Katrine Vellesen Løkens Acceptance Speech

Photo: Thor Brødreskift / The Holberg Prize

Your Royal Highness Crown Prince Haakon, Minister, the Holberg Board, the Nils Klim Committee, colleagues, family, friends, ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great honor to stand here today and receive the 2017 Nils Klim Prize for my research. I feel humbled to follow in the footsteps of the excellent Nordic scholars who have previously been awarded this prize, covering research across the arts and humanities, social sciences, law and theology.

Ludvig Holberg, whom we are celebrating today, was a writer, philosopher, theologian and historian. A lot of his discussions and plays are important and relevant also today. In the fantasy novel by Ludvig Holberg, Niels Klim’s Underground Travels, Nils Klim travels to the country of Cocklecu where he sees a society where the relationships between the genders are turned upside down. The men do the cleaning, weaving, and child care while women are the thinkers and make the important decisions. The society in Cocklecu is very different from what we observe in countries around the world today, where males are typically the dominant gender. However, in many domains the Nordic countries have been frontrunners in demonstrating better gender balances to the rest of the world, both in the labor market and in the more traditional home tasks. Family policies have been important programs for laying the foundation for this improved gender balance. In one of my articles, coauthored with my colleagues Gordon Dahl and Magne Mogstad, we show that the introduction of the father’s parental leave quota in Norway changed the social norm that only mothers should take care of children in their first year of life. We show that more than 50 % of the increase in paternity leave take-up from 1993 to 2015 can be attributed to spillovers between brothers and male colleagues. Prior to the reform, less than 3 % of fathers took any leave at all. Today, more than 90 % of fathers take a significant share of parental leave.

Ludvig Holberg was also interested in law. More recently, I have changed the focus of my research to Law and Economics in order to study the prison population and their networks of victims,
co-offenders, families and neighbors. In the coming year, my colleagues and I plan to change the way we conduct empirical research on the causes and consequences of crime by taking into account the social context in which crime takes place. This will give us a better understanding of the total costs of crime, how we can better direct funds for crime prevention and how to improve rehabilitation programs in prisons. One key preliminary finding is that the Nordic prisons and their rehabilitation programs can significