Dennis Egger

Ph.D. Candidate in Economics | University of California, Berkeley

I am a sixth year PhD student in Economics at UC Berkeley, interested in Development, Labor and Trade. I use large scale experiments and administrative data sets to conduct well-identified empirical research on migration, networks, and the effects of cash transfers in general equilibrium.

I will be on the job market during the 2021/22 academic year.

CV | Photo


Job Market Paper

The Effect of Migrant Networks on Labor Market Integration, Local Firms and Employees

with Daniel Auer and Johannes Kunz

We study the effects of co-national networks on the labor market integration of asylum seekers, local firms and their employees in Switzerland using 6 linked employer-employee matched administrative data sets from 2008 to 2017 covering the universe of residents in Switzerland. Leveraging the quasi-random placement of refugees across cantons upon arrival, we show that exogenously larger migrant networks substantially and persistently increase employment and labor income of refugees, accounting for 27% of the within-nationality variation in incomes across cantons 5 years after arrival. Networks demographically similar to the migrant, and those more economically successful have larger impacts. Employment effects are concentrated in firms with previous employees from the same nationality, and refugees who quasi-randomly live in the same refugee center for the first 9-12 months are 3 times more likely to work for the same employer after leaving the center, substantiating the referral / information channel. Using a shift-share IV design, we then estimate how a better-matched inflow of migrants affects local firms and their employees: Employment in firms facing a larger shock to their network grows faster for migrants and natives, and there is no evidence of wage decreases for existing workers, consistent with networks increasing firm-worker match quality and productivity.


with Johannes Haushofer, Ted Miguel, Paul Niehaus, and Michael Walker.
Forthcoming, Econometrica

How large economic stimuli generate individual and aggregate responses is a central question in economics, but has not been studied experimentally. We provided one-time cash transfers of about USD 1000 to over 10,500 poor households across 653 randomized villages in rural Kenya. The implied fiscal shock was over 15 percent of local GDP. We find large impacts on consumption and assets for recipients. Importantly, we document large positive spillovers on non-recipient households and firms, and minimal price inflation. We estimate a local transfer multiplier of 2.4. We interpret welfare implications through the lens of a simple household optimization framework.

Media: VoxDev (mp3), Vox (pdf), Washington Post (pdf), The Economist (pdf), NPR (mp3), Econimate, Der Standard (pdf)

Code: iv_spatial_HAC (with Tilman Graff). Stata package for Conley-type standard errors in 2SLS-settings. Available upon request.

with Edward Miguel, Shana S. Warren, Ashish Shenoy, Elliott Collins, Dean Karlan, Doug Parkerson, A. Mushfiq Mobarak, Günther Fink, Christopher Udry, Michael Walker, Johannes Haushofer, Magdalena Larreboure, Susan Athey, Paula Lopez-Pena, Salim Benhachmi, Macartan Humphreys, Layna Lowe, Niccoló F. Meriggi, Andrew Wabwire, C. Austin Davis, Utz Johann Pape, Tilman Graff, Maarten Voors, Carolyn Nekesa, Corey Vernot.
Science Advances (2021), Vol. 7, no. 6

Despite numerous journalistic accounts, systematic quantitative evidence on economic conditions during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic remains scarce for most low- and middle-income countries, partly due to limitations of official economic statistics in environments with large informal sectors and subsistence agriculture. We assemble evidence from over 30,000 respondents in 16 original household surveys from nine countries in Africa (Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Sierra Leone), Asia (Bangladesh, Nepal, Philippines), and Latin America (Colombia). We document declines in employment and income in all settings beginning March 2020. The share of households experiencing an income drop ranges from 8 to 87% (median, 68%). Household coping strategies and government assistance were insufficient to sustain precrisis living standards, resulting in widespread food insecurity and dire economic conditions even 3 months into the crisis. We discuss promising policy responses and speculate about the risk of persistent adverse effects, especially among children and other vulnerable groups.

with Aleksandra Jakubowski, Carolyne Nekesa, Layna Lowe, Michael Walker, Edward Miguel.
JAMA Netw Open. 2021;4(7)

In the absence of concrete plans for widespread vaccination, masks remain one of the few tools available to low-income populations to avoid the spread of SARS-CoV-2 for the foreseeable future. We compare mask use data collected through self-reports from phone surveys and direct observations in public spaces from population-representative samples in Ugunja subcounty, a rural setting in Western Kenya. We examine mask use in different situations and compare mask use by gender, age, location, and the riskiness of the activity. While only 12% of people admitted in phone interviews to not wearing a mask in public, 90% of people we observed did not have a mask visible in public spaces despite a national government mandate. Self-reported mask use was significantly higher than observed mask use in all scenarios (i.e. in the village, in the market, on public transportation). This vast gap suggests that people are aware that mask use is socially desirable, but in practice they do not adopt this behavior. Focusing public policy efforts on improving adoption of mask use via education and behavioral interventions may be needed to improve compliance. Methodologically, our findings suggest that the reliance on self-reported adherence to mitigation measures from phone surveys may be problematic.

