Sebastian Hohmann

I am an economist and data scientist.

From September 2018 to February 2020, I was Assistant Professor of Economics at Stockholm School of Economics SITE.

I did my PhD at London Business School.
Curriculum Vitae
sebas [dot] hohmann [at] gmail [dot] com



  • Intergenerational Mobility in Africa
    Econometrica, January 2021, 89(1): 1-35 (lead article)
    with Alberto Alesina, Stelios Michalopoulos, and Elias Papaioannou
    Media coverage: The Economist, VOXEU podcast
    Supplementary Online Appendix, Replication data
    We examine intergenerational mobility (IM) in educational attainment in Africa since independence using census data. First, we map IM across 27 countries and more than 2,800 regions, documenting wide cross-country and especially within-country heterogeneity. Inertia looms large as differences in the literacy of the old generation explain about half of the observed spatial disparities in IM. The rural-urban divide is substantial. Though conspicuous in some countries, there is no evidence of systematic gender gaps in IM. Second, we characterize the geography of IM, finding that colonial investments in railroads and Christian missions, as well as proximity to capitals and the coastline are the strongest correlates. Third, we ask whether the differences in mobility across regions reflect spatial sorting or the independent role of the former. To isolate the two, we focus on children whose families moved when they were young. Comparing siblings, looking at moves triggered by displacement shocks, and using historical migrations to predict moving-families’ destinations, we establish that, while selection is considerable, regional exposure effects are at play. An extra year spent in a high-mobility region before the age of 12 (and after 5) significantly raises the likelihood for children of uneducated parents to complete primary school. Overall, the evidence suggests that geographic and historical factors laid the seeds for spatial disparities in IM that are cemented by sorting and the independent impact of regions.

Working Papers

  • Natural Resources, Trade, and Structural Transformation in Africa
    August 2018.
    I combine georeferenced data on mining and oil endowments with satellite-images of land use and census data on 112 million individuals from 2,700 regions in 23 countries to show that resource extraction and international trade have fuelled Africa's recent structural transformation. In the first part of my analysis, I document that both increases in the values of regional natural resource endowments, induced by global price shocks, as well as a U.S. policy change, lowering tariffs on African imports, which affected regions close to ports more strongly, lead to reallocations away from agriculture towards services. The natural resource and trade shocks are re-enforcing in their effect on agriculture and services, but neither crowds out manufacturing employment, which even expands in response to the trade shock. In the second part of the analysis, I develop and then calibrate a quantitative multi-region multi-industry trade model of structural transformation. There are two forces at play. Increases of local incomes in mining regions increase the demand for non-tradables whereas reduced external trade costs, by lowering the prices of tradable goods, favour locations better connected to international markets. I find the correlation between model-predicted and observed labour share changes to be around 55 percent. Which of the two forces dominate in explaining observed structural transformation depends on the spatial configuration of location-specific access to international markets and natural resource advantages. The analysis concludes with counterfactual simulations of the structural change implications of larger resource booms and autarky.

  • Religion and Educational Mobility in Africa
    NBER Working Paper 28270, December 2020.
    with Alberto Alesina, Stelios Michalopoulos, and Elias Papaioannou
    This paper offers a comprehensive account of the intergenerational transmission of education across religious groups in Africa, home to some of the world's largest Christian and Muslim communities. First, we use census data from 20 countries to construct new upward and downward religion-specific intergenerational mobility (IM) statistics. Christian boys and girls have much higher upward and lower downward mobility than Muslims and Animists. Muslims perform well only in a handful of countries where they are small minorities. Second, we trace the roots of these disparities. Although family structures differ across faiths, this variation explains only a small fraction of the observed IM inequities (roughly 12%). Inter-religious differences in occupational specialization and urban residence do not play any role. In contrast, regional features explain nearly half of the imbalances in educational mobility. Third, we isolate the causal impact of regions from spatial sorting exploiting information on children whose households moved when they were at different ages during childhood. Irrespective of the religious identity, regional exposure effects are present for all children moving before 12. Fourth, we map and characterize the religious IM gaps across thousands of African regions. Among numerous regional geographic, economic, and historical features, the district's Muslim share is the most important correlate. Children adhering to Islam underperform Christians in areas with substantial Muslim communities. Fifth, survey data reveal that Muslims display stronger in-group preferences and place a lower valuation on education. Our findings call for more research on the origins of religious segregation and the role of religion-specific, institutional, and social conventions on education and opportunity.

  • The Employment Effects of Ethnic Politics
    January 2021.
    with Francesco Amodio and Giorgio Chiovelli
    This paper studies the labor market consequences of ethnic politics in African democracies. Using data from 15 countries, 32 elections, and more than 400,000 individuals, we implement a regression discontinuity design that compares individuals from ethnicities connected to parties at the margin of electing a local representative in the national parliament. Having a local ethnic party politician in parliament increases the likelihood of being employed by 2-3 pp. The available evidence supports the hypothesis that this effect results from strategic interactions between politicians and traditional leaders, the latter being empowered to allocate land and agricultural jobs in exchange for votes.

Work in Progress

  • Diplomatic Relations and Private Investment
    with Ryan Lewis
  • Internal Migration in Africa: Evidence from Census data


GIS Methods Course (on github)