Petra Persson

Petra Persson is a Swedish economist and Assistant Professor in Economics at Stanford University. Persson is best known for her work in Public and Labour Economics where her research focuses on the interactions between family decisions and the policy environment. Specifically, Persson's research agenda is centered on studying government policy, family wellbeing, and informal institutions.

Petra Persson
InstitutionStanford University
Alma mater

Persson is a Faculty Research Fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research where she has produced notable research on paternity leave, family ruptures, and maternal health. Previously, Persson was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research and Predoctoral Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School Women and Public Policy Program.

Education and careerEdit

Persson attended Stockholm University where she completed her B.A. in Political Science and Mathematics. Persson went on to complete her M.Sc. in Economics at the Stockholm School of Economics and her Ph.D. in Economics at Columbia University. Persson wrote her PhD dissertation on relationships and communication, with chapters on social insurance and the marriage market, attention manipulation and information overload, and paternalism and libertarianism.[1]

Persson started her career as an Analyst at Goldman Sachs, followed by work at the World Bank as a Research Associate. Thereafter, Persson worked in postdoctoral fellow positions at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research and the Stanford Center for International Development. She currently works as an Assistant Professor in Economics at Stanford University and is a Faculty Research Fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research.[2]

Professionally, Persson is a referee for the American Economic Journal, International Economic Review, Journal of Labor Economics, Journal of Public Economics, and the National Science Foundation.[3]


In her current role as Assistant Professor at Stanford University, Persson teaches two PhD courses in the Department of Economics. In Economics 243, Persson examines household interactions with the social insurance system, including Social Security, health insurance, unemployment insurance, parental insurance, and targeting of social insurance.[4] In Economics 300, Persson teaches third-year PhD students on the development of a research paper.[5]

Academic affiliationsEdit

In her academic career, Persson has worked in a number of academic affiliate and fellow positions:[6]

  • 2017 - current: Research Affiliate, CESifo Research Network
  • 2016 - current: Faculty Research Fellow, National Bureau of Economic Research, Public Economics
  • 2015 - current: Research Affiliate, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Public Economics
  • 2015 - current: Faculty Fellow, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research
  • 2014 - current: Research Affiliate, Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market Policy, Uppsala
  • 2012 - current: Research Affiliate, Research Institute of Industrial Economics, Stockholm


Persson has focused on interactions between family decisions and the policy environment, with her research centered around three key themes:[7]

  1. Family behavior and government policy
  2. Family behavior and family wellbeing
  3. Family behavior and informal institutions

Research on family behavior and government policyEdit

Social Insurance and the Marriage Market (2018)Edit

In her 2018 paper, “Social Insurance and the Marriage Market”, Persson analyzes how linking survivors’ insurance to marriage affects the marriage market. Using data from Sweden's elimination of survivors' insurance in 1989, Persson finds that eliminating survivors’ insurance lowers the long-run rate of entry into marriage from cohabitation, raises divorce rates for matched but unmarried couples, and increases assertiveness of matching for both unmatched and unmarried individuals. Further, Persson's findings suggest that marriage is commonly used as a mechanism for long-term financial planning.[8]

When Dad Stays Home (2019)Edit

Persson and Maya Rossin-Slater assess, through a regression difference-in-differences (RD-DD) model, the impacts of paternal access to workplace flexibility on maternal postpartum health. Starting from Kim Weeden et al. (2016)'s finding that mothers face greater expectations to be "on call" for unforeseen domestic needs,[9] Persson's paper analyzes father's demand for workplace flexibility and the spillover effects on maternal wellbeing. Persson employs administrative data from Sweden's “Double Days” reform whereby both parents could use full-time leave benefits at the same time for up to 30 days. Through this analysis, Persson finds that increasing a father's temporal flexibility reduces the risk of the mother experiencing postpartum health complications. Moreover, Persson reaffirms that mothers currently bear a disproportionate burden from both career costs and a fathers' inability to respond to domestic shocks.[10]

Research on family behavior and family wellbeingEdit

The Roots of Health Inequality and the Value of Intra-Family Expertise (2019)Edit