Work in Progress

Labor Market Integration, Growth and Inequality: Evidence from China's Hukou Reforms

with Wei Lin

Successive reforms to China's local registration system, the Hukou, provide variation in group-specific migration costs across time and space. We compile a novel dataset of the universe of over 8,000 worker-type specific Hukou reforms across between 1995 and 2015. We then use this variation, together with an event-study design and triple-difference identification strategy, to quantify the reforms' contribution to the increase in internal migrant labor over the past 20 years in China. Using policy-induced exogenous by-group bilateral migration flows, we estimate the impact of increased labor market integration on aggregate Chinese productivity growth, as well as inequality across types of workers and different regions between 1995 and 2015. In the process, we develop a new methodology and provide new estimates of the migration elasticity for different types of workers, between-group substitutability of workers, and across-group productivity and amenity spillovers.

This paper uses COVID-19 school closure policies in Kenya as an exogenous shock to estimate the impact of changes in household childcare needs on adult labor supply. We use nationally-representative bi-monthly panel data in a difference-in-differences design to compare changes after schools partly reopened in Kenya in October 2020 for households with a child in grade 4 or 8—the grades eligible to return to school after the partial reopening—against households with a child in adjacent grades. Having a child eligible to return increases adults’ labor supply in the weeks after reopening. Increases are concentrated on the intensive margin of hours and particularly in household agriculture hours, consistent with labor in this activity being more flexible. We find no effects on the extensive margin of labor participation or on wage employment, which may take longer to adjust to a childcare shock. Impacts are not significantly different by sex of the adult: though women have greater responsibility for childcare in Kenya, men also contribute and both increased childcare hours during school closures. Effects are driven by changes in household childcare burdens and in child agricultural labor when a child returns to school, and are larger in less wealthy households. The impact of partial reopening on work hours corresponds to over 30% of the fall in average hours in the first few months after COVID-19 cases were detected, indicating that school closures are responsible for a significant share of the reduction in labor supply during the pandemic. Large labor effects of a potentially expensive childcare availability shock suggest that policies making childcare more available and affordable could have positive impacts on adult labor supply in Kenya.

Other work in progress

  • MaskUp: Encouraging Mask Use through Community-Based Mask Distribution and Education in Kenya and Uganda (with Alexandra Jakubowski, Michael Walker) Two RCTs studying strategies to adopt mask use through community-level mask distribution, education, behavioral nudges and role-model interventions during the COVID-19 pandemic in Kenya and Uganda.

  • Long-run Equilibrium Effects of Cash Transfers (with Johannes Haushofer, Ted Miguel, and Michael Walker). We study how large inflows of cash affect the economy in the long run. Do effects dissipate? Are there agglomeration effects? Does market structure change?

  • More Money, More Friends? The Social Network Effects of Cash? We use a large randomized cash transfer program to study the social network effects of cash. How does your social network and political influence change when you, or members in your network, get exogenously richer?

  • Reciprocity in Assimilation: Evidence from Baby Names? (with Daniel Auer and Johannes Kunz). Using the random assignment of asylum seekers to locations in Switzerland, we study how assimilation of migrants, proxied by newborn names, interacts dynamically with exposure effects on the host population.

  • Genocide and the Demand for Formal Institutions: Evidence from the Legacy of the Khmer Rouge (with Ricardo Dahis and Joris Mueller). How does a legacy of violence and expropriation shape the demand for current property rights?


Economic Development

Graduate Student Instructor, Spring 2020 | UC Berkeley

Case Studies in Economic Development from Sub-Saharan Africa

Graduate Student Instructor, Spring 2019, Fall 2019 | UC Berkeley

International Trade

Graduate Student Instructor, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2020 | UC Berkeley

Macroeconomic Policy from the Great Depression to Today

Graduate Student Instructor, Spring 2018 | UC Berkeley

Teaching Evaluations

My teaching evaluations were consistently above the department average. In 2019, I was awarded the Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award (given at most once to the top 10% of GSIs).