Hannah Zillessen

PhD Candidate in Economics

University of Oxford


I am a PhD Candidate in Economics at the University of Oxford. I will be on the academic job market 2022/23 and available for interviews.

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

You can find my CV here. You can contact me at: hannah.zillessen@economics.ox.ac.uk.


Job Market Paper

Uncertainty, Citizenship & Migrant Saving Choices

New draft coming soon!

Presentations: NBER Summer Institute 2022, EEA-ESEM Congress 2022, RES Conference 2022, RES Junior Symposium 2022, HCEO-Briq SSSI 2022, Transatlantic Doctoral Conference 2022, European Commission ARC 2022, European Commission DG ECFIN Seminars

In most Western countries, migrants hold significantly less wealth than their native counterparts. They also face significantly more uninsurable uncertainty about their future. This paper examines the crucial role that uncertainty about citizenship prospects and future location plays in explaining migrant saving choices and wealth inequality. Exploiting quasi-experimental variation and extensive panel data from Germany, I show that migrants who have access to citizenship save as much as natives once individual characteristics such as labour market outcomes are accounted for, while migrants without such a right persistently save 30% less. The unexplained gap is closed completely when migrants in the latter group gain the prospect of citizenship --- a result that neither labour nor credit market access can rationalise. Developing a life cycle saving framework with heterogenous location preferences, I show that migrants with a preference for the host country choose to save less than natives if they have to make their choices under uncertainty to their right to stay. Once access to citizenship secures a permanent right to stay, migrants’ saving rate increases, driven mainly by a greater inclination to invest in country specific assets such as housing. Taking the model to the data, I substantiate these predictions empirically by documenting that migrants become more likely to express an intention to stay in the host country once they become eligible for citizenship. They also become significantly more likely to own their home, a mortgage saving plan or a private pension plan. The results suggest that citizenship legislation can substantially reduce the risk of old age poverty for migrants, while simultaneously making immigration a more effective tool for governments seeking to stabilise their pension systems.

Work in Progress

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

Non-cognitive skills are important predictors of life outcomes. Thus, it is worrying that, from an early age, we observe persistent gaps in non-cognitive skills between children from different backgrounds. We test whether grading primary school students on non-academic attainment, such as social conduct and work ethic, can affect non-cognitive skill formation and reduce these gaps. To this end, we exploit a natural experiment in Germany where various states introduced conduct grades at different points during the 2000s. 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. Even more importantly, we find that students from more disadvantaged backgrounds grow up to be less neurotic and present biased adolescents if they received conduct grades in primary school – decreasing a detrimental existing gap.

Uncertain Democratic Norms and Political Participation (with Thiemo Fetzer, Lukas Hensel, Chris Roth)

We study perceived uncertainty about democratic norms in the context of Brexit. We measure people’s beliefs about whether having a second referendum on Brexit is appropriate as well as people’s perceptions of how uncertain others are about the appropriateness of a second referendum. We then study how information about Leave/Remain supporters’ views on the appropriateness of a second referendum and associated uncertainty a↵ect people’s private and public endorsement of having a second referendum. We measure this by their willingness to tweet their endorsement and/or publicly donate to a campaign lobbying for a second referendum. We find that respondents on either side of the Leave/Remain debate become significantly more likely to privately and publicly contribute to political campaigns after learning that others are highly uncertain about their views.

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

Reference Dependent Social Planners (with Luke Heath Milsom)


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.

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 both courses can be found here.

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