Laura Minu Nowzohour (she/her)

PhD candidate in International Economics

ABOUT

Hi there! I am a PhD candidate in International Economics at the Graduate Institute Geneva. My research interests lie at the intersection of macro, finance and environmental economics. In my papers, I have utilized both theoretical models as well as text mining and econometric techniques to investigate e.g. how environmental policy uncertainty affects firms (more details on my research below). Having interned at the IMF, the ECB  and the DIW econ, I am motivated by research questions that matter for economic policy towards a more equitable and sustainable global economy. My affinity to social justice issues motivated me to co-found Women in Econ Léman together with two friends (more details on other stuff I do below).  In my free time, I enjoy hiking, surfing, playing football and couch potatoing with a good book.

Laura Nowzohour 7332.jpg
 
 
Stack of Books

RESEARCH

WORKING PAPERS

Job Market Paper: Heard the News? Environmental Policy and Clean Investment

Co-authored with J. Noailly and M. van den Heuvel

CIES Research Paper, 2021.

Paper here | Non-technical summary here.

We build a novel news-based index of US environmental policy and examine how it relates to clean investments. Extracting text from ten leading US newspapers over the last four decades, we use text-mining techniques to develop a granular index measuring the salience of US environmental policy (EnvP) over the 1981-2019 period. We develop further a set of additional measures, namely an index of sentiment on environmental policy, as well as various topic-specific indices. We validate our index by showing that it correctly captures trends and peaks in the evolution of US environmental policy and that it has a meaningful association with clean investments, in line with environmental regulations supporting growing opportunities for clean markets. In firm-level estimations, we find that the salience of environmental policy in newspapers is associated with a greater probability of cleantech startups receiving venture capital (VC) funding and reduced stock returns for high-emissions firms most exposed to environmental regulations. At the aggregate level, we find in VAR models that a shock in our news-based index of renewable energy policy is associated with an increase in the number of clean energy VC deals and in the assets under management of the main benchmark clean energy exchange-traded fund. Overall, our EnvP index provides a lot of substantial information on environmental policy and can help assist the policy and financial community in understanding how these regulations are perceived by investors, providing many avenues for future research.

Can adjustment costs in research derail the transition to green growth?

CIES Research Paper, 2021, https://ideas.repec.org/p/gii/ciesrp/cies_rp_67.html

Adjustment costs are a central bottleneck of the real-world economic transition essential for achieving the sizeable reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions set out by policy makers. Could these costs derail the transition process to green growth, and if so, how should policy makers take this into account? I study this issue using the model of directed technical change in Acemoglu et al. (2012), AABH, augmented by a friction on the choice of scientists developing better technologies. My results show that such frictions, even minor, materially affect the outcome. In particular, the risk of reaching an environmental disaster is higher than in the baseline AABH model. Fortunately, policy can address the problem. Specifically, a higher carbon tax ensures a disaster-free transition. In this case, the re-allocation of research activity to the clean sector happens over a longer but more realistic time horizon, namely around 15 instead of 5 years. An important policy implication is that optimal policies do not act over a substantially longer time horizon but must be more aggressive today in order to be effective. In turn, this implies that what may appear as a policy failure in the short-run --- a slow transition albeit aggressive policy --- actually reflects the efficient policy response to existing frictions in the economy. Furthermore, the risk of getting environmental policy wrong is highly asymmetric and `robust policy' implies erring on the side of stringency.

JOURNAL ARTICLES

More than a feeling: Confidence, Uncertainty, and Macroeconomic Fluctuations

Co-authored with L. Stracca

Journal of Economic Surveys, 2020, 

https://doi.org/10.1111/joes.12354.

Economists, observers, and policy-makers often emphasize the role of sentiment as a potential driver of the business cycle. In this paper, we provide three contributions to this debate. First, we give an overview of the recent literature on the nexus between sentiment (considering both confidence and uncertainty) and economic activity. Second, we review existing empirical measures of sentiment, in particular consumer confidence, stock market volatility (SMV) and Economic Policy Uncertainty (EPU), on monthly data for 27 countries, 1985–2016. Third, we identify some new stylized facts based on international evidence. While different measures are surprisingly lowly correlated on average in each country, they are typically highly positively correlated across countries, suggesting the existence of a global factor or sizeable international spillovers of sentiment. Consumer confidence has the closest co-movement with economic and financial variables, and most of the correlations are contemporaneous or forward-looking, consistent with the view that economic sentiment is indeed a driver of activity.

WORK IN PROGRESS

Environmental Policy Uncertainty: Measurement and Impact on Clean Markets 

Jointly with J. Noailly and M. van den Heuvel

Uncertainty about environmental and climate policies may hinder investments towards the low-carbon economy. This article aims to build a newspaper-based index of perceived uncertainty about US environmental policy and to examine its evolution over the last four decades. Following a similar approach as Baker, Bloom and Davis (2016) for economic policy uncertainty, we count the frequency of articles referring to uncertainty about climate and environmental regulations in ten leading U.S. newspapers. Our methodology relies on a support-vector machine learning algorithm --- a supervised approach to text-mining --- to identify the most relevant articles. Our index on environmental policy uncertainty provides insights on periods with bursts of environmental policy uncertainty, for instance around Obama's economic stimulus package after 2009 and Trump's withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement.

