Conflict in times of COVID-19Book chapterNicolas Berman, Mathieu Couttenier, Nathalie Monnet and Rohit Ticku, Simeon Djankov and Ugo Panizza (Eds.), 2020-06, pp. 147-156, CEPR Press, 2020

This chapter discusses the potential impacts of the spread of COVID-19, and the restriction policies that it has triggered in many countries, on conflict incidence worldwide. Based on anecdotal evidence and recent research, we argue that imposing nation-wide shutdown policies diminishes conflict incidence on average, but that this conflict reduction may be short-lived and highly heterogeneous across countries. In particular, conflict does not appear to decline in poor, fractionalised countries. Evidence points to two potential ways in which COVID-related restriction policies may increase conflict: losses in income and magnified ethnic and religious tensions leading to scapegoating of minorities.

Demand Learning and Firm Dynamics: Evidence from ExportersJournal articleNicolas Berman, Vincent Rebeyrol and Vincent Vicard, The Review of Economics and Statistics, Volume 101, Issue 1, pp. 91-106, 2019

This paper provides direct evidence that learning about demand is an important driver of firms’ dynamics. We present a model of Bayesian learning in which firms are uncertain about idiosyncratic demand in each market and update their beliefs as noisy information arrives. Firms update their beliefs to a given demand shock more, the younger they are. We test and empirically confirm this prediction, using the structure of the model, together with exporter-level data, to identify demand shocks and the firms’ beliefs about future demand. Consistent with theory, we also find the learning process to be weakened in more uncertain environments.

Financial constraints, institutions, and foreign ownershipJournal articleRon Alquist, Nicolas Berman, Rahul Mukherjee and Linda L. Tesar, Journal of International Economics, Volume 118, pp. 63-83, 2019

We develop a model of cross-border acquisitions in which the foreign acquirer's ownership choice reflects a trade-off between easing the target's credit constraints and the costs of operating in an environment with weak institutions. Data on domestic and foreign acquisitions in emerging markets over the period 1990–2007 support the model predictions. The share of full foreign acquisitions is higher in sectors more reliant on external finance, in countries with lower financial development, and in countries with higher institutional quality. Sectoral external finance dependence accentuates the effect of country-level financial development and institutional quality. By contrast, the level of foreign ownership in partial acquisitions is insensitive to institutional factors and depends weakly on financial factors.

Trade Policy and Market Power: Firm-Level EvidenceJournal articleAlan Asprilla, Nicolas Berman, Olivier Cadot and Mélise Jaud, International Economic Review, Volume 60, Issue 4, pp. 1647-1673, 2019

This article identifies the effect of trade policy on market power through new data and a new identification strategy. We identify market power by observing how exporting firms price discriminate across markets following variations in bilateral exchange rates. Pricing-to-market is prevalent in all countries in our sample, even among small firms, although it is increasing in firm size. More importantly, we find that the effect of nontariff measures (NTMs) is not isomorphic to that of tariffs. Whereas tariffs reduce the market power of foreign firms through rent-shifting effects, NTMs reinforce the market power of nonexiting firms, domestic and foreign alike.

This Mine Is Mine! How Minerals Fuel Conflicts in AfricaJournal articleNicolas Berman, Mathieu Couttenier, Dominic Rohner and Mathias Thoenig, American Economic Review, Volume 107, Issue 6, pp. 1564-1610, 2017

We combine georeferenced data on mining extraction of 14 minerals with information on conflict events at spatial resolution of 0.5 degree x 0.5 degree for all of Africa between 1997 and 2010. Exploiting exogenous variations in world prices, we find a positive impact of mining on conflict at the local level. Quantitatively, our estimates suggest that the historical rise in mineral prices (commodity super-cycle) might explain up to one-fourth of the average level of violence across African countries over the period. We then document how a fighting group's control of a mining area contributes to escalation from local to global violence. Finally, we analyze the impact of corporate practices and transparency initiatives in the mining industry.

Quand exporter aide à vendre chez soiJournal articleNicolas Berman, Antoine Berthou and Jérôme Héricourt, La Lettre du CEPII, Issue 354, 2015

Comment les chocs de demande subis par les entreprises françaises sur leurs ventes à l’étranger se répercutent-ils sur leurs ventes en France ? Cette Lettre présente les résultats d’une analyse empirique mettant en évidence une relation de complémentarité entre exportations et ventes domestiques. Une hausse de 10% des exportations engendre, la même année, un accroissement des ventes domestiques compris entre 1% et 3% ; une baisse les réduit dans les mêmes proportions. Les contraintes de liquidité auxquelles font face les entreprises semblent jouer un rôle majeur dans la transmission à leur activité domestique du choc conjoncturel subi sur les marchés étrangers.

