Danila Serra

Southern Methodist University
Department of Economics

email: dserra@smu.edu

Phone: (+1) 214-768-4298

Address: SMU, Dept. of Economics

3300 Dyer Street, Suite 301C

Umphrey Lee Center
Dallas TX 75275-0496


I am an Associate Professor of Economics at Southern Methodist University, in Dallas, TX.


I am the inaugural recipient of the Vernon L. Smith Ascending Scholar Prize. The $50,000 prize is presented by the International Foundation for Research in Experimental Economics (IFREE).   The prize is given to an exceptional scholar in the field of experimental economics whose work embodies IFREE’s mission to Promote Human Betterment through Experimental Economics to Improve the Understanding of Exchange Systems. For more info, see the IFREE’s announcement and the SMU’s Press Release


I am a member of the Economic Science Association (ESA) Executive Committee. I am also a research affiliate at the Center for the Study of African Economies (CSAE), at the University of Oxford. Before joining SMU I was an Assistant Professor of Economics at Florida State University and a member of the FSU Experimental Social Science Research Group (2009-2012).



·        PhD in Economics, University of Oxford and Centre for the Study of African Economies (2009);

·        MSc in Economics, London School of Economics (2003);

·        BS (laurea) in Economics and Social Sciences, Bocconi University, Milan (2001).


Research fields: Economics of Corruption, Development Economics; Experimental and Behavioral Economics, Gender and Economics.


Teaching fields: Experimental and Behavioral Economics, Development Economics; Economics of Corruption, Intermediate Microeconomics, Behavioral Development Economics (PhD).


v CV and Google Scholar Citations


v You can also find me on twitter



Check out the Undergraduate Women in Economics Challenge (SMU is one of the participating universities)!




·        Some of my thoughts and research on corruption have appeared in The Atlantic. Read the piece “Does corruption happen slowly or all at once?”


·        Other research has been featured in the New Scientist. Read the article, titled The underhand ape: Why corruption is normal”, here , or here.







New Advances in Experimental Research on Corruption, edited with Leonard Wantchekon (Princeton University), Emerald Group Publishing, June 2012.






Motivating Whistleblowers” with J. Butler (UC Merced) and G. Spagnolo (SITE, Stockholm School of Economics). Accepted for publication at Management Science. REVISED August 2018: PDF.



Corruption and competition among bureaucrats: An experimental study”, with D. Ryvkin (FSU).  Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, forthcoming. PDF. Experimental instructions here



Is more competition always better? An experimental study of extortionary corruption”, with D. Ryvkin (FSU). Economic Inquiry, forthcoming. PDF.



 Corruption, Social Judgment and Culture: An Experiment”, with T. Salmon (SMU). Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 142: 64-78, 2017. PDF.



 I paid a bribe: An experiment on information sharing and extortionary corruption”, with D. Ryvkin (FSU) and James Tremewan (U of Vienna). European Economic Review, 94: 1-22, 2017 (lead article). PDF



Participatory accountability and collective action: Experimental evidence from Albania”, with A. Barr (U of Nottingham) and T. Packard (The World Bank). European Economic Review, 68: 250–269, 2014. PDF



Intermediaries in corruption: An experiment”, with M. Drugov (Carlos III de Madrid) and J. Hamman (FSU). Experimental Economics, 17(1): 78-99, 2014. PDF.

·            Winner of the Editor’s prize for the best paper published in Experimental Economics in the year 2014.



Combining top-down and bottom-up accountability: Evidence from a bribery experiment”. Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, 28(3): 569-587, August 2012. Online advance access here.



Anti-corruption Policies: Lessons from the Lab”, with K. Abbink. In D. Serra and L. Wantchekon (eds.) New Advances in Experimental Research on Corruption, Research In Experimental Economics Volume 15, Bingly: Emerald Group Publishing, June 2012.



Intrinsic motivations and the non-profit health sector: Evidence from Ethiopia”, with P. Serneels (UEA) and A. Barr (U of Nottingham) Personality and Individual Differences, 51(3): 309-314. PDF.



