Research Projects

Ongoing Research Projects

The Economics of Deep Trade Agreements

Financing: FNRS

Promotors: Mathieu Parenti and Gonzague Vannoorenberghe

Project description: The project develops a framework to analyze the economic consequences of deep trade agreements. This new generation of trade agreements, such as the ones signed between the EU and Japan or the EU and Canada (CETA) go much beyond traditional tariff reductions and have at their core the dismantling of many non-tariff barriers. These raise a number of questions about regulatory convergence, the recognition of foreign standards (e.g. should hormone-fed beef be allowed for consumption) and investment protection. Many in the public debate fear a loss of national sovereignty, implying a lower consumer protection and unfair competition to local, high-quality producers. Most existing trade models are ill-equipped to address these questions as they restrict trade liberalization to be similar to a reduction in tariffs. Our project addresses these shortcomings by considering quality standards as a legitimate way to curb consumption or production externalities, and not only as a way to protect the national industry. In this setup, we derive the conditions under which new trade agreements are welfare improving, and provide guidance as to when countries should mutually recognize their standards or not. We also address the role of new trade agreement for international tax competition.

Human capital and secularization: civil vs religious marriages in Italy

Financing : FNRS CDR

Promotor: Fabio Mariani

Project description: This research is concerned with the interplay between human capital accumulation and secularization, as measured by the prevalence of civil marriages.

By taking advantage of Census data for Italy (panel of ~ 8000 municipalities, 1971-2011) and a dataset of exceptional quality covering all Italian marriages from 1969 to 2017, we first aim at establishing empirically a robust correlation between educational attainment and civil marriages. We also want to understand how the above correlation depends on socio-economic factors (such as social capital and family ties), varies across space and evolves over time - namely after the legalization of divorce in 1970. Moreover, our data allow us to link the secularization process with gender, marriage-market characteristics, and inequality.

In order to make sense of our empirical results, we propose a theory which focuses on the economic incentives related to marriage, while remaining agnostic about possible direct effects of human capital on religiosity (through critical thinking, scientific knowledge, etc.). We thus build a model in which education, religiosity and marriage type are optimally chosen by utility-maximizing individuals. In this framework, we determine the equilibrium share of civil marriages, see how it is related to average human capital and religious practice, and analyze the consequences of the legalization of divorce.

We also investigate a politico-economic extension of our model, where political preferences towards the legalization of divorce arise endogenously and depend on education, religiosity and marriage choices. The results of the model can be brought back to the data, relying on newly collected information (at the municipality level) from the 1974 Italian referendum on divorce.

Social Enterprises and Sustainability: A Comparative Analysis between Worker Cooperatives and Social Cooperatives

Financing: FSR

Promoter: A. Périlleux

Project description: Cooperatives, one of the oldest types of social enterprises, have received fresh attention because they can play an important role in social and ecological transition. This research project will focus on the sustainability of worker cooperatives and the new wave of so-called “social cooperatives”. First, it will analyse the resilience of SCOP, the French worker cooperatives, to the recent crisis. Secondly, it will look at “social cooperatives” and investigate their survivability. Thirdly, it will explore the institutional arrangements/governance structure of worker cooperatives and social cooperatives to analyse their similarities and divergences and to see to what extent those organisations can be understood as commons.

Accompagnement scientifique et méthodologique dans le cadre d’une étude évaluation expérimentale d’un dispositif visant à faciliter l’accès à un logement locatif privé (2016- 2019)

Financing: IWEPS (Institut wallon de l’évaluation, de la prospective et de la statistique; Namur, Belgique)

Promotors: M. Dejemeppe, W. Parienté and B. Van der Linden

Project description: The purpose of the evaluation project is to measure the effect of a new program, called «irrevocable mandate», for helping social welfare recipients in Wallonia (the French speaking region in the South of Belgium) gain access to private rental housing. With the agreement of the recipient, this program allows the public social welfare center to withhold the rent directly from the payment of welfare benefits. Against guaranteed payment of the rent, the owners undertake to reduce the rent amount. To evaluate this program, we intend to carry out a randomized controlled experiment. This experiment will consist in comparing a group of welfare recipients benefiting from the program and another group of recipients that do not receive the program, both groups being randomly chosen. We will support the researchers at IWEPS in setting up the experiment. Setting up the experiment is however conditional upon the outcome of a feasibility study aimed at assessing whether a randomized controlled experiment of the program is possible.