Export dynamics and sales at homeJournal articleNicolas Berman, Antoine Berthou and Jérôme Héricourt, Journal of International Economics, Volume 96, Issue 2, pp. 298-310, 2015

How do firms' sales interact across markets? Are foreign and domestic sales complements or substitutes? Using a French firm-level database combining balance-sheet and product-destination-specific export information over the period 1995–2001, we study how demand conditions in foreign markets affect domestic sales through variations in exports. We identify a number of exogenous shocks affecting the firms' demand on foreign markets, including product-destination specific imports or tariff changes, and large foreign shocks such as financial crises or civil wars. Our results show that exogenous variations in firm-level exports positively impact domestic sales, even after controlling for domestic demand conditions. A 10% exogenous increase in foreign sales generates a 1 to 3% increase in domestic sales in the short-run. This result is robust to various estimation techniques, instruments, controls, and sub-samples. It is also supported by the natural experiment of the Asian crisis in the late 1990's.

External Shocks, Internal Shots: The Geography of Civil ConflictsJournal articleNicolas Berman and Mathieu Couttenier, The Review of Economics and Statistics, Volume 97, Issue 4, pp. 758-776, 2015

We use georeferenced information on the location of violent events in sub-Saharan African countries and provide evidence that external income shocks are important determinants of the intensity and geography of civil conflicts. More precisely, we find that (a) the incidence, intensity, and onset of conflicts are generally negatively and significantly correlated with income variations at the local level; (b) this relationship is significantly weaker for the most remote locations; and (c) at the country level, these shocks have an insignificant impact on the overall probability of conflict outbreak but do affect the probability that conflicts start in the most opened regions.

Time to Ship during Financial CrisesBook chapterNicolas Berman, José de Sousa, Philippe Martin and Thierry Mayer, In: NBER Chapters, F. Giavazzi and K. D. West (Eds.), 2013, Volume 9, pp. 225-260, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, 2013

We show that the negative impact of financial crises on trade is magnified for destinations with longer time-to-ship. A simple model where exporters react to an increase in the probability of default of importers by increasing their export price and decreasing their export volumes to destinations in crisis is consistent with this empirical finding. For longer shipping time, those effects are indeed magnified as the probability of default increases as time passes. Some exporters also decide to stop exporting to the crisis destination, the more so the longer time-to-ship. Using aggregate data from 1950 to 2009, we find that this magnification effect is robust to alternative specifications, samples and inclusion of additional controls, including distance. The firm level predictions are also broadly consistent with French exporter data from 1995 to 2005.

How do Different Exporters React to Exchange Rate Changes?Journal articleNicolas Berman, Philippe Martin and Thierry Mayer, The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Volume 127, Issue 1, pp. 437-492, 2012

This article analyzes the heterogeneous reaction of exporters to real exchange rate changes using a very rich French firm-level data set with destination-specific export values and volumes on the period 1995–2005. We find that high–performance firms react to a depreciation by increasing significantly more their markup and by increasing less their export volume. This heterogeneity in pricing-to-market is robust to different measures of performance, samples, and econometric specifications. It is consistent with models where the demand elasticity decreases with firm performance. Since aggregate exports are concentrated on high-productivity firms, precisely those that absorb more exchange rate movements in their markups, heterogeneous pricing-to-market may partly explain the weak impact of exchange rate movements on aggregate exports. Copyright 2012, Oxford University Press.

Fertile Ground for ConflictJournal articleNicolas Berman, Mathieu Couttenier and Raphaël Soubeyran, Journal of the European Economic Association, Forthcoming

We investigate how variations in soil productivity affect civil conflicts. We first present a model with heterogeneous land in which variations in input prices (fertilizers) affect appropriable rents and the opportunity costs of fighting. The theory predicts that spikes in input prices increase the likelihood of conicts through their effect on income and inequality, and that this effect is magni fied when soil fertility is naturally more heterogenous. We test these predictions using data on conict events covering all Sub-Saharan African countries at a spatial resolution of 0.5 x 0.5 degree latitude and longitude over the 1997-2013 period. We combine information on soil characteristics and worldwide variations in fertilizer prices to identify local exogenous changes in input costs. As predicted, variations in soil productivity triggered by variations in fertilizer prices are positively associated with conicts, especially in cells where land endowments are more heterogeneous. In addition, we find that the distribution of land fertility both within and across ethnic groups affects violence, and that the effect of between-group heterogeneity in soil quality is magnified in densely populated areas. Overall, our findings imply that inequality in access to fertile areas { an issue largely neglected in the literature dealing with the roots of Sub-Saharan African civil wars { constitutes a serious threat to peace at the local-level.