Laura Minu Nowzohour (she/her)

Economist Graduate Program Participant at the ECB 

ABOUT

Hi there! I recently obtained my PhD in International Economics from the Geneva Graduate Institute and joined the ECB's Economist Graduate Program in September 2022. 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). Generally, 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 Rare Voices in Economics together with two friends (more details on other stuff below).  In my free time, I enjoy hiking, surfing, playing football and couch potatoing with a good book.

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Stack of Books

RESEARCH

WORKING PAPERS

Heard the News? Environmental Policy and Clean Investment

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

R&R at the Journal of Public Economics

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.

Does Environmental Policy Uncertainty Hinder Investments Towards a Low-Carbon Economy?

Jointly with J. Noailly and M. van den Heuvel

NBER Working Paper 30361

Paper here

We use machine learning algorithms to construct a novel news-based index of US environmental and climate policy uncertainty (EnvPU) available on a monthly basis over the 1990-2019 period. We find that our EnvPU index spikes during the environmental spending disputes of the 1995-1996 government shutdown, in the early 2010s due the failure of the national cap-and-trade climate bill and during the Trump presidency. We examine how elevated levels of environmental policy uncertainty relate to investments in the low-carbon economy. In firm-level estimations, we find that a rise in the EnvPU index is associated with a reduced probability for cleantech startups to receive venture capital (VC) funding. In financial markets, a rise in our EnvPU index is associated with higher stock volatility for firms with above-average green revenue shares. At the macro level, shocks in our index lead to declines in the number of cleantech VC deals and higher volatility of the main benchmark clean energy exchange-traded fund. Overall, our results are consistent with the notion that policy uncertainty has adverse effects on investments for the low-carbon economy.

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

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 natural disasters

Jointly with N. Budina and L. Chen

When and how do natural disasters worsen within-country income inequality and how persistent are these effects? To answer this question, we first develop a conceptual framework with the main channels through which natural disasters may have distributional effects. Next, we empirically analyze when disasters affect inequality in advanced economies (AEs) and in emerging and developing economies (EMDEs) by means of separate grid search exercises . Our results suggest that income inequality, as proxied by the market Gini, tends to increase significantly following severe and repeated severe disasters - with effects lasting several years. . Specifically, we find effects for severe disasters alone  in AEs and for severe disasters coinciding with growth slowdowns or those being repeated at least twice within the year in EMDEs. We also find heterogenous effects  across disaster types, with severe epidemics, droughts, and floods being significant events in EMDEs, and earthquakes in AEs. An important implication of our results is that the effect of natural disasters on income inequality varies based on their severity, whether they co-occur with growth slowdowns, their frequency of occurrence, their type (e.g., earthquakes in AEs and droughts in EMDEs), and the affected country’s income status. Using different definitions of severe disasters show that both individually large and a series of smaller disasters can raise inequality.  Finally, descriptive evidence for the US suggests that adverse labor market effects of disasters are likely to fall on vulnerable groups (the less educated, women, minorities as well as the young) corroborating the notion that the increasing incidence of natural disasters might pose a palpable challenge to policy makers going forward.

 

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

Spring 2022 & after: Check rarevoicesineconomics.com.

*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& Podcasts

June 2022
Geneva Graduate Institute Podcast
Research in Progress

It is relatively common to see the history of policies as a gradual push for the better. A line that begins with no actions taken in the policy realm and ends when the solution has been found by elected officials capable of understanding the problem fully. The world of policies is better represented by an endless back and forth on policies of all kinds, and environmental policies are no exception. While these ebbs and flows might be the norm in politics, they are not a sign of safety for investors. Indeed, investments in environmental projects are, at least in part, affected by policies and regulations within the field. In our latest podcast episode of “Research in Progress” we enter this crucial topic along with PhD candidate Laura Minu Nowzohour from the CIES.

Coming soon

Stay tuned ;)

 

Sometimes, I write

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

 
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CONTACT