DKK 11.7 million for research into psychiatric disorders, gender norms and the evolution of interest rates during a time of crisis

The Independent Research Fund Denmark (IRFD) is granting DKK 11.7 million for researchers from the Department of Economics and Business Economics at Aarhus BSS. The money will be spent on research into psychiatric disorders, gender norms and the evolution of interest rates during times of crisis.

Bjarni Vilhjálmsson
Bjarni Vilhjálmsson Photo: AU
Daniele Nosenzo
Daniele Nosenzo Photo: LISER
Bent Jesper Christensen
Bent Jesper Christensen Photo: Aarhus BSS

The three professors Bjarni Vilhjálmsson, Daniele Nosenzo and Bent Jesper Christensen from the Department of Economics and Business Economics have received a total of DKK 11.7 million in funding from the Independent Research Fund Denmark (IRFD). The grant for Bjarni Vilhjálmsson is in the category Medical and Health Sciences, while the other two belong to the category Social Sciences.

New statistical model for predicting causes of psychiatric disorders

Professor Bjarni Vilhjálmsson from the National Centre for Register-based Research has received DKK 5,967,583 under the IRFD instrument Research Project 2 for his project Integrated Liability Threshold Model: Modeling Disease Risk conditional on Family History, Temporal Information, and Medical History.

He will spend the money on developing a new statistical model for processing data on medical history, socioeconomics and genes, which may predict the causes of psychiatric disorders.

”It is fantastic news, and I feel very privileged to receive this grant. The grant will enable us to further develop a new statistical model, which can be used on Danish register data to better understand the link between diseases as well as to identify risks and improve risk models. Now I just look forward to getting started on the project!” says Bjarni Vilhjálmsson on receiving the grant.

He describes his project in the following way:

”As more large population-scale data sets with electronic health records and individual-level genetic data become available to researchers, integrating these to better understand diseases and improve risk prediction and prognostic accuracies is of great interest. To address this challenge, we propose an integrated liability threshold model for modelling disease risk, and outline how this model can be used to address major current challenges in genetics and epidemiology. We propose to apply it to Danish register data, which hold medical records, family information, and other individual-level information for up to 10 million individuals, to study etiology of psychiatric disorders. This includes estimating the genetic and environmental contribution to family history for psychiatric disorders and comorbidities, as well as predicting individual absolute risk for psychiatric disorders, and improving statistical power for identifying genetic and environmental associations.”

Does multiculturalism perpetuate gender roles?

Professor Daniele Nosenzo has received DKK 2,878,957 under the IRFD instrument Research Project 1 for his project Institutions and gender norms in multicultural societies.

“I am very excited to have received this grant to study how multiculturalism shapes social norms and gender norms in particular. This is a topic that is often the subject of heated political and societal debates, but we do not have a lot of hard scientific evidence to adjudicate the different opinions. My project aims to fill this gap by collecting rigorous, first-hand data on how different norms can coexist and evolve in our societies,” says Daniele Nosenzo and continues:

“The grant will also allow me to hire and mentor a new postdoctoral researcher who will work with me on this new exciting project, and I look very much forward to that too.”

In his abstract, he describes the project as follows:

“Is multiculturalism bad for women? With this provocative book title, Susan Okin and other leading academics sparked a lively debate about the tensions that may exist in modern Western societies between the pursuit of gender equality and the defence of multiculturalism.

In multicultural societies, non-negligible fractions of the population may support gender norms that assign unequal roles to men and women, for instance about the amount of time each gender should spend on unpaid caregiving and domestic work. If a society promotes policies that push for gender equality, this will inevitably create a conflict with the values and traditions of those who come from cultures characterised by more inegalitarian gender norms.

But are these gender norms really so persistent and difficult to change? Or is it possible that they may naturally adapt to the local social and institutional environment, as individuals are continuously exposed to laws and institutions that establish equal gender roles (e.g. egalitarian parental leave laws), and to norms that are simply different from their own (e.g. the values and traditions of neighbours and work colleagues)?

By running decision-making experiments with migrants and natives in Denmark as well as with international students at a university in the United Arab Emirates, this project will provide hard data that will allow to shed light on these important questions about the role of gender and multiculturalism in our society.”

Better decisions on loans, debt, savings and investments during a time of crisis

”The new grant is well-timed," says Professor Bent Jesper Christensen. He has received DKK 2,877,539 under the IRFD instrument Research Project 1 for his project State-dependencies in interest rates and the macroeconomy.

"The purpose is to investigate the relation between the evolution of interest rates and macroeconomic uncertainty, and events like the financial crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic have taught us that changes in global factors can increase uncertainty quickly. We need a better understanding of these relations in order to make more informed decisions in banks, households, firms, pension funds, central banks and governments,” Bent Jesper Christensen continues. 

In the abstract for his project, it says:

“The purpose of this project is to examine the link between the behaviour of interest rates and macroeconomic uncertainty. Expectations of the future behaviour of interest rates play a crucial role in decision-making for banks, households, private firms, pension funds and policymakers. However, recent evidence shows that risk premia of government bonds behave differently in different states of macroeconomic uncertainty. Financial crises and the recent COVID-19 pandemic are examples of events that increase macroeconomic uncertainty. The existing literature assumes that the relation between interest rates and the macroeconomy is linear and independent of the level of macroeconomic uncertainty.

We will contribute to the literature by relaxing both these assumptions. The proposed research will contribute to better-informed interest rate-dependent decision-making under macroeconomic uncertainty. The focus on interest rates and exchange rates is relevant for society as a whole.”

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