David SchindlerAssistant Professor at the Economics Department
“I work primarily on projects that help me understand the world better, and that I think have the propensity to improve the life of my fellow citizens.”
What is the main goal of your research?
My research is broadly concerned with answering public policy questions from a behavioral economics perspective. Surprisingly, many of the findings from behavioral economics have not been applied to fields of public policy outside of public finance and environmental economics. I believe, however, that biases and heuristics shape our decisions in many more ways and therefore can substantially affect economically relevant behavior. By identifying and describing situations where that is the case, I hope to direct the interest of other researchers and policymakers to questions that deserve answering with the ultimate goal of improving people’s lives.
How does your research contribute to societal problems?
Because the questions I tackle relate to core questions in the field of public policy, they often carry substantial importance for societies at large. For example, in a recent project, we show that the presence of African American soldiers in the United Kingdom during World War II causally reduced anti-black sentiment and membership in a far-right party over 60 years later. While previous literature had identified that attitudes can persist over time, we go one step further by showing that such persistence can be interrupted and that we can, again persistently, reduce racial prejudice, with effects lasting over decades. This seems particularly important in the context of recent events such as the Syrian refugee crisis, the discussion about systemic racism in the United States, as well as more generally in a globalized world. Our findings prescribe that we bring majorities and minorities in frequent contact and allow them to learn about each other.
In another recent project, we investigate the effect of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on gun sales and homicides. In the shooting’s aftermath, an intense public gun control debate led to record sales of firearms across the United States. We show that states that implemented some form of gun purchase delay laws see a lower increase in gun sales after the shooting. We can demonstrate that prospective buyers who have to wait are suffering from some form of time inconsistency, such as present bias. The states with higher gun sales subsequently witness more domestic homicides as the victims are predominantly female, attacked in their home, and perish as the result of an argument. In light of recent mass shootings in the United States, our paper, therefore, makes a case for delaying firearm purchases in cases where gun ownership is a constitutionally guaranteed right.
What is your main motive?
I work primarily on projects that interest me personally, help me understand the world better, and that I think have the propensity to improve the life of my fellow citizens.
Who is your role model?
I do not have a role model. Instead, I learn from the colleagues, students, friends, and family I have the privilege of spending so much time with.