BA (Macalester College); MA, PhD (University of Maryland, College Park)


Nisvan Erkal is Professor of Economics at the University of Melbourne. Her areas of research are experimental economics and industrial organization. Using theoretical models and economics experiments, her research is motivated by questions targeting innovative policy design and improved research methods. One consistent theme in her work has been the study of the behavioural consequences of various institutional and policy settings. Applications include attitudes towards corruption, cultural assimilation, and China’s One-Child Policy. Another significant theme in her work has been how individual and institutional biases affect economic outcomes, especially in the context of gender gaps. This work shows that biased information processing and biased self-nomination mechanisms may result in suboptimal incentive structures and economic performance by discriminating against women.

In the field of industrial organization, her work relates to innovation policy and competition policy. Her work on innovation investigates the policy implications of scarcity of ideas, as well as firms’ reluctance to share research outcomes with each other. It emphasizes the key role ideas play in the innovation process and develops a paradigm where scarcity of ideas, in addition to scarcity of resources, can be an important impediment to economic progress.

On the research methodology front, her aim has been to understand the implicit assumptions embedded in the research tools and methods commonly employed by researchers. For example, her work on aggregative games makes a methodological contribution by showing the strong positive and normative implications of using an aggregative game structure. Her work on real effort tasks contributes to the field of experimental economics by showing how a failure to acknowledge the role non-monetary incentives play in effort provision may result in false conclusions.

Nisvan has published in top general interest and field journals such as Science, American Economic Review, European Economic Review, Leadership Quarterly, Rand Journal of Economics, Journal of Public Economics and Experimental Economics. Her research has been supported by numerous national and international grants, and has appeared in various media outlets.

Lecturer - Professor, Department of Economics, University of Melbourne, 2003 - present

Visiting Academic, Monash University, 2015

Visiting Scholar, University of California, Berkeley, 2007 and 2011

  1. Erkal, N., Gangadharan, L. and Xiao, E. “Leadership Selection: Can Changing the Default Break the Glass Ceiling?” Leadership Quarterly, in press.
  2. Erkal, N., Gangadharan, L. and Koh, B.H. “By Chance or By Choice? Biased Attribution of Others' Outcomes” Experimental Economics, in press.
  3. Anderson, S. Erkal, N. and Piccinin, D. 2020, “Aggregative Games and Oligopoly Theory: Short-run and Long-run Analysis,” RAND Journal of Economics, 2020, 51(2), 470-495.
  4. Cameron, L., Erkal, N., Gangadharan, L. and Meng. X. “Little Emperors: Behavioral Impacts of China’s One Child Policy,” Science, 2013, 339(6122), 953-957.
  5. Erkal, N., Gangadharan, L. and Nikiforakis, N. “Relative Earnings and Giving in a Real-Effort Experiment,” American Economic Review, 2011, 101(7), 3330-3348.