I work with Scandinavian economic history, with a focus on education’s role in industrialisation. I apply quantitative methods using historical source material to understand development trends over the long term.

I am passionate about good research design and clear communication. My ambition is to explain interesting ideas in easily understandable terms.

I previously worked as an economist and strategic adviser within government in Australia, before moving to Denmark in 2018 to undertake a master’s degree in economics.

Hej, I’m Nick!

Academic interests

My research interests include:

  • long-term economic growth and productivity
  • human capital, particularly the role of education
  • economic history
  • macroeconomic theory

Dissertation project

I’m attached to a research project on human capital acquisition across Denmark, Norway and Sweden during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The project uses individual-level records to track the background, studies and work experience of high school and university graduates over more than a century. The novelty and richness of the source material allows us to offer new insights on the contribution of higher education to long-term economic development.

The project is a cross-institutional collaborative endeavour, involving colleagues at Lund University, the University of Southern Denmark and the University of Tromsø. My position is generously financed through a grant from Handelsbanken Research Foundation.

  • Harmonious relations

    Music composers have a long history of learning from other composers. In a new working paper (PDF link) with Karol Jan Borowiecki and Maria Marchenko, we explore this tradition in composer education. How does a composer’s quality influence the quality of the composers he or she teaches?

    Our analysis draws on a comprehensive dataset of 17,433 composers over several centuries. We confirm the presence of quality transmission from teachers to students. Moreover, we find evidence of quality carrying through to subsequent generations of students: that is, not just teacher to student, but to student’s student, student’s student’s student and so on.

  • A useful starting point for assessing the effect of a shock or intervention is a basis of comparison: those affected by a change versus those not affected. But what if everyone is potentially affected in some way? What if there is no obvious benchmark against which differences can be evaluated?

    One answer is simply to create your own comparator — stitching together a credible counterfactual using attributes from real-world observations. This synthetic control method is a relatively recent innovation in empirical analysis. It offers a smart tool for identifying casual effects — under the right conditions.

  • While much progress has been made, the gender wage gap remains evident in even the most progressive and equal societies. For example, the latest data for Denmark show that women’s earnings are 88 per cent of men’s — and lower still when comparing the earnings of female managers and professionals relative to their male peers.

    Part of the explanation for the gender wage gap relates to gender-based differences in occupational profiles. Some jobs are disproportionately filled by male workers, while others are dominated by female workers. At one level, this can be understood as a form of path dependence: a profession which has a high share of women is perceived as ‘women’s work’, and therefore continues to attract more women than men.

    Yet the strength of path dependence in this context is questionable, given that changes in gender profiles within occupations have taken place over time. In some cases, the changes have been profound. For example, across the developed world, teaching was historically a male-dominated field, but switched to a female-dominated one during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. (In recent decades, the pendulum has begun to swing back, though to differing degrees for primary and secondary levels and across subjects.)