10 November 2021

27.5 Million from the Rockwool Foundation


Nikolaj Harmon, Torben Heien Nielsen, Morten Bennedsen, and Jakob Roland Munch receive research grants from the Rockwool Foundation summing a total of 27.5 million kr.

The research projects will run for the next 4 years and answer questions about optimal employment guiding; the role of networks in shaping health inequality; public sector leadership; and the decline of unions in a globalized world.

Here follows a brief description of each of the projects:

What is keeping unemployed workers from finding employment? The role of information, job characteristics, and behavioral biases.

Nikolaj HarmonNikolaj Harmon and Alexander Sebald at CBS are PIs. They explain: Helping unemployed workers find good jobs is a key policy challenge. Recent research has highlighted a puzzling impediment to job finding: There often seem to exist relevant job vacancies that unemployed job seekers fail to even apply for. Little is known, however, about why this happens.

  • Is it because job seekers fail to realize that these vacancies exist?
  • Is it because the job vacancies in question are in fact very poor matches for some job seekers?
  • Is the failure to apply the result of psychological biases and systematic mistakes of job seekers?

The role of networks in shaping health inequality

Torben Heien NielsenTorben Heien Nielsen heads this project: Health shapes the well-being and financial situations of individuals, networks and populations. Societal changes the past forty years have resulted in most people leading longer, healthier and more prosperous lives.

However, health disparities are on a rise, both in less equal countries, such as the US, and in more equal countries, such as in Scandinavia. In Denmark, for instance, the rich can expect to live a decade longer than the poor, and every year the richest quintile of men gains one month more in life expectancy than the poorest quintile.

In recent work, we show that adverse health behaviors have become more consequential for the poorer part of the population---and we find that health behaviors have the potential to explain the entire rise in life-expectancy inequality in Denmark over the past decades. However, we are still to identify the key channels that shape underlying behavioral differences in society.

While health behaviors are not biologically commutable like viruses and bacterial infection, they are indeed highly contagious via spillovers in networks. This is the starting point for this research proposal that aims to disentangle behavioral network spillovers and their interaction with changing social insurance programs as well as advances in the health care sector in shaping inequality in health and well-being over the past 40 years.

Public sector leadership

Morten BennedsenMorten Bennedsen leads this project asking “to what extent does leadership matter for outcomes, productivity and employee wellbeing in the Public Sector in Denmark?”

The public sector constitutes 50 pct. of GDP and 30 pct. of the labor market, is less competitive and has a limited scope for incentivizing through pay structures. Therefore, leadership and organizational design are crucial for the quantity and quality of public service. This motivates our overall research question: Through investigating the relationship between leadership and employee talent, absenteeism and mental health, we will be able to highlight best practices for improving the quality of public service provision and employee wellbeing

Globalization and the Decline of Unions

Jakob roland MunchJakob Roland Munch and collaborators will study the unions. Labor unions have traditionally been an integral part of the welfare state, but union membership rates are declining across most developed countries, including Denmark, and there is little consensus about why.

This project examines whether the decreasing prevalence of unions is due to globalization, particularly the role that offshoring, or the relocation of production tasks abroad, plays. The results will provide insights into the future of organized labor, especially given the rapid pace of globalization.

As workers navigate an increasingly challenging global economy, the question is whether they are simultaneously losing the organization that typically negotiates on their behalf. This will affect the distributional implications of globalization and can have important implications for governmental welfare programs and the sustainability of the welfare state as we know it today.