Hans Henrik Sievertsen


Teaching & tools

Data visualisations

Public dissemination

Lecturer, University of Bristol
Researcher, VIVE
Research Fellow, IZA
My CV is available here.
Contact: h.h.sievertsen@bristol.ac.uk

Research interests: education, health, gender

Work in progress

Beyond Treatment Exposure–The Impact of the Timing of Early Interventions on Child and Maternal Health
with Jonas Lau-Jensen Hirani & Miriam Wüst
Latest update: August 2021, Revisions requested by the Journal of Human Resources

[Working Paper]

What is the impact of the timing of early-life investment policies on child and maternal health? To answer this question, we exploit variation induced by a 2008 Danish nurse strike, which impacted nurse home visiting for infants born in the period up to the strike. Combining unique nurse records with administrative data, we show that the strike resulted in a large-scale cancellation of nurse visits. We document that missing the first but not later visits increases child and mother contacts to health professionals and the probability of maternal mental health issues. We show that likely mechanisms for these results are nurses’ focus on timely maternal mental health screening and information provision to new families. A stylized cost-benefit analysis confirms that short-run health benefits from early home visits outweigh costs.

The Importance of External Assessments: High School Math and Gender Gaps in STEM Degrees
with Simon Burgess, Daniel Sloth Hauberg, & Beatrice Schindler Rangvid
Latest update: July 2021, Revisions requested by Economics of Education Review

We exploit the random allocation to a semi-external assessment in Math (SEAM) at the end of high school in Denmark to test the effect of SEAM on subsequent enrollment and graduation in post-secondary education. We find that SEAM in high school reduces the gender gap in graduation from post-secondary STEM degrees. Our results show that cancelling SEAM, as was temporarily implemented in many regions during the COVID-19 pandemic, may impact human capital accumulation in the long run.

Grades and employer learning
with Anne Toft Hansen & Ulrik Hvidman
Latest update: June 2021 (submitted)

[Working Paper]

This study examines the labor-market returns of skill signals. We identify the labor-market effect of grade point averages (GPA) by leveraging a nationwide change in the scaling of grades in Danish universities. Results show that a reform-induced increase in GPA that is unrelated to ability causes higher earnings immediately after graduation, but the effect fades in subsequent years. The effect at labor-market entry is largest for individuals with fewer alternative signals and the earnings adjustment occurs both within and across firms. Although employers initially screen candidates based on skill signals, our findings suggest that they rapidly learn about worker productivity.

Saving Neonatal Lives for a Quarter
with Christine Valente & Mahesh C. Puri
Latest update: Sep 2021 (submitted)

[Working Paper]

Neonatal sepsis kills over 400,000 children annually. Experimental findings on the preventive use of chlorhexidine vary widely across settings, leading to external validity concerns. To address this, we (i) provide the first quasi-experimental estimates of the effect of chlorhexidine in “real life” conditions and (ii) apply machine-learning (ML) to analyze treatment effect heterogeneity in a nationally-representative, Nepalese observational dataset. We find that chlorhexidine decreases neonatal mortality by 43% and that a simple targeting policy leveraging heterogeneous treatment effects improves neonatal survival relative to WHO recommendations. Out-of-sample ML predictions match the heterogeneous pattern of existing experimental findings across five different countries.

Gender differences in economic opinions
with Sarah Smith
Latest update: October 2021

Antibiotics in Early Childhood and Subsequent Cognitive Skills
with Gerard J. van den Berg & Paul Bingley
Latest update: April 2021

The Greater Game in School Choice
with Andreas Bjerre-Nielsen, Lykke Sterll Christensen, & Mikkel Høst Gandil
Latest update: May 2021

Measuring Vacancies: Firm-level Evidence from Two Measures
with Niels-Jakob Harbo Hansen
Latest update: August 2016

[Working Paper]

Using firm-level survey- and register-data for both Sweden and Denmark we show systematic mismeasurement in both vacancy measures. While the register-based measure on the aggregate constitutes a quarter of the survey-based measure, the latter is not a super-set of the former. To obtain the full set of unique vacancies in these two databases, the number of survey vacancies should be multiplied by approximately 1.2. Importantly, this adjustment factor varies over time and across firrm characteristics. Our findings have implications for both the search-matching literature and policy analysis based on vacancy measures: Observed changes in vacancies can be an outcome of changes in mis-measurement, and are not necessarily changes in the actual number of vacancies.


Quasi-market competition in public service provision: user sorting and cream skimming
with Thorbjørn Sejr Guul & Ulrik Hvidman
Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory
, forthcoming.

[Link] [Download] [Code] [Teaching material]

Quasi-markets that introduce choice and competition between public service providers are in-tended to improve quality and efficiency. This paper demonstrates that quasi-market competition may also affect the distribution of users. First, we develop a simple theoretical framework that distinguishes between user sorting and cream-skimming as mechanisms through which quasi-markets may lead to high-ability users becoming more concentrated among one group of provid-ers and low-ability users among a different group. Second, we empirically examine the impact of a nationwide quasi-market policy that introduced choice and activity-based budgeting into Dan-ish public high schools. We exploit variation in the degree of competition that schools were ex-posed to, based on the concentration of providers within a geographical area. Using a differ-ences-in-differences design—and register data containing the full population of students over a nine-year period (N=207,394)—we show that the composition of students became more concen-trated in terms of intake grade point average after the reform in high-competition areas relative to low-competition areas. These responses in high-competition regions appear to be driven both by changes in user sorting on the demand side and by cream-skimming behavior among public pro-viders on the supply side.

