Mathias Thoenig

Distinguished Research Scholar

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Mathias Thoenig is a Distinguished Research Scholar at IMD. He serves as Professor of Economics at the School of Business and Economics (HEC) at the University of Lausanne, a CEPR Research Fellow in the international trade and macro programs, and an elected council member of the European Economic Association.

Thoenig has published extensively in academic journals, including American Economic Review, Econometrica, Harvard Business Review, Quarterly Journal of Economics, Review of Economic Studies. He has served on the editorial boards of Journal of European Economic Association and International Economics.

His research lies at the intersection of international economics and political economy of development. In a series of influential papers, he studies the relationship between international trade and armed conflicts and how the global architecture of trade agreements is shaped by conflict risk. He has also analyzed the conditions under which trade can build and cement trust, or its opposite, foster conflict. His current research agenda focuses on democratization, violence-induced migration, and post-conflict reconciliation. He uses cutting-edge quantitative analysis to form policy-relevant predictions for conflict containment. Many questions addressed in his papers are particularly high on the policy agendas of international agencies and NGOs that pursue the joint objectives of peace and development.

In 2011, Thoenig was nominated for the Best Young Economist of France Award, an annual award given by daily newspaper Le Monde and Cercle des économistes to French economists under the age of 40.

He is the recipient of a highly competitive research grant from the European Research Council (ERC grant) for his work on the role of distrust and grievances in ethnic conflicts. Thoenig is a regular academic consultant to the World Bank and other development agencies. He is a passionate and award-winning teacher, a dedicated provider of public goods, and a fervent mentor of junior colleagues.

Thoenig received his PhD in economics from University Paris Sorbonne and his Bachelor of Engineering from Ecole Polytechnique (France). He has held visiting appointments at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, International Monetary Fund, Sciences Po Paris, University of British Columbia, and Pompeu Fabra University.

Academic publications
Article
The elusive peace dividend of development policy: From war traps to macro complementarities
This article reviews the literature on civil conflict and development with a focus on the socioeconomic consequences of violence and on promising policies for fostering peace. We make four main poi...
Published 1 August 2021
Article
The violent legacy of conflict: Evidence on asylum seekers, crime, and public policy in Switzerland
We study empirically how past exposure to conflict in origin countries makes migrants more violence-prone in their host country, focusing on asylum seekers in Switzerland. We exploit a novel and un...
Published 1 December 2019
Article
Welfare and trade without Pareto
Quantifications of gains from trade in heterogeneous firm models assume that productivity is Pareto distributed. Replacing this assumption with log-normal heterogeneity retains some useful Pareto f...
Published 1 May 2014
Article
Networks in conflict: Theory and evidence from the Great War of Africa
We study from both a theoretical and an empirical perspective how a network of military alliances and enmities affects the intensity of a conflict. The model combines elements from network theory a...
Published 1 July 2017
Article
This mine is mine! How minerals fuel conflicts in Africa
We combine georeferenced data on mining extraction of 14 minerals with information on conflict events at spatial resolution of 0.5 degree x 0.5 degree for all of Africa between 1997 and 2010. Explo...
Published 1 June 2017
Article
Seeds of distrust: Conflict in Uganda
We study the effect of civil conflict on social capital, focusing on Uganda’s experience during the last decade. Using individual and county-level data, we document large causal effects on trust an...
Published 6 August 2013
Article
Contrasting trends in firm volatility
Over the past decades, the real and financial volatility of listed firms has increased, while the volatility of private firms has decreased. We first provide panel data evidence that, at the firm l...
Published 1 October 2011
Article
Do we harm others even if we don't need to?
Evolutionary explanations of the co-existence of large-scale cooperation and warfare in human societies rest on the hypothesis of parochial altruism, the view that in-group pro-sociality and out-gr...
Published 2 June 2015
Article
From micro to macro: Demand, supply, and heterogeneity in the trade elasticity
Models of heterogeneous firms with selection into export market participation generically exhibit aggregate trade elasticities that vary across country-pairs. Only when heterogeneity is assumed Par...
Published 1 September 2017
Article
The geography of conflicts and regional trade agreements
In addition to standard trade gains, regional trade agreements (RTAs) can promote peaceful relations by increasing the opportunity cost of conflicts. Country pairs with large trade gains from RTAs ...
Published 1 October 2012
Article
War signals: A theory of trade, trust, and conflict
We construct a theory of persistent civil conflicts, where persistence is driven by the endogenous dynamics of inter-ethnic trust and trade. In times of peace, agents belonging to two groups are ra...
Published 1 July 2013
Article
Product-based cultural change: Is the village global?
We provide a model of product-based cultural change where trade integration leads to cultural convergence. A standard trade model of Dixit–Stiglitz monopolistic competition is coupled with a micro-...
Published 1 March 2014
Article
The economic incentives of cultural transmission: Spatial evidence from naming patterns across France
This paper studies how economic incentives influence cultural transmission, using a crucial expression of cultural identity: child naming decisions. Our focus is on Arabic versus non-Arabic names g...
Published 1 February 2022
Insight for Executives
Article
The case for reopening economies by sector
The greatest challenge we face in the current crisis is striking the right balance between preventing not only the damage inflicted by Covid-19 but also that which comes from a severe contraction o...
Published 19 May 2020
Report
Déconfinons ! Déconfinons ?: Esquisse d’une stratégie combinant facteurs sanitaires et économiques
Because the sudden pandemic outbreak required it, our country is today subject to public health imperatives. But the health response must now evolve, otherwise the economic and social damage will a...
Published 15 April 2020