New Faculty
Anja Sautmann Assistant Professor of Economics Credit: Mike Cohea/Brown University

Anja Sautmann
Assistant Professor of Economics

By Deborah Baum  |  September 1, 2010  |  Email to a friend

Anja Sautmann’s research is guided by what she considers important economic and societal phenomena. “I care about theory as a means to better understand real people and real economies,” she said.

Originally from Munich, Germany, Sautmann completed her undergraduate work at the University of Munich and recently earned her Ph.D. at New York University. Her honors include a doctoral dissertation research award from the National Science Foundation and the MacCracken Fellowship at NYU. She specializes in microeconomics, development economics, and some experimental economics.

Much of Sautmann’s work has focused on India, specifically the country’s marriage market. Although paying and accepting dowry has been illegal in India for the last 50 years, Sautmann believes that dowries have actually increased during the 20th century. The reason, she says, is the so-called “marriage squeeze.” Traditionally, there is an age gap in Indian marriages — women were generally about 7 to 10 years younger than their husbands at the beginning of the century. When the country experiences a strong population surge, it creates a surplus of younger women (and husbands become scarce). Sautmann developed a model that shows how this “squeeze” can cause dowry payments to rise. She has recently looked more broadly at age patterns of marriage around the world.

Additionally, Sautmann has conducted some experimental research, investigating how self-confidence can shape one’s work contracts. She has found that if an employer can gauge an applicant’s confidence levels, that information can be exploited when offering a specific work contract, wage structure, or incentives. “This is particularly important since there is evidence that factors such as race and gender are correlated with self-confidence, thus can affect employment outcomes,” she said.

At Brown, Sautmann will also be affiliated with the Population Studies and Training Center. She plans to examine systems of property transmission from parents to children, such as those through dowry and bequests, how those systems have changed with modernization, and possible connections with the unequal treatment of children (e.g., first-born vs. later born, boys vs. girls). She’s also collaborating on a project to evaluate the effect of introducing so-called “action fees” on health care delivery in developing countries.