CIVICA Workshop at CEU Addresses Mechanisms of Historical Persistence


Workshop offered research exchange from across CIVICA alliance universities and keynote by distinguished Professor Sascha Becker.

Why does inequality persist? What is driving and reinforcing the pattern over time? Such questions were embedded in Professor Sascha Becker’s keynote lecture during the CIVICA workshop, “Uncovering the Historical Mechanisms of Persistence”, hosted by CEU’s Department of Public Policy on January 18-19.

Becker’s talk, “The Virtuous Cycle Between Skills and Technology", focused in part on a working paper that examines how the technology of the steam engine has had long lasting effects on labor markets local to where it was implemented. Looking at this relationship as a mechanism of historical persistence, Becker noted how the technology led to the development of skilled workers and local wealth, and how such a pattern has been reproduced in subsequent advances such as IT, enabling inequality to persist.

Becker is the Xiaokai Yang Chair of Business and Economics at Monash University in Melbourne and Project Leader at the Rockwool Foundation in Berlin. His work on the steam engine is just one example of the research presented on mechanisms of historical persistence over the two-day workshop. Paper topics from across various fields ranged from the birth control pill and tax compliance to voting behavior and legal practices.

“The significance of understanding historical persistence mechanisms lies in their potential to inform policies addressing various societal challenges,” said Anand Murugesan, Associate Professor in CEU’s Department of Public Policy and co-organizer of the workshop. “These mechanisms offer insights into persistent issues such as erroneous beliefs and distrust, which can hinder social and economic development.”

The workshop brought together 11 researchers at faculty, postdoctoral and PhD levels from CIVICA universities, which included CEU, The London School of Economics, the European University Institute, Stockholm School of Economics and IE University. It was organized in alignment with the CIVICA research themes of Democracy in the 21st Century and Europe Revisited, and embraced perspectives from the quantitative social sciences, economics, history, political science and sociology. Visiting participants were funded to attend through CIVICA’s Faculty Short Visits mobility grant.

“The workshop discussions highlighted common challenges faced by researchers in this field, with one notable obstacle being data availability. Sascha Becker provided invaluable mentorship and guidance to younger scholars, enriching the overall workshop experience,” said Associate Professor Michael Dorsch, Head of CEU’s Department of Policy and workshop co-organizer.

Exchanges delivered insights regarding the intricate challenges of causal inference and temporal complexity when studying historical persistence. Every paper presented received in-depth feedback.

Vlad Surdea-Hernea, a PhD researcher in CEU’s Department of Political Science said: “This workshop allowed me to share my work with leading figures in the field, and also to discover other early-stage researchers with whom I will stay in touch and possibly collaborate in the future. I feel that I have received valuable and extensive feedback, which I am looking forward to incorporating.” Surdea-Hernea presented the working paper, “Political Repression and Support for Green Parties: Evidence from Germany”.

The intensive yet casual setting of the activities fostered valuable one-to-one interactions among participants and helped to pave the way for future research and teaching collaborations across CIVICA.

Written by Julie Potter (CEU). 

Photo credits: courtesy of CEU. 

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