Working with Yiqun Chen and Maria Polyakova, Persson explores the correlation between income and health, specifically through familial access to health expertise. Persson uses Sweden as an empirical setting, which has minimal inequality in terms of formal access to health care and still find strong socioeconomic gradients. Leveraging a quasi-experimental approach using non-parametric data from admissions lotteries to Swedish medical schools, Persson finds that access to intra-family medical expertise can explain 18% of the health-socioeconomic status (SES) difference. Persson further illustrates that access to intra-family expertise has a number of positive health impacts, increasing life expectancy, reducing lifestyle-related disease, and improving drug adherence. Persson further finds that the effects of lack of access to expertise are larger at lower income brackets, which is commonly where access to expertise is lower.[11]

Family Ruptures, Stress, and the Mental Health of the Next Generation (2016)Edit

In this American Economic Review paper, Persson and Maya Rossin-Slater study how exposure to maternal stress from familial ruptures affects later mental health. Specifically, they use empirical data from Sweden to isolate the in-utero effect of exposure to the death of a maternal loss compared to babies born who experience a loss within the first year of life. The authors find that this exposure is related to negative birth outcomes, increased risk of infant hospitalization, and increased take-up of ADHD medications during childhood and anti-anxiety and depression medications in adulthood. Their findings suggest large potential welfare gains by preventing fetal stress from family ruptures and socioeconomic factors.[12] After being accepted for publication, their preprint attracted criticism for allegedly omitting citations of similar studies. The paper was updated to include a reference to a similar paper before being published.[13] A comment criticised how the authors defined the control group, arguing that their definition risked finding a significant effect when there is none.[14] Persson and Rossin-Slater agreed with the critique and said that their results were mostly unchanged after they re-estimated them using the control group suggested by the comment.[15]

Human Trafficking and Regulating Prostitution (2018)Edit

Through this paper with Samuel Lee, Persson studies the prostitution market with both voluntary and coerced workers. In this analysis, Persson attempts to identify a policy tool that would restore the benchmark outcome that would arise under a laissez-faire market without any coerced workers. Persson examines several policies, including decriminalization, criminalization of buyers or suppliers, and licensing, identifying that each policy is either ineffective against trafficking or harm voluntary suppliers. Persson ultimately highlights an alternative policy combining the Dutch and Swedish models, where prostitution is licensed and johns who buy sex from unlicensed prostitutes are criminalized, which would restore the benchmark outcome whereby trafficking is decreased and voluntary prostitution increases.[16]

Financing from Family and Friends (2015)Edit

In reviewing the informal finance market, Persson investigates why borrowers tend to prefer formal financing despite family and friend investors being willing to accept below-market or negative returns. Persson finds that familial loans are associated with shadow costs and a lack of formal liability, which drives borrowers to formal lending markets. Specifically, Persson reviews the effects of social debt, where borrowers provide disproportionate favors to compensate lenders for providing capital at below-market rates. Persson's research observes that social lending intermediaries such as community lending pools can harness social capital while minimizing familial shadow costs.[17]

Academic publicationsEdit

Publications listEdit

Year Title Publication Author(s)
2016 The Limits of Career Concerns in Federalism: Evidence from China Journal of the European Economic Association, 14(2): 338-374 Petra Persson, Ekaterina Zhuravskaya
2016 Violence and Entry in Prostitution Markets: Implications for Prostitution Law Oxford University Press, Handbook of the Economics of Prostitution, ed. Scott Cunningham and Manisha Shah. Petra Persson, Samuel Lee
2016 Financing from Family and Friends Review of Financial Studies, 29(9): 2341-2386 Petra Persson, Samuel Lee
2017 Attention Manipulation and Information Overload Behavioural Public Policy, 2(1), 78-106. Petra Persson
2018 Family Ruptures, Stress, and the Mental Health of the Next Generation American Economic Review, 108(4-5):1214-52 Petra Persson, Maya Rossin-Slater
2018 Social Insurance and the Marriage Market Journal of Political Economy (accepted) Petra Persson[18]

Working papersEdit

  • "The Long-term Consequences of Teacher Discretion in Grading of High-Stakes Tests" (October 2017)
  • "Human Trafficking and Regulating Prostitution" (October 2018)
  • "Take-Up, Drop-Out, and Spending in ACA Marketplaces" (January 2019)
  • "The Roots of Health Inequality and The Value of Intra-Family Expertise" (March 2019)
  • "When Dad Can Stay Home: Fathers’ Workplace Flexibility and Maternal Health" (October 2019)[18]

Recognition and awardsEdit

Through her academic career, Persson has received several grants and awards, including the Fulbright Scholarship in 2007, Hewlett Foundation/IIE award in 2012, Spectrum Grant in 2016, and a research grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Development in 2019.

