Short Bio & Research Activity

Francesco Trebbi I am the Bernard T. Rocca Jr. Chair and Professor at the University of California, Berkeley Haas School of Business. I am also a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), where I co-direct the NBER Political Economy Program, and a Research Fellow of the Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR). I am currently a Co-Editor at Econometrica.

Before joining UC Berkeley, I was Canada Research Chair and Professor of Economics at the University of British Columbia Vancouver School of Economics and Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. I received my PhD in Economics from Harvard University in 2006.

My academic research primarily focuses on Political Economy and Applied Microeconomics broadly defined. I have worked on political institutions and their design, elections and political campaigns, behavior in legislatures, campaign finance, lobbying, regulation, housing markets, and banking. I have also worked on topics related to the political economy of development, corruption, patronage, ethnic politics, and intra-state conflict. I have also interests in Finance, Development Economics, and Macroeconomics.

My teaching interests are in Political Economy, Applied Econometrics, Macroeconomics, and Data Science.

Recent Working Papers

The Cost of Regulatory Compliance in the United States (with Miao Ben Zhang and Michael Simkovic)


Is the distribution of the burden of government regulation unequal across firms? Do regulatory compliance costs fall disproportionately on small businesses relative to others? We quantify firms’ regulatory compliance costs from 2002 to 2014 in terms of their labor spending to adhere to government rules. Detailed establishment-level occupation microdata, in combination with occupation-specific task information, allow us to recover the share of an establishment’s wage bill owing to employees engaged in regulatory compliance. On average, regulatory costs account for 1.34% to 3.33% of firms’ total wage bill, totaling up to $239 billion in 2014 and $289 billion when also accounting for capital. Our findings reveal an inverted-U relation between firms’ regulatory compliance costs and their employment size, with firms of around 500 employees experiencing about 40% higher compliance cost than small or large firms. Finally, we develop an instrumental variable methodology for decoupling the role of regulatory requirements from that of enforcement in driving changes in compliance costs for firms.

Minority Underrepresentation in U.S. Cities (with Federico Ricca)


This paper investigates the patterns of minority representation in U.S. municipal governments and of minority voter registration for the period 1981-2020. We report substantial levels of strategic underrepresentation of African American, Asian, and Latino voters in U.S. local politics. Disproportionality in the representation and in voter registration rates of minority groups are widespread, but stronger where racial or ethnic minorities are electorally pivotal. Underrepresentation is determined by the combination of several endogenous institutional features, starting from systematic disparity in voter registration, strategic selection of electoral rules, city's form of government, council size, and pay of elected members of the council. We provide causal evidence of the strategic use of local political institutions in reducing electoral representation of minorities based on the U.S. Supreme Court narrow decision of Shelby County v. Holder (2013), which removed Voting Rights Act (VRA) Section 4 coverage requirements for a specific subset of U.S. localities. In VRA-covered municipalities, changes to voting procedures required preclearance by the Department of Justice, a process designed to prevent racially discriminatory actions. Post 2013, previously VRA-covered municipalities quickly revert to levels of minority underrepresentation and underregistration identical to those of non-covered municipalities, reducing overall proportionality in minority representation and registration.

Campaigning Against Populism: Emotions and Information in Real Election Campaigns (with Cesi Cruz and Julien Labonne)


The rise of populist parties and politicians has also led to changes in political messaging: moving away from campaigning on policy platforms in favor of direct emotional appeals to citizens, often through social media and other channels. The challenge for traditional parties has been how to articulate policy platforms and campaign promises. In particular, can traditional parties use these new methods of campaigning? While there is research on when negative campaigning can be effective, it is less clear how emotions matter and especially how emotions affect the ability of voters to evaluate candidates and parties. We implement a new field experiment in a real-world political campaign during the 2019 Philippine elections to explore not only the effects of emotional messaging in political campaigns, but also how emotions can affect the way that policy information is processed and translated into political decisions. We show that direct appeals and emotional messaging foster increased engagement with the political campaign, but that over time, the effect of policy information is more important in driving vote choice for programmatic parties.