Chaire “Les Petits Riens”: The social economy as a way to tackle poverty” (2015-2020)

Financing: Les Petits Riens (indirect partnership with la Région de Bruxelles capitale)

Promoter: M. Nyssens

Project description: The aim of this project is twofold: to shed some light, through scientific research, on the complexity of the social economy and to provide tools to promote the social and environmental sustainability of enterprises. Les Petits Riens collects, selects and sells second hand clothes. Although less well known it also implements a wide range of social actions. Indeed, among others, Les Petits Riens host and support more than 300 homeless people every year. Engaged in this Chaire, this social enterprise has chosen a scientific approach to formalize and improve its actions and to share the knowledge acquired during more than 75 years of activity. It believes, indeed, that changing the way enterprises are organized from a social, economic and environmental perspective is a key factor to tackle poverty and exclusion. Every year the Chaire will choose a different topic relevant for both social enterprises and the academic researchers in the field. This first year, it will investigate the issues and the complexity of social impact measurement. This topic is crucial for social enterprises as they face an increasing pressure from public bodies and private investors in order to prove their social impact. It is also a relevant subject for academic research as social impact measurement raises important theoretical and methodological questions.

Chaire’s Webpage:

Innovations sociales en Wallonie pour un maintien à domicile (“WISDOM”) (2014-2017)

Financing: Walloon Region

Promoters: M. Nyssens, F. Degavre (IACCHOS),

Project description: WISDOM is a 30 months research project financed by the Walloon region coordinated by Florence Degavre and Marthe Nyssens. The Institut de Recherches Santé et Société (UCL) and the Centre de Recherche Interdisciplinaire Approches Sociales de la Santé (ULB) and the Union des entreprises à profit social (UNIPSO) are partners of the project. Its objective is to contribute to social innovation in the field of home care for elderly people in Wallonia.

“Essays in Quantitative Macroeconomics”

Financing: Belgium National Bank

Promoter: R. Oikonomou

Project description: this project is on quantitative macroeconomics, in particular on models of heterogeneous agents and on optimal fiscal policy models. A first paper analyzes the importance of the secondary market for durables, for the risk sharing opportunities in an incomplete financial market. A second paper is a DSGE model with optimal tax and debt policies applied to the US data.

Family transformations, incentives and norms (2015-2019)

Financing: Action de Recherche Concertée (ARC), Communauté française de Belgique

Promoters: D. de la Croix, F. Mariani, E. Rizzi (DEMO)

Project description: Over the last century, marriage and the family have undergone radical evolutions. New patterns such as blended families or same-sex couples have emerged, divorce rates have increased, and fertility has gone down. These trends are both the cause and the outcome of value changes. By gathering economists from IRES and demographers from DEMO, this project aims at shedding light on the mechanisms that drive this type of family transformations, and on their consequences. Two main research directions will be developed. The first concerns the formation of the couple. It will notably investigate the evolution, drivers and consequences of the matching between partners; the emergence of new forms of marriages and their coexistence with old ones; and the interactions between the degree of endogamy in the society and economic development across time and space. The second part of the project focuses on the construction of the family and choices in terms of fertility, and will notably document the phenomenon of childlessness, the optimal age for pregnancy, and the interactions between religion and fertility. Across these various issues and following the fil rouge of the family cycle – from the formation of the couple to the enlargement of the family –, interactions and complementarities between the two disciplines and their different methodologies are expected to be very beneficial.

Family, Marriage and Economic Development

Financing: FSR

Promoters: F. Mariani, L. Pensieroso

Project description: This project explores two aspects of the interplay between economic growth and the evolution of the family structure in a secular perspective. First, we formalize the idea that different legal and customary attitudes towards endogamous marriage in the pre-industrial epoch have played a significant role for comparative development, giving rise to differential patterns of economic development over time and across countries. Second, we investigate how the structural transformation out of agriculture during the industrial revolution, the demographic transition and the evolution of the patterns of intergenerational co-residence interact with each other.

Chair Social Economy in the South (in partnership with Louvain Coopération) (2012 - 2017)

Financing: Fondation Louvain

Promoters: M. Nyssens and A. Lemaitre (IACCHOS)

Project description:

The Chair has three main objectives.
1. Training of researchers - PhD students and post-docs- in the following areas: mutual insurance, food and economic security strategies developed through social economy initiatives.
2. The development of these themes in master degrees (Master in Economics, Master in Development ...).
3. The development of synergies between research and action through the partnership with the NGO “Louvain-cooperation”.

If not for Profit, for What? and How? (2012 - 2017)

Financing: Interuniversity Attraction Pole Programme, Belgian Science Policy

Promoters: M. Nyssens, F. Degavre (IACCHOS), D. DESMETTE (IPSY)

Project description:

Around 45 faculty members and researchers in economics, management, sociology and psychology from 4 Belgian universities and four internationalresearch partners are involved in this IAP from the outset. They focus on one overall objective, which is defined by the subtitle of the research programme, i.e. “Building inter-disciplinary and integrated knowledge on social entrepreneurship and social enterprise”. The research programme is structured around six main thematic lines: social innovation and social opportunities, financing social enterprise, employment and HRM, governance, social enterprise models and institutionalisation processes, integration of findings and theoretical contributions.