Gender Disparities in Top Earnings: Measurement and Facts for Denmark 1980-2013
with Niels-Jakob Harbo Hansen, Karl Harmenberg, & Erik Öberg
Journal of Economic Inequality
, 19, 2021.

[Link] [Download] [Code]

Extending the work of Atkinson et al. (2018), we decompose top-earnings gender disparities into a glass-ceiling coefficient and a top-earnings gender gap. The decomposition uses that both male and female top earnings are Pareto distributed. If interpreting top-earnings gender disparities as caused by a female-specific earnings tax, the top-earnings gender gap and glass-ceiling coefficient measure the tax level and tax progressivity, respectively. Using Danish data on earnings, we show that the top-earnings gender gap and the glass-ceiling coefficient evolve differently across time, the life cycle, and educational groups. In particular, while the topearnings gender gap has been decreasing in Denmark over the period 1980-2013, the glass-ceiling coefficient has been remarkably stable.

High-Stakes Grades and Student Behavior
with Ulrik Hvidman
Journal of Human Resources
, 56(3), 2021.

[Link] [Download] [Code]

High-stakes exams carry important consequences for the prospects of reaching university. This study examines whether the incentives associated with exam grades affect educational investments. Exploiting a reform-induced recoding of high school students’ grade point average, we identify the effect of high-stakes grades on student behavior. The results show that students who were downgraded by the recoding performed better on subsequent assessments. The increase in academic performance in high school translated into an increased likelihood of university enrollment. As the recoding did not convey information about actual performance, these results emphasize that incentives are important in understanding students’ educational investments.

Maternity Ward Crowding, Procedure Use, and Child Health
with Jonas Maibom, Marianne Simonsen, & Miriam Wüst
Journal of Health Economics
, 75, 2021.

[Link] [Download]

This paper studies the impact of day-to-day variation in maternity ward crowding on medical procedure use and the health of infants and mothers. Exploiting data on the universe of Danish admissions to maternity wards in the years 2000-2014, we first document substantial day-to-day variation in admissions. Exploiting residual variation in crowding, we find that maternity wards change the provision of medical procedures and care on crowded days relative to less crowded days, and they do so in ways that alleviate their workload. We find very small and precisely estimated effects of crowding on child and maternal health. Thus our results suggest that, for the majority of uncomplicated births, maternity wards in Denmark can cope with the observed inside-ward variation in daily admissions without detectable health risks.

Neonatal Health of Parents and Cognitive Development of Children
Claus Thustrup Kreiner
Journal of Health Economics
, 69, 2020.

[Link] [Download]

High-stakes exams carry important consequences for the prospects of reaching university. This study examines whether the incentives associated with exam grades affect educational investments. Exploiting a reform-induced recoding of high school students’ grade point average, we identify the effect of high-stakes grades on student behavior. The results show that students who were downgraded by the recoding performed better on subsequent assessments. The increase in academic performance in high school translated into an increased likelihood of university enrollment. As the recoding did not convey information about actual performance, these results emphasize that incentives are important in understanding students’ educational investments.

The Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire and Standardized Tests: Reliability across Respondent Type and Age
with Maria Keilow, Janni Niclasen, and Carsten Obel
PLoS One
, 14(7), 2019.

[Link] [Download]

Exploiting nation-wide data from the Danish National Birth Cohort, we show that children’s emotional and behavioral problems measured by the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) are closely related to their performance in standardized academic tests for reading and mathematics in sixth grade. The relationship is remarkably linear across the entire distribution for both the total difficulties score and subscale scores of the SDQ; higher scores on the SDQ (more problems) are related to worse performance in academic tests. We assess the similarity across respondent type; parent (child age 7 and 11), teacher (child age 11) and self-reported scores (child age 11), and find that teacher and parent reported scores have very similar slopes in the SDQ–test score relationship, while the child reported SDQ in relation to the academic test performance has a flatter slope.

The Socio-Economic Gradient in Children’s Test-Scores - A Comparison Between the U.S. and Denmark
with Christopher Jamil de Montgomery
Nationaløkonomisk Tidsskrift
, 1, 2019.

[Link] [Download]

This paper contributes to the debate on intergenerational mobility in the U.S. and Denmark by linking parental resources to differentials in cognitive development as they develop through primary and lower secondary school in each country. Using U.S. survey data and Danish register data, we observe a socio-economic gradient along the entire test score distribution in both countries, but the gradient is always largest in the U.S. The test-score difference between the above and below median household income groups at school entry is about 20 percent larger in the U.S. compared with Denmark. Our findings show that a substantial socio-economic test-score gradient is present even in a Scandinavian welfare state with universal child policies. However, in light of the recent debate on similarities in intergenerational mobility between Denmark and the U.S., it is important to note that the socio-economic gradient in test-scores is smaller in Denmark compared with the U.S.

The Gift of Time? School Starting Age and Mental Health
with Thomas S. Dee
Health Economics
, 27, 2018.

[Link] [Download]

Using linked Danish survey and register data, we estimate the causal effect of age at kindergarten entry on mental health. Danish children are supposed to enter kindergarten in the calendar year in which they turn 6 years. In a "fuzzy" regression-discontinuity design based on this rule and exact dates of birth, we find that a 1-year delay in kindergarten entry dramatically reduces inattention/hyperactivity at age 7 (effect size = –0.73), a measure of self-regulation with strong negative links to student achievement. The effect is primarily identified for girls but persists at age 11.

Discharge on the day of birth, parental responses and health and schooling outcomes
with Miriam Wüst
Journal of Health Economics
, 55, 2017.

[Link] [Download]

Exploiting the Danish roll-out of same-day discharge policies after uncomplicated births, we find that treated newborns have a higher probability of hospital readmission in the first month after birth. While these short-run effects may indicate substitution of hospital stays with readmissions, we also find that—in the longer run—a same-day discharge decreases children's ninth grade GPA. This effect is driven by children and mothers, who prior to the policy change would have been least likely to experience a same-day discharge. Using administrative and survey data to assess potential mechanisms, we show that a same-day discharge impacts those parents’ health investments and their children's medium-run health. Our findings point to important negative effects of policies that expand same-day discharge policies to broad populations of mothers and children.
Cognitive fatigue influences students’ performance on standardized tests
with Francesca Gino & Marco Piovesan
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
, 113(10), 2016.

[Link] [Download] [Code]

Using test data for all children attending Danish public schools between school years 2009/10 and 2012/13, we examine how the time of the test affects performance. Test time is determined by the weekly class schedule and computer availability at the school. We find that, for every hour later in the day, test performance decreases by 0.9% of an SD (95% CI, 0.7–1.0%). However, a 20- to 30-minute break improves average test performance by 1.7% of an SD (95% CI, 1.2–2.2%). These findings have two important policy implications: First, cognitive fatigue should be taken into consideration when deciding on the length of the school day and the frequency and duration of breaks throughout the day. Second, school accountability systems should control for the influence of external factors on test scores.

Care around birth, infant and mother health and maternal health investments – Evidence from a nurse strike
with Hanne Kronborg & Miriam Wüst
Social Science and Medicine
, 150, 2016.

[Link] [Download]

Care around birth may impact child and mother health and parental health investments. We exploit the 2008 national strike among Danish nurses to identify the effects of care around birth on infant and mother health (proxied by health care usage) and maternal investments in the health of their newborns. We use administrative data from the population register on 39,810 Danish births in the years 2007–2010 and complementary survey and municipal administrative data on 8288 births in the years 2007–2009 in a differences-in-differences framework. We show that the strike reduced the number of mothers' prenatal midwife consultations, their length of hospital stay at birth, and the number of home visits by trained nurses after hospital discharge. We find that this reduction in care around birth increased the number of child and mother general practitioner (GP) contacts in the first month. As we do not find strong effects of strike exposure on infant and mother GP contacts in the longer run, this result suggests that parents substitute one type of care for another. While we lack power to identify the effects of care around birth on hospital readmissions and diagnoses, our results for maternal health investments indicate that strike-exposed mothers—especially those who lacked postnatal early home visits—are less likely to exclusively breastfeed their child at four months. Thus reduced care around birth may have persistent effects on treated children through its impact on parental investments.

Local unemployment and the timing of post-secondary schooling
Economics of Education Review
, 50, 2016.

[Link] [Download]

Using Danish administrative data on all high school graduates from 1984 to 1992, I show that local unemployment has both a short- and a long-run effect on school enrollment and completion. The short-run effect causes students to advance their enrollment, and consequently their completion, of additional schooling. The long-run effect causes students who would otherwise never have enrolled to enroll and complete schooling. The effects are strongest for children of parents with no higher education.

The exploitation of talent
with Nicolaj Christiansen
Nationaløkonomisk Tidsskrift
, 146(1), 2008.

[Link] [Download]

This article is a review of the seminar paper Superstar Effect in Italian Football which was written for the seminar on sports economics at the Department of Economics, University of Copenhagen and awarded the McKinsey Award in spring 2008. Only the main findings from the seminar paper will be presented here. For details and technicalities we refer to the original seminar paper Christiansen and Sievertsen (2008), which can be downloaded at www.econ.ku.dk/nf/superstareffect.pdf. In short, superstar economics is the branch of labour economics that deals with the phenomenon of nonlinear and highly rightskewed income distributions, that is observed in certain activities. The puzzle is, that the most talented individuals in these activities can obtain extremely high salaries compared to their colleagues, even though they are only marginally more talented. Theoretical explanations of the puzzle are reviewed and the superstar phenomenon is analysed empirically on Italian football, where a significant superstar effect is found.