Elise S. Brezis

Professor of Economics

Curriculum vitae

Head, Israel Macroeconomic Forum

Department of Economics

Bar-Ilan University, Israel


My research is in the field of macroeconomics, encompassing some major subjects as international systems and social mobility as well as focused topics such as the revolving door and the peer review process in the sciences. I develop new frameworks and models which fit reality. I test them by undertaking empirical analysis, and often by developing new indices and data.

1. Elites, elitism index, higher education

My research on elites and social mobility has shown that one of the elements affecting social stratification is the higher education system. My research emphasizes that duality in higher education institutions, namely the differences between elite and standard universities, denoted as elitism, is a key factor in the formation and self-reproduction of the elites.

I have developed frameworks for analyzing the effect of elitism on inequality, social immobility, and economic growth. I have developed an index of elitism.

2. International political systems and economic policy

Over centuries of economic development, countries have faced two world phenomena.
  • The first is that leadership of a country is never for long. Over time, the baton of international leadership passes from country to country, due to new technological development. Technological changes are the key to dynamics of leadership. That is the leapfrogging effect I’ve written about.   

  • The second phenomenon is the pendulum movements between periods with a hegemonic country, and periods in history of balance of power (which can lead to wars). This is the case from 2010 on.   
I research the differences in national optimal economic policy during periods of international balance of power vs. periods of hegemony. 

3. Revolving door between regulatory agencies and the private sector

The “revolving door” is a practice in which top regulators after completing their term, enter the private sector they have regulated. Most economists think this practice leads to abuse of power and corruption as explained by the "regulatory capture theory". So why do governments let this practice continue?

My research shows that the revolving door is neither a regulatory capture issue, nor a corruption or abuse issue, but rather an ethical problem. I’ve been able to model the revolving door and to quantify its economic impact. I introduce the notion of “bureaucratic capital” and have created a revolving door index. I perform empirical analysis on its effects on the economy. The results were presented at the OECD Global Anti-Corruption and Integrity Forum, 2018.

4. Migration and brain drain

Migration has a profound effect on society. My research, based on models of multiple equilibria, has shown that under certain circumstances, immigration can be positive for countries receiving migrants, and negative for countries "exporting" migrants.

I’ve also analyzed the economic outcome on individuals, and whether individuals should migrate before getting an education or after. Optimal migration decisions depend on the depreciation rate of human capital, denoted as "brain waste", that is due to differences in the quality of education systems between countries.

5. Peer review

I research the scholarly peer review process, a cornerstone of scientific publishing and academic knowledge sharing. The peer review process has been subject to several criticisms, including reviewer bias, and inherent non-objectivity. My research has shown that peer review almost always leads to arbitrary results, and that the existing system impedes technological innovation. I propose a simple solution with a focal randomization process.

6. Economics of transition

The end of the 20th century has witnessed transition process from communism and autocracies to capitalism and democracies in Eastern Europe, but not in Asia. In Asia and especially China, there was a move from communism to capitalism, but not to democracy. My papers explain why the transition process has been different in Eastern Europe and in Asia.

I focus on finding exogenous elements that trigger transitions. My research explains why geography with a domino effect, and the strength of repressive forces, both influence political and economic transitions.

7. Demography

Demographic transitions are some of the main factors governing economic growth. There are two main frameworks for analyzing the dynamics of demography. The canonical Malthusian model, in which children are a consumption good, and the Marxian model that explains the emergence of a proletariat, where children are an investment good. (Latin proletarii means 'those with children').

I have developed a framework based on the Marxian features, that explains why in developing countries, higher incomes lead to a decrease in fertility rates. Adopting this framework enables improved policy planning.

8. New data in economic history

I research periods of great change in economic history. Without accurate data, macroeconomists cannot interpret facts in a convincing way. I have worked on two specific periods of history – the 19th century in the UK and the French Revolution.

Data on the balance of payments of England existed only from the 19th century onward and shows that England has had a surplus balance of payments. In my 1995 article in Economic History Review, using novel cross-referential historical documents, I have developed the data on the balance of payments of England during the entire 18th century. I have shown that England had a balance of payments deficit, contrarily to the previous view that it was similar to the 19th century. Those findings shed new light on the financing of investments which paved the way to the industrial revolution.

I have also worked on the inflation dynamics during the French Revolution caused by the issuing of assignats (revolutionary paper money). I gather new sources of historical monthly data on inflation. I have found that at its peak in 1795, annual inflation level was around 3500%.

9. Israeli economy (in Hebrew)

  • Sole importers and cost of living
    My research clarifies why sole importers are so numerous in Israel. It analyzes its effects on competition and prices.

  • Concentration of the import sector 
    My research focuses on the concentration of the import sector and suggests ways of fighting it by making online imports more accessible.

  • Revolving door in Israel
    I present cases of revolving doors in Israel and analyze whether cooling off periods are a relevant panacea for this phenomenon.

  • Monetary aggregates and inflation
    I analyze which of the monetary aggregates the central bank should monitor. Credit is the best target in times of high inflation.

כלכלת ישראל   

  • יבואנים בלעדיים ויוקר המחייה
    המחקר שלי מבהיר מדוע יבואנים בלעדיים הם כה רבים בישראל. אני מנתחת את השפעות היבואן הבלעדי על התחרות ועל המחירים.

  • ריכוזיות ביבוא
    המחקר מתמקד בריכוזיות של ענף היבוא, ומציע דרכים להילחם בריכוזיות על ידי הפיכת היבוא המקוון לנגיש יותר.   

  • הדלת המסתובבת בישראל 
    אני מציגה מקרים של דלתות מסתובבות בישראל ומנתחת האם תקופת צינון הינה פיתרון רלוונטי לתופעה זו.   

  • אגרגטים מונטריים ואינפלציה
    אני מנתחת מהו האגרגט שבנק ישראל צריך לבחור לנווט את המדיניות המוניטרית . אשראי הוא היעד הטוב ביותר בזמנים של אינפלציה גבוהה.

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