Published 20 October 2022 by Daniela Thiel

Reunion in Lindau

On the #LINOecon closing day, Lukas Althoff and Jochen Hartmann looked back on an inspiring time in Lindau during the boat trip to Mainau Island.

The Lindau Meetings promote exchange between scientists from all over the world. In addition to many new contacts, this can also lead to a reunion – as was the case with Jochen Hartmann and Lukas Althoff, participants in the 7th Lindau Meeting on Economic Sciences. After they had already met during their school days as part of a programme for particularly committed and gifted students run by the Claussen-Simon Foundation, they were able to surprisingly meet again in Lindau in August 2022 after several years. Although Jochen is from Hamburg and Lukas grew up in Munich, they both met regularly as pupils at workshops of the foundation attended by students from all parts of Germany. Between Lukas’ Next Gen Economics presentation and Jochen’s Science Walk with Joshua Angrist, they took the opportunity to look back.

Familiar Face in the Lindau Alumni Network

“Just before the start of #LINOecon, I received an invitation to the Lindau Alumni Network (LAN) by email. After registration, I had a look on the other participants of the meeting. I got stuck on a profile picture – the face looked familiar,” recalls Jochen Hartmann, who currently works at the University of Groningen. Lukas Althoff, currently at Princeton University, immediately answered Jochen’s direct message via LAN. After meeting in person in Lindau again, they did not only share common experiences from the past, but also discovered some points of contact in their research work. “I knew that we would have a lot to talk about,” says Jochen, pleased about the surprising meeting.

Two Paths Crossing in Lindau

Lukas on stage. presenting his research in front of Laureates and Young Economists
Lukas presented his research project as part of the Next Gen Economics Sessions.

After graduating from high school, both took different paths, albeit each in the field of economics. Lukas started his career with the plan to study global value chains. Since he became aware of racism and inequality in the daily life at university while studying at Princeton University, however, he has focused on this subject area. “Before, I had a completely utopian image of the U.S. in my mind – that all people live happily together, regardless of their skin colour or origin. When I spent a year there during my bachelor’s degree, I experienced the society as quite segregated. While the majority of the students were white, the cafeterias, for example, were mainly staffed by black people. In general, I noticed that there were many individual groups of students based on characteristics such as ethnic or social origin. This led me to think about how much discrimination and inequalities in history still resonate today.” For example, Lukas uses data to measure the effects of racial discrimination on the socio-economic status of families over several centuries. Another issue he is looking at is what is known as intergenerational mobility. “Normally, data is based on the figures of fathers and sons, because they are easier to follow based on the consistent surnames, but mothers, of course, have a very big impact on their children. That’s why I use certain tax forms with the birth names of both parents.”

Overlaps in Terms of Content and Methodology

Jochen talking to Joshua Angrist at Lindau harbour
Jochen during the Science Walk with Joshua Angrist, whose books he has read “more than once”.

In regard of analysing large amounts of data, there is an important overlap between Lukas’ work and Jochen’s research, who explains: “The analysis of longitudinal data is very interesting for both of us. For example, I am answering the question of how viewers react to advertisements that feature Black or white photo models. The survey provides figures from 1970 to 2022 and shows clear changes in the viewers’ perception.” Jochen is working on issues around digital marketing at the intersection of machine learning. He uses datasets on advertising in social media. “Advertising has an huge impact on people and shapes interaction. Longitudinal data, for example, actually showed an effect of the Black Lives Matters movement after George Floyd was killed in May 2020 on the frequency of Black photo models in advertising and their perception. Although Lukas takes the microeconomics angle and my perspective is quantitative marketing, there are points of connection between our work both thematically and methodologically. In terms of content, we both deal with one of the most urgent issues of our time: social inequality. That’s why we’ve already been talking about collaborations, also with regard to the topic of automated text analysis of historical data.” Lukas adds, “Machine learning can help, especially when working with unstructured data, in that respect our research complements perfectly.” That idea would be a wonderful Lindau Success Story.

Lukas and Jochen at the entrance of the Inselhalle
After more than ten years, Lukas and Jochen met again in the Inselhalle.

During the meeting in Lindau, the two Young Economists are not only happy about the unexpected reunion, but also about the encounters with the Laureates. “Richard Thaler’s Misbehaving is on my bedside table, for example. Yesterday, I had the chance to conduct an interview with him. That’s a great experience,” Jochen sums up the days in Lindau. Lukas emphasises the importance of the conversations with other economists: “You often discover similarities in your work, despite the different topics, which is extremely enriching.” Both agree that they would come back immediately. “But of course you have to receive the prize yourself.” That would, of course, be an extremely special success story

Lukas Althoff

Lukas completed his Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Finance at TU Munich and a second Bachelor’s degree in Economics at LMU Munich, before going on to pass his Master’s degree in Econometrics and Mathematical Economics at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Since 2018, he has been pursuing a PhD at Princeton University. He also gained experience at Harvard, the Kiel Institute for the World Economy and the German Federal Ministry of Finance, among others.

Jochen Hartmann

After completing his management bachelor’s and master’s degrees at WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management, Jochen worked at McKinsey and linked the topics of machine learning and marketing in his PhD at the University of Hamburg. He then continued teaching and researching in Hamburg, at the Mannheim Business School and the University of Groningen. Recently, he was appointed to the professorship of Digital Marketing at TU Munich, starting in 2023.

Daniela Thiel

Editor and part of the communications team of the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings.