Ani Harutyunyan is a former PhD student in the SMU economics department who eventually earned her PhD at KU Leuven in Belgium. A chapter of her PhD dissertation that she wrote while at SMU has been awarded the Bergson Prize by the Association of Comparative Economic Studies. This prize is given once every 2 years to best paper published during that period in the journal Comparative Economic Studies.
Ani’s paper is titled “National Identity and Public Goods Provision“. Prevailing wisdom emphasizes the importance of “nation-building” as a way to mitigate the negative effects stemming from various types of conflict within a country. However, Ani’s research shows that a country’s strength of national identity, as measured with survey data, is negatively related to the provision of basic public goods including health and education. This suggests that governments may use national identity as a cheap way to divert attention from more pressing issues surrounding the basic provision of, among other services, education and health.