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HSE Researchers Receive 2020 Russian National Award in Applied Economics

HSE Researchers Receive 2020 Russian National Award in Applied Economics

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On Wednesday, May 13, the award ceremony for the 2020 Russian National Award in Applied Economics took place on Zoom as part of the XXI April International Academic Conference on Economic and Social Development. This year the prize was awarded to Marco Francesconi (University of Essex, UK), Fabián Slonimczyk, and Anna Yurko (HSE University, Moscow).

The researchers were awarded for their paper, ‘Democratizing Access to Higher Education in Russia: The Consequences of the Unified State Exam Reform’, which was published in the European Economic Review.

The decision to select the paper was made unanimously, said Leonid Polishchuk, who chaired the award committee this year. ‘It was a consensus of all of the committee members,’ Professor Polishchuk said. However, he added, ‘It was not a simple choice. The short list was exceptionally strong.’

The Russian National Award in Applied Economics was established in 2009 by the National Research University Higher School of Economics (HSE University, Moscow), New Economic School (NES, Moscow), Yeltsin Ural Federal University (UrFU, Ekaterinburg), Association of Russian Economic Think Tanks (ARETT, Moscow), RAS Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO RAS), and Expert business magazine (Moscow).

The team’s paper is the first paper to evaluate the effects of a reform requiring Russian universities to make admission decisions based on the results of the Unified State Exam, Russia’s standardized high-school exam. By analyzing data regarding the geographic mobility of high-school graduates in Russia, the authors determined that the reform led to a threefold increase in geographic mobility rates among graduates from small cities and towns to start college. The reform was also accompanied by increases in students’ expectations to attend university, parental transfers, and educational expenditures.

‘We selected this paper for several reasons,’ explained Professor Polishchuk explained. ‘First the paper is extremely relevant for Russia’s economic development and policy making process. It is well known that this reform was quite controversial and many people point to its shortcomings. Therefore, evaluating this reform impartially using data is extremely important.’

The committee also valued the paper’s scope. ‘The paper also estimated the effect of this reform not only on those fortunate who were able to get into good schools, but also those who remained in their hometowns,’ said Professor Polishchuk.

And the authors showed that the gain in mobility does not come at the expense of those who stay home. There was no negative spillover effect, which was a possible effect of the reform that many people were concerned about

For these reasons, Professor Polishchuk continued, ‘This paper has made a valuable and important contribution to the literature on the relationship between mobility and human capital, both internationally and in Russia.’

Fabián Slonimczyk and Anna Yurko

The three authors of the paper, Marco Francesconi, Fabián Slonimczyk, and Anna Yurko were in attendance to virtually accept the award. ‘It would have been wonderful to be there physically and all together to share this experience, but I am happy to be here,’ said Marco Francesconi. ‘It is a great honour to have this type of acknowledgement and recognition by a group of peers and policy makers and people who are coming from the wider community (not just research) to recognize the contribution we are making. I hope this will be the first of a long stream of contributions that Anna, Fabián, and I will make. We are indeed working on something else that is, we hope, once again relevant for the Russian economy.’

Fabián Slonimczyk and Anna Yurko both noted that the high caliber of the other papers considered makes receiving the award a particular honour.

It is an honor to receive this prize with such competition

In addition to thanking the committee, Fabián expressed gratitude to the HSE International College of Economics and Finance, which provided travel support so that the group could collaborate in person. After the three co-authors accepted the award, Fabián Slonimczyk delivered a comprehensive slide presentation detailing the study’s methodology and findings.

The Russian National Award in Applied Economics is given once every two years for outstanding published papers on the Russian economy at the country, industry, regional, or company level. The main purpose of the award is to identify works of high importance to the development of academic research and economics education in Russia, as well as to the increased efficiency of the Russian economy and economic policy.

The award jury also selected three papers worthy of honorable mention. The first is an article by Olga Malkova (University of Kentucky, USA) entitled, ‘Can Maternity Benefits Have Long-Term Effects on Childbearing? Evidence from Soviet Russia’, which was published in Review of Economics and Statistics. The second study is an article by Andrei Markevich (New Economic School) and Ekaterina Zhuravskaya (Paris School of Economics) entitled, ‘Economic Effects of the Abolition of Serfdom: Evidence from the Russian Empire’, which was published in American Economic Review. The third is an article by Evgeny Yakovlev (New Economic School) entitled, ‘Demand for Alcohol Consumption in Russia and Its Implication for Mortality’, published in the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics.

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