Hannah Zillessen 

KU Leuven


I am a Postdoctoral Fellow in the economics department at KU Leuven which I will join as an Assistant Professor in 2024. I am also visiting the Institute for Fiscal studies as a research scholar this year. 

I work on topics in labour economics , household finance and public economics --- combining quasi-experimental analyses with applied theory and innovative survey evidence. 

You can find my CV here. You can contact me at: hannah.zillessen@kuleuven.be. 


Job Market Paper

Uncertainty, Citizenship & Migrant Saving Choices

Presentations: NBER Summer Institute 2022, ASSA Annual Meeting 2023, EWMES Winter Meeting 2022, EEA-ESEM Congress 2022, RES Conference 2022, RES Junior Symposium 2022, HCEO-Briq SSSI 2022, Transatlantic Doctoral Conference 2022, European Commission ARC 2021, European Commission DG ECFIN Seminars

In most Western countries, migrants hold significantly less wealth than natives. Migrants also face significantly more uncertainty about their future. This paper examines the central role of uncertainty over citizenship prospects and future location in explaining their saving choices. Exploiting quasi-experimental variation and panel data from Germany, I show that migrants with a right to citizenship save as much as comparable natives, while migrants without this right save 30% less. This unexplained gap is closed completely when migrants in the latter group gain access to citizenship. The effect is not driven by changes in resources, but rather willingness to save. While standard theory predicts that saving increases in uncertainty, I show that the effect can reverse if utility is state-dependent, malleable, or resources are not equally accessible across states. I build a life-cycle saving model with uncertain retirement location and heterogeneous country preferences. The model shows that agents can have a “preparatory saving motive” that decreases in uncertainty. I confirm the importance of this novel motive empirically, showing that migrants become significantly more likely to invest in illiquid assets if they gain certainty about their right to stay.

Work in Progress

The Impact of Conduct Grade on Non-Cognitive Skill Formation (with Marta Golin)

From an early age, children from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds perform worse than advantaged children in standard tests of non-cognitive skills. These gaps persist into adulthood and shape life outcomes. We test whether grading primary school students on non-academic attainment, such as social conduct and work ethic, affects non-cognitive skill formation. We exploit quasi-experimental variation in conduct grades in Germany. We find that receiving conduct grades in primary school causes students to be more open to experience and willing to take risks at age 17. Further, we find that students from more disadvantaged backgrounds specifically grow up to be less neurotic and present biased adolescents. Both traits are correlated with worse adult outcomes, suggesting potential for welfare gains.

Labours of Love: The Search for Occupational Meaning & Worker Welfare (with Luke Heath Milsom & Shihang Hou)


Acceptability of App-Based Contact Tracing for COVID-19: Cross-Country Survey Study. (with Samuel Altmann, Luke Heath Milsom, Raffaele Blassone, Frederic Gerdon, Ruben Bach, Frauke Kreuter, Daniele Nosenzo, Séverine Toussaert & Johannes Abeler)

JMIR mHeath and uHealth, 2020. 


I have been teaching classes for the Quantitative Methods I & II (introductory and advanced econometrics) courses for the MSc and MPhil in Economic and Social History in 2019/20, 2020/21 & 2021/22. A sample syllabus for the introductory course can be found here. A sample syllabus for the advanced course can be found here. Teaching evaluations for the most recent year can be found here. A sample of testimonials from the preceding years can be found here.

In 2022/23 I will be teaching Quantitative Economics (undergraduate econometrics) classes.