Does environmental policy uncertainty deter Greenfield FDI inflows to the US? 

Jointly with J. Noailly 

Massive investment efforts and technological advances are necessary to implement the carbon transition to a sustainably and equitably growing global economy. To gauge the full potential of investments in clean technologies, domestic and foreign sources of capital should be considered as a crucial source of financing and regional and cross-country knowledge spillovers. To the extent that domestic policies matter for domestic investment, it may be a pertinent question to ask whether and how they influence foreign investment. In this paper, I would like to ask whether firms are discouraged from undertaking long-term clean investments in the US following a shock in environmental policy uncertainty. That is, controlling for the salience of environmental policy in the news, does the perception of a certain and stable regulatory framework as conveyed by news act as a pull factor for attracting investment to such places? And if so, do foreign firms react differently from domestic ones?

Why some don't belong - the distributional effects of real shocks

Jointly with N. Budina and L. Chen

This paper highlights the channels through which natural disasters can have distributional effects and assesses empirically whether the unequal burden of the Covid-19 shock applies more generally to other major natural disasters. Using local projections, we assess the distributional effects of major disasters from the past two decades for a sample of 180 advanced and emerging economies. A grid search exercise for threshold effects shows: (i) that robust evidence for aggregate distributional effects of severe disasters on inequality (proxied by the market Gini) is hard to find; (ii) some evidence for a rise in inequality following severe repeated disasters, and (iii) heterogeneous effects for EMDEs, with adverse effects of epidemics, droughts, floods, earthquakes, and wildfires but no significant effects of storms and landslides. Given the narrow view Gini coefficients offer on inequality, we use US CPS micro data to assess distributional effects among the low-skilled, women, and other vulnerable groups of major disasters at the state level.

Pride Flags

OTHER STUFF

 

Rare Voices in Economics (former: Women in Econ Léman)

In 2019, I co-founded Women in Econ Léman. Our main mission is to empower women and other under-represented groups in economics. We are solution-oriented and seek to generate awareness of subconscious biases, offer safe spaces for exchange and build a network of allies. Check out our website, Twitter or Instagram account to find out what we are up to. 

Since the start of the association, two important learnings have shifted our perspective on how we can contribute to mitigating the existing lack of diversity in the profession. First, the systemic problems making economics unattractive for women are similar to those that hold back other minorities from thriving in the profession. Second, to challenge the status quo we need allies from all backgrounds to be involved. Therefore, we changed our name to 'Rare Voices in Economics' and are open to everybody who identifies as a minority** in the profession as well as allies who share our vision of feminism, inclusivity and respect and/or are open to a constructive exchange about it.

Conference

MILESTONES

Fall 2019

- Women in Econ Léman is born.

Spring and Fall 2020

- Monthly workshops on research papers as well as personal experiences and reflections on the situation of women in economics, subconscious biases, intersectionality, sexual harassment, and the gender dimension of covid-19  - see our reading lists for the spring and fall as well as our blog posts.

Summer 2020

- Inception of the Women in Econ Léman mentoring program.

Spring 2021

Women in Econ Léman

- grows with new members from the Graduate Institute, the University of Geneva, the University of Lausanne, and EPFL.

- obtains official association status at the Graduate Institute (under the GISA umbrella) and the University of Geneva.

- plans and receives grants* for Rare Voices in Economics conference.

- develops departmental guidelines on mitigating bias in hiring and admissions, advising equitably and promoting a supportive and collegial seminar culture in collaboration for the economics department at the Graduate Institute.

Fall 2021

- Rare Voices in Economics conference (co-organized with Federica Braccioli) one day at the Graduate Institute and one at the University of Geneva.

- Roundtable: Pathways for More Inclusive Economics Departments - What Works and What Doesn't? (co-moderated with Federica Braccioli) as part of the conference (see recording).

- Presentation and approval of departmental guidelines  by the faculty at the Graduate Institute.

- Women in Econ Léman becomes Rare Voices in Economics to better reflect our vision.

- Extended mentoring program, now including under-represented minorities as well as allies, both as mentees and mentors.

- Kick-off for research clusters to build a better-connected and inclusive academic community in the léman area

*Lives Centre at the University of Geneva, Geneva 2030 Ecosystem Micro Grant, The Graduate Institute Administration, The Economics Department at the Graduate Institute, The Gender Centre at the Graduate Institute and the Centre for Finance and Development at the Graduate Institute.

** Under-represented groups include, but are not limited to, women, individuals of color, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, individuals from less privileged backgrounds, disabled individuals, people with mental health conditions, first-generation students, religious minorities (…).

Events I (co-) moderated

 

Sometimes, I write

Click on the white arrows to see what this is about. 

 
Marble Surface

CONTACT

CONTACT

Email laura.nowzohour@graduateinstitute.ch

Address IHEID c/o CIES, Chemin Eugène-Rigot 2A, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland

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