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 (CEU)

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 in Hungary from the 18th to the 21st century

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

The research project looks at the long-run social mobility in Hungary from the early18th century until today. The first paper concerns social mobility in the second half of the 20th century, and concentrates on the effect of socialism and the democratic transition in 1989 on social mobility. The second paper looks at long-run trends from the 18th century. The third paper extends the method in Clark et al. (2015) to study the mobility of women in the 20th century.

We measure social mobility at the level of groups defined by specific surnames, using their relative representation among elite occupations (Clark et al. 2015). We construct unique data from historical registries spanning three centuries to estimate the rate of status transmission under different political regimes: feudal and constitutional monarchies (-1918), right-wing authoritarianism (1920-1945), communism (1947-1989) and liberal democracy (1989-). The results show that long-run social mobility is generally low, implying that advantaged groups can keep their status despite many political and social upheavals. Nevertheless, historical elites lost their advantage at the fastest rate in regimes that were liberal by the standard of their age - constitutional monarchy and liberal democracy. On the other hand, right-wing authoritarianism had an adverse effect on social mobility as it protected the status of elite groups. Surprisingly, there is limited evidence for accelerating social mobility under communism. Finally, the status of disadvantaged groups (e.g., the Romani minority) did not improve under any of the studied regimes. However, we find evidence of lowering entry barriers to the elite occupations for women over the last century.

Land ownership, technological progress and hatred

With Győző Gyöngyösi (IFW-Kiel)

We build a novel dataset on land ownership and physical capital in agriculture of the 19th century Austro-Hungarian Monarchy by digitalizing administrative land registry records. We use this data to study whether the identity of the owner and the capital intensiveness help explain the evolution of extremist political attitudes over the very long run.




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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