Foto del docente

Marco Casari

Full Professor

Department of Economics

Academic discipline: SECS-P/02 Economic Policy

Research

Keywords: Microeconomics Experimental Economics Environmental Economics Institutional Economics

If I have to give a two-word summary of my research agenda, I’d say: human cooperation. My focus is on understanding how individuals and societies can overcome social dilemmas, and what type of norms and organizations can favor cooperation. More specifically, I study four issues within this general theme: community governance, impersonal exchange, monetary systems, and climate change (see below).

Theory and evidence suggest that without motivational or institutional restraints, free-riding is a strong attractor. The aim of my studies is to identify what are the empirical factors that can enhance cooperative outcomes. Although I mostly rely on the methodology of experimental economics, I am also employing computational models and historical evidence.

COMMUNITY GOVERNANCE

My first PhD project was a study of the way communities avoided the tragedy of the commons, and I am still working on this line of research. I was inspired by Elinor Ostrom to study common property resources through a dialogue between field evidence (2, 3, 4, 5), lab experiments (7), and computational models (1, 6).

My work looks at very long-term dynamics (3, 4, 5) and makes extensively use of game theory and the economics of property rights (2, 5, 7). I have studied six-centuries of community governance in the Italian Alps relying on theory, experiments, and historical evidence to understand the factors that contributed to the successful management of the commons. I have addressed questions such as: How are informal norms enforced (7)? How can an organization be created bottom-up (5)? Is community governance breaking down beyond a given size (3)? What triggers institutional change and how does it spread to other communities (1)? I have recently received a grant to create a digital archive of historical documents about the management of the commons in the Italian Alps.

  1. Institutional Change in Property Rights (with M. Lisciandra), working paper, 2020.
  2. Property Rights, Marriage and Fertility, (with M. Lisciandra, C. Tagliapietra), Expl. in Econ. Hist., 2019
  3. Group size in social-ecological systems (with C. Tagliapietra), PNAS, 2018
  4. Gender Discrimination in Property Rights (with M. Lisciandra), J. of Econ. Hist., 2016
  5. Emergence of Endogenous Legal Institutions, J. of Econ. Hist., 2007
  6. Can genetic algorithms explain experimental anomalies? Comput. Econ., 2004
  7. Decentralized management of common property resources, (with C.R. Plott) J. Econ. Beh.&Org., 2003

IMPERSONAL EXCHANGE

Cooperation within a family, a club or a small group of friends is relatively easy as it leverages direct reciprocity and a long-term relationship. This setting is also known as one of “personal exchange.” Much more difficult is to sustain “impersonal exchange,” where we deal with a stranger, i.e. a counterpart with an unknown identity and reputation.

Human societies prosper when their members move beyond local exchange and cooperate with outsiders in the creation of wealth. Collaborations of this type present formidable challenges as trust cannot be easily established. Several questions arise: what sort of preferences, norms and beliefs sustain impersonal exchange (3, 5, 7)? Do systematic differences exists across societies in the ability to engage in impersonal exchange (1, 2, 3, 4)? Why do these differences persist (1, 6)? Is the ability to engage in impersonal exchange a cultural trait or a matter of proper institutions (6)? I have addressed these questions in a series of lab-in-the-field experiments in different regions of Italy to shed light on the long-standing divide between North and South, which is a paradigmatic case of regional differences. This project was awarded an ERC grant from the European Union.

  1. Civicness drain (with A. Ichino et al.), working paper, 2018.
  2. Cooperation and Identity in a Multiethnic Society (with S. Bortolotti, C. Monti), in progress
  3. At the root of the North-South cooperation gap in Italy (with M. Bigoni et a.), Econ. J., 2019
  4. Amoral Familism, Social Capital, or Trust? (with M. Bigoni et al.), Econ. J., 2016
  5. It takes two to cheat (with M. Bigoni et al.), Eur. Econ. Rev., 2013
  6. Cooperation Hidden Frontiers (with M. Bigoni et al.), working paper, 2013
  7. Norms of Punishment, (with S. Bortolotti, F. Pancotto) Econ. Inquiry, 2015

MONETARY SYSTEMS

Monetary systems can be seen as institutions that promote impersonal exchange. I use laboratory experiments to study money; experiments allow for a rigorous test of theories and to uncover causes and effects. This approach enables to address fundamental questions about money (4) such as: does the availability of a monetary system empirically improve cooperation levels (5)? Is money valuable just in the presence of informational frictions (1)? How does a convention of monetary exchange emerge in practice without the State backing (2, 4)?

We find that money performs behavioral functions that are currently not embedded into monetary model (1, 6). These behavioral factors may account for why the use of money is so ubiquitous and unlock answers about the origin of monetary systems. This perspective complements the customary views of money as a way to overcome the difficulties of barter or to overcome informational frictions.

  1. Money is more than memory, (with M. Bigoni, G. Camera), J. of Monetary Econ., 2020
  2. Partners or Strangers? (with M. Bigoni, G.Camera), AEJ: Microecon., 2019
  3. Time Horizon and Cooperation (with M. Bigoni et al.) Econometrica, 2015
  4. The coordination value of monetary exchange (with G. Camera), AEJ: Microecon., 2014
  5. Money and Trust among Strangers, (with G. Camera, M. Bigoni), PNAS, 2013
  6. Experimental Markets with Frictions, (with M. Bigoni, G. Camera), J. of Econ. Surveys, 2013
  7. Cooperation among strangers (with G. Camera) Am. Econ. Rev., 2009

CLIMATE CHANGE

Mitigating climate change appears, on paper, as another variation of a public good game. The task, however, is unique because of its gigantic scale, and because it exhibits peculiarities that sets it apart in important ways from the standard public good game. Pollution is persistent, which makes it a dynamic game (3). Economic damages rely on highly uncertain estimates and stretch so far into the future to make the usual cost-benefit analyses problematic. Nations face choices about mitigation but also about adaptation and geoengineering (1, 2), just to name a few.

My research agenda is to identify behavioral obstacles that makes climate change such a difficult problem to solve (4). The methodology encompasses laboratory and field experiments to shed light on what can boost cooperation toward this global common and how to facilitate the necessary behavioral changes at the levels of citizens and firms.

  1. Governing Climate Geoengineering (with A.L. Abatayo et al.), working paper, 2020
  2. Solar geoengineering (with A.L. Abatayo et al.), PNAS, 2020
  3. Carbon is Forever (with G. Calzolari, R. Ghidoni), J. Env. Econ.& Mgmt, 2018
  4. Climate Change: Behavioral Responses (with R. Ghidoni, G. Calzolari), Energy Econ., 2017

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