How corruptible are you? Bribery under uncertainty”, with D. Ryvkin (FSU), Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 81(2012): 466-477. PDF.



Corruption and Culture: An experimental Analysis, with A. Barr (U of Nottingham), Journal of Public Economics, 94, Issues 11-12, December 2010. PDF .



The effects of externalities and framing on bribery in a petty corruption experiment”, with A. Barr (U of Nottingham), Experimental Economics, 12 (4): 488-503, 2009. PDF.



Discovering the Real World –Health Workers’ Career Choices and Early Work Experience in Ethiopia, with P. Serneels (UEA) and M. Lindelow (World Bank), The World Bank, Washington DC.



Empirical Determinants of Corruption: A sensitivity Analysis,” Public Choice 126 (1-2), 225-256, 2006. PDF.






·        ON GENDER


“Gender Differences in the Choice of Major: The Importance of Female Role Models” with C. Porter (Heriot-Watt). New draft: July 2018. PDF . R&R at American Economic Journal: Applied Economics.

We report results from a field experiment aimed at increasing the percentage of women majoring in economics by exposing students enrolled in principles of economics classes to carefully chosen career women who majored in economics -- our female role models.

·         Read a summary of the study: SMU Press release.

·         Watch a short video of me talking about the study.

·         Media Coverage: Dow Jones Moneyish, Pacific Standard, The University Network



Gender Differences in top leadership roles: Does aversion to worker backlash matter?” with P. Chakraborty (SMU). NEW Working Paper: October 2018. PDF

Top leadership positions involve the necessity of making decisions, like promotions, demotions and dismissals, which please some employees and upset others. We examine whether gender differences in aversion to the possibility of worker backlash may contribute to the gender leadership gap. We address this question through a novel laboratory experiment that simulates corporate decision-making. We find that: 1) women are significantly less likely to self-select into a managerial position when facing the possibility of receiving angry messages from employees; 2) once in a leadership position, women perform no differently than men; 3) male and female managers have different leadership styles; and 4) female managers receive significantly more angry messages from employees.



“Influencing educational aspirations of primary school students in Somalia through role models” (working title), with Elijah Kipkech Kipchumba (Save the Children), Catherine Porter (Heriot-Watt University) and Munshi Sulaiman (Save the Children). In the field.



“Women’s circles: Testing the impact of female support groups on goal achievements” (working title), with Alessandra Cassar (University of San Francisco) and Linc Gasking (Women Without Borders). Design Stage.






Corrupt Police” with K. Abbink (Monash University) and D. Ryvkin (FSU). NEW Working Paper, September 2018. PDF.

We employ laboratory experiments to examine the effects of corrupt law enforcement on crime within a society. In the second study, we test the effectiveness of two reward mechanisms aimed at reducing police corruption, both of which are based on society-wide police performance measures and not on the observation/monitoring of individual officers.



Health Workers’ Behavior, Patient Reporting and Reputational Concerns: Lab-in-the-Field Experimental Evidence from Kenya, with I. Mbiti (U of Virginia). IZA working paper, February 2018. PDF. Instructions of the lab-in-the-field experiment here.

We use lab-in-the-field experiments to examine the effectiveness of accountability systems that rely on patient reporting in Kenyan health clinics.



Parental participation in primary schools in Angola: An experimental investigations of motivations, information sharing and collective action problems” (working title) with Pedro Vicente (Nova University of Lisbon). In the field.



How identity, norms and narratives can be used to reduce corruption in Police Service (traffic police) in Ghana”, with Oana Borcan (U of East Anglia), Stefan Dercon (University of Oxford) and Donna Harris (University of Oxford). In the field.



 “Supply Chain Corruption: A Field Experiment” (working title), with Utteeyo Dasgupta (Wagner College), Subha Mani (Fordham University), Marcello Puca (University of Bergamo) and Krista Saral (Webster University Geneva). Design Stage.




Updated November 2018



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