum wage using a unique firm-level dataset from eight Central and Eastern European countries. Representative samples of firms in each country were asked to evaluate the relevance of a wide range of adjustment channels following specific instances of rises in the minimum wage during the recent post-crisis period. The paper adds to the rest of literature by presenting the reactions of firms as a combination of strategies and evaluates the relative importance of those strategies. Our findings suggest that the most popular adjustment channels are cuts in non-labour costs, rises in product prices, and improvements in productivity. Cuts in employment are less popular and occur mostly through reduced hiring rather than direct layoffs. Our study also provides evidence of potential spillover effects that rises in the minimum wage can have on firms without minimum wage workers.

About the authors

Nataša T. Jemec ’09 is a Senior Economist at IMAD. She is an alum of the Barcelona GSE Master’s in Economics.

Ludmila Fadejeva ’11 is a Senior Econometrician at the Bank of Latvia. She is an alum of the Barcelona GSE Master’s in Macroeconomic Policy and Financial Markets.

Effective competition in non-workplace pensions

FCA publication with contributions by Lorenzo Migliaccio ’14 (Competition and Market Regulation)

FS19/5 in the context of FCA work across the pension saving value chain . Source: FS19/5

The Financial Conduct Authority has published three pensions papers covering advising on pension transfers, the retirement outcome review, and effective competition in non-workplace pensions. The last one – which I’ve contributed to – outlines a number of proposals to improve competition in the non-workplace pensions market in the UK.

To share my Head of Department’s words, ‘this has been one of the most challenging data gathering exercises I have been involved in’, with more than 100 firms providing input for our analysis.

We found similar weaknesses to those the OFT identified in the DC workplace pension market in 2013, ie demand-side weaknesses and reduced competition on charges.

We now invite stakeholders’ views and welcome alternative suggestions for the way we and the industry can address the issues identified. Here you can find more information and download the feedback statement (pdf).


Lorenzo Migliaccio ’14 is Senior Associate Economist at the Financial Conduct Authority. He is an alum of the Barcelona GSE Master’s in Competition and Market Regulation.

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Bank Assets, Liquidity and Credit Cycles

Forthcoming publication by Federico Lubello ’12 (Economics)

My paper, “Bank Assets, Liquidity and Credit Cycles” with Ivan Petrella (Warwick and CEPR) and Emiliano Santoro (University of Copenhagen) has been accepted at the Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control. In the paper, we uncover a close connection between the collateralization of bank loans, macroeconomic amplification and the degree of procyclicality of bank leverage.


We study how bank collateral assets and their pledgeability affect the amplitude of credit cycles. To this end, we develop a tractable model where bankers intermediate funds between savers and borrowers. If bankers default, savers acquire the right to liquidate bankers’ assets. However, due to the vertically integrated structure of our credit economy, savers anticipate that liquidating financial assets (i.e., loans) is conditional on borrowers being solvent on their debt obligations. This friction limits the collateralization of bankers’ financial assets beyond that of real assets (i.e., capital). In this context, increasing the pledgeability of financial assets eases more credit and reduces the spread between the loan and the deposit rate, thus attenuating capital misallocation as it typically emerges in credit economies à la Kiyotaki and Moore (1997). We uncover a close connection between the collateralization of bank loans, macroeconomic amplification and the degree of procyclicality of bank leverage.

Federico Lubello ’12 is a Research Economist at Banque centrale du Luxembourg. He is an alum of the Barcelona GSE Master’s in Economics.


Uncertainty in learning, choice and visual fixation

Paper by Hrvoje Stojić (Economics ’11, GPEFM ’17)

source: Stojić et al

Hrvoje Stojić (Economics ’11 and GPEFM ’17) is co-author on a new paper, “Uncertainty in learning, choice and visual fixation,” now available in pre-print on PsyArXiv.

The authors on the paper illustrate the interdisciplinary nature of this research. Hrvoje and co-author Raymond Dolan are researchers at the Max Planck UCL Centre for Computational Psychiatry and Ageing Research; Jacob Orquin of Aarhus University specializes in the role of eye movements in decision making; Peter Dayan is at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics), and Maarten Speekenbrink is affiliated with the UCL Department of Experimental Psychology.

About the paper

Hrvoje shares an overview of the paper in this Twitter thread:

Get the pre-print

The paper can be downloaded from PsyArXiv.


Hrvoje Stojić (Economics ’11, GPEFM ’17) is a researcher at UCL. He is an alum of the Barcelona GSE Master’s in Economics and PhD from GPEFM (UPF and Barcelona GSE).

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City Design, Planning, Policy Innovations: The Case of Hermosillo

IDB publication co-authored by Miguel Angel Santos (ITFD ’11, Economics ’12)

credit: IDB

After a lengthy review process we are proud to announce that our book “City Design, Planning, Policy Innovations: The Case of Hermosillo” is published and available for download from the Inter-American Development Bank. Cutting edge research on cities featuring my work with Douglas Barrios, my colleague at the Center for International Development’s Growth Lab at the Harvard Kennedy School. Thanks to Andreina Seijas and Diego Arcia for the superb coordination and editing work.

About the book

This publication summarizes the outcomes and lessons learned from the Fall 2017 course titled “Emergent Urbanism: Planning and Design Visions for the City of Hermosillo, Mexico” (ADV-9146). Taught by professors Diane Davis and Felipe Vera, this course asked a group of 12 students to design a set of projects that could lay the groundwork for a sustainable future for the city of Hermosillo—an emerging city located in northwest Mexico and the capital of the state of Sonora. Part of a larger initiative funded by the Inter-American Development Bank and the North-American Development Bank in partnership with Harvard University, ideas developed for this class were the product of collaboration between faculty and students at the Graduate School of Design, the Kennedy School’s Center for International Development and the T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Miguel Angel Santos (ITFD ’11, Economics ’12) is Director of Applied Research at the Growth Lab at Harvard Kennedy School.

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