I defended my PhD thesis on December 19th, 2014. My academic work lies at the intersection of applied microeconometrics, development economics and psychology, using a wide range of quantitative methods.

Click here for a digital version of "Well-to-do or doing well? Empirical studies of wellbeing and development." 

Academic papers

Papers are available upon request (

Off the Hook: Measuring the Impact of Mobile Telephone Use on Economic Development of Households in Uganda using Copulas (with Philip Hans Franses) - Published in Journal of Development Studies 

It is now widely understood that mobile phone use has beneficial effects on development in developing countries, but little is known about the effects at the household level. We examine the impact of mobile telephone use on household income using a unique cross-sectional data set from Uganda. We use a novel econometric technique to handle endogeneity, which models the correlation between the endogenous regressor and the error term with copulas. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time that the copula method is applied in the economic development literature. We find a positive impact of mobile phone use on income.

Keeping up with the Garcías: Subjective Wellbeing and Perceptions of Inequality in Bolivia

Studies on determinants of subjective wellbeing rarely include social reference groups, such as neighbours or colleagues. This exclusion is surprising, since an individual interacts with these groups frequently and they are therefore likely to impact her wellbeing. In addition, developing countries are underrepresented in the happiness literature. To complement existing research, I analyse the relation between social reference groups and life satisfaction in Bolivia, using a unique cross-sectional data set. My findings support the importance of social reference groups and thereby confirm the relevance of these measures for research dealing with life satisfaction. In general, determinants of life satisfaction are in line with present research. The exception of marital status, for which I do not find a significant impact. In addition, I find that future satisfaction differs from present satisfaction, both in terms of distribution and determinants. Hence, future satisfaction can be an additional valuable source of information and thus requires more attention in literature dealing with subjective wellbeing.

Birds of a Feather: The spread of happiness and behaviour in a Dutch sorority

Social bonds tend to exist between people who are similar in terms of background, characteristics and behaviour. Do similar people simply seek each other out (homophily) or do they also become more similar because of their interaction (induction)? I evaluate these questions using a unique panel data set from a sorority in The Netherlands. Each year a new cohort joins the sorority and new members are expected to form groups within the cohort (‘clubs’). Using data from before and after club formation, I am able disentangle homophily, induction and confounding. I do not find evidence for homophily for happiness, behaviour or educational outcomes. However, parental income and existing networks are important in the sorting process: respondents tend to be connected if they both have rich families, come from the same city, both live in a sorority house or follow the same study major. Moreover, I find that happiness, alcohol use and average grade are likely to be subject to induction, whereas correlation in BMI and relationship status is due to confounding factors. Since the induction effects are mainly driven by mutual friendships, they are possibly a consequence of homophily of friendships.

The Smart, the Lucky and the Greedy: Income inequality and trust in the lab (with David Smerdon)

A large body of empirical research has found a negative correlation between trust and income inequality. In this paper, we are interested in investigating the specific channels behind the negative correlation between income inequality and trust. By artificially creating societies with different income distributions in the laboratory, we aim to test whether higher inequality lowers trust. Most notably, we explore the impact of different income distribution mechanisms. We find that inequality negatively impacts trust, expected trustworthiness and trustworthiness, but only if income is distributed randomly. If income is distributed based on merit or greed, we do not find significant differences between high and low inequality. Our findings are robust to selection effects. We propose that our results can be explained by the activation of ingroup/outgroup effects.