Luca Paolo Merlino

TT(ZAP)BOF Professor in Public Economics


Research group



  • It has long been recognized that most economic transactions do not take place on anonymous markets but rather they are bilateral transactions among two parties that need to know each other and to meet in order for the exchange to take place. Hence, one’s network of social interactions is important in shaping own economic outcomes. This is the case for example on the labor market: many studies showed how relevant one’s social ties are in determining wages and employment opportunities. In my research I study the implications of the interplay between social interactions and economic activities, from two complementary perspectives. First, I empirically study the effect of social interactions on economic outcomes the marriage market and the labor market. In my research, I quantify to which extent one’s attitude towards some particular socio-demographic groups are affected by the type and frequency of the social interactions with their members. The goal of this research is to derive long run implications for relevant societal outcomes such as marriages, and in particular, interracial marriages, the education of children, and labor market discrimination. Second, I study the implications of the fact that, once agents realize that their social ties can affect their economic outcomes, they might strategically invest in social interactions. Indeed, one of the most important challenges in order to empirically study the effect of social interactions on economic outcomes is how to disentangle the effect of peers on behavior from peer selection. In order to solve this problem, I develop frameworks where both actions and peers are the result of an individual choice. In developing each of these two perspectives, I use both empirical and theoretical tools in order to derive implications that will be helpful in alleviating the inequalities and inefficiencies that typically emerge in the decentralized equilibria of networked economies.


You can find here all of the projects that are recorded in the research database of UAntwerp under the name of the academic staff member that acts as a promoter, copromoter or grant holder (a.o. FWO). It concerns only those research projects and mandates that were acquired after an external or internal competition.