Postdoctoral fellow at the University of Padova.

An applied microeconomist, with a special interest in the topics of political economy and development.

PhD graduate of Central European University, Department of Economics and Business (2019)



The public morals / public services tradeoff: theory and evidence from Sharia-regulations in Indonesa

(job market paper)

Campaigning on highly divisive, identity-based issues can serve as a cheaper alternative to provision of goods and services, so politicians have an economic incentive to cater to hardliners. I formalize and test this hypothesis using Indonesian data. About half of the district governments in Indonesia have been experimenting with divisive and often controversial Sharia-based religious policies since 2000. I estimate the impact of religious policies using difference-in-differences and instrumental variables methods. The first IV exploits village-level variation in the number of religious schools using a leave-out mean design. The second IV exploits district-level historical variation in religious intensity interacted with the countrywide increase in religiosity using a shift-share design. I show that districts that introduce Sharia-based policies spend less and create less public services: the conservative estimate of the impact is a 10 percent decrease in both spending and in the value of a standardized government services index. The downstream social effects of cutting service provision and relying on hardliners to win elections are that Sharia policies increase various measures of poverty and foster violence. The calibration of a formal voting model suggests that the total utility of the secular voters can decrease by as much as four times as the decrease in observed outcomes would justify. The evidence is consistent with the notion that politicians use divisive policies to strategically redistribute utility across voters while reducing the supply of material wellbeing.

“Deny Thy Father and Refuse Thy Name” - Nation Building and the Salary Differential of Family Name Changers in Hungary

With Rita Pető (CERS-HAS)

[link to slides]

Draft available upon request.

The paper studies how the state in pre-World War I Hungary used labor market discrimination based on family names to encourage assimilation, foster nation building and decrease cultural diversity. Using unique, historical administrative data sets from the late 19th and early 20th centuries we show that workers from minority backgrounds who changed foreign surnames to Hungarian sounding ones earned more than those who did not change. We use pooled OLS and a name frequency based instrumental variable and find a median salary premium of 5.8% for name changers. This result shows that family name, a fundamental part of one's identity (which links the individual to both a family and a cultural community) is endogenous to short-run economic incentives. Next, we build a model of self-selection into assimilation, and use it together with a historical policy shock to quantify the impact of incentivized name changing on the cultural composition of early 20th century Hungary. 

Social Mobility and Social Regimes: Intergenerational Mobility in Hungary, 1949-2017

With Pawel Bukowski (LSE), Gregory Clark (UC-Davis), and Rita Pető (CEU)

Submitted and currently under review.

[link to working paper at CEPR]

We measure social mobility rates in Hungary 1949-2017, for upper class and underclass families, using surnames to measure social status. In these years there were two very different social regimes. The first was the Hungarian People's Republic, 1949-1989, a Communist regime with an avowed aim of favouring the working class. Then the modern liberal democracy, 1989-2020, a free-market economy. We find four surprising things. First, social mobility rates were low for both upper- and lower-class families 1949-2017, with an underlying intergenerational status correlation of 0.6-0.8. Second, social mobility rates under communism were the same as in the subsequent capitalist regime. Third, the Romani minority throughout both periods showed even lower social mobility rates. And fourth, the descendants of the noble class in Hungary in the eighteenth century were still significantly privileged 1949 and later.




Introductory Microeconomics, Introductory Econometrics, Introductory Economics

@UMY (Yogyakarta, Indonesia)

Mathematics for economists, Econometrics

@CEU (as TA)

Data Analysis, Mathematics for economists

Non-Academic Work

CEU MicroData

I was developing a database on the universe of Hungarian public procurement tenders from 1997 to present day. The primary purpose of the database is academic, as it provides input for ongoing research. The secondary purpose is to have a tractable, searchable, easy-to-use public procurement database for the general public, as the official procurement homepage is not very sympathetic to neither scientific, journalistic  or civic purposes.

CEU Microdata webpage

CEU procurement webpage


Scholarships, Fellowships, Awards

  • CEU Doctoral Research Support Grant, 2017 (to spend the semester at Duke University)

  • CEU Global Teaching Fellowship, 2016 (to teach in Indonesia)

  • Review of Economic Studies Student Fellowship 2016 (for JM research)

  • CERGE-EI – GDN Regional Research Competition 2016 (for JM research)

  • INET The History Project Research Grant 2015 (for the Name changers project)

  • CERGE-EI Teaching Fellow AY 2014/2015 (teaching at ELTE)

  • Erős Gyula Award 2012 (for MA thesis at CEU )

Languages and Skills

  • Hungarian: native

  • English: fluent

  • Spanish: fluent

  • Indonesian: basic

  • Stata (6 years of experience)

  • Python (4 years of experience)

  • R (1 year of experience)


attila.gaspar [at]

attila.gaspar [at]

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© 2018 Attila Gáspár

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