Persson completed a research fellowship at the Harvard Kennedy School's women and public policy program in 2012. Additionally, Persson has worked at Stanford University as an IRiSS faculty fellow and Brown faculty fellow.[18]

Grants, fellowships, and awards[18]
Year Title Affiliation
2012 Dissertation Fellowship in Population, Reproductive Health and Economic Development Hewlett Foundation/IIE
2012 Dissertation Fellowship, Center for Retirement Research Boston College
2012 Research Fellowship, Women and Public Policy Program Harvard Kennedy School
2013 Research Grant Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
2016 Spectrum Grant for Population Health Sciences National Institutes of Health
2016 Health, Working Life and Welfare Grant Swedish Research Council
2017 Distinguished Research Affiliate Award Ifo Institute for Economic Research
2019 Brown Faculty Fellow Stanford University


  1. ^ Persson, Petra (2013). Relationships and Communication (Thesis). Columbia University. doi:10.7916/d84m9986.
  2. ^ "Petra Persson - Biography". Retrieved 2019-11-27.
  3. ^ "Petra Persson | Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR)". Retrieved 2019-11-27.
  4. ^ Persson, Petra. "ECON 243 - Syllabus". Retrieved 2019-11-27.
  5. ^ "Information Book for Economics Majors" (PDF). Retrieved 2019-11-26.
  6. ^ "Network Members | CESifo". Retrieved 2019-11-27.
  7. ^ "Research and Teaching Statement". Retrieved 2019-11-27.
  8. ^ Persson, Petra (2019-04-18). "Social Insurance and the Marriage Market". Journal of Political Economy. 128: 252–300. doi:10.1086/704073. hdl:10419/129369. ISSN 0022-3808.
  9. ^ Weeden, Kim A.; Cha, Youngjoo; Bucca, Mauricio (2016). "Long Work Hours, Part-Time Work, and Trends in the Gender Gap in Pay, the Motherhood Wage Penalty, and the Fatherhood Wage Premium". RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences. 2 (4): 71–102. doi:10.7758/rsf.2016.2.4.03. ISSN 2377-8253. JSTOR 10.7758/rsf.2016.2.4.03.
  10. ^ Persson, Petra; Rossin-Slater, Maya (2019-05-01). "When Dad Can Stay Home: Fathers' Workplace Flexibility and Maternal Health". NBER Working Paper 25902. doi:10.3386/w25902. hdl:10419/202732.
  11. ^ Persson, Petra (2019-02-01). "The Roots of Health Inequality and The Value of Intra-Family Expertise" (PDF). NBER Working Paper 25618.
  12. ^ Persson, Petra; Rossin-Slater, Maya (2018-04-01). "Family Ruptures, Stress, and the Mental Health of the Next Generation: Reply". American Economic Review. 108 (4–5): 1256–1263. doi:10.1257/aer.20161605. ISSN 0002-8282.
  13. ^ Willingham, Author Emily (2016-05-26). "Economists go wild over overlooked citations in preprint on prenatal stress". Retraction Watch. Retrieved 2021-08-07. {{cite web}}: |first= has generic name (help)
  14. ^ Matsumoto, Brett (2018). "Family Ruptures, Stress, and the Mental Health of the Next Generation: Comment". The American Economic Review. 108 (4–5): 1253–1255. ISSN 0002-8282.
  15. ^ "What's best for the baby". Retrieved 2021-08-07.
  16. ^ Lee, Samuel; Persson, Petra (2018-11-01). "Human Trafficking and Regulating Prostitution". Rochester, NY. SSRN 2057299. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  17. ^ Lee, Samuel; Persson, Petra (2016-09-01). "Financing from Family and Friends". The Review of Financial Studies. 29 (9): 2341–2386. doi:10.1093/rfs/hhw031. ISSN 0893-9454.
  18. ^ a b c d "Petra Persson | Economics | Stanford University". Retrieved 2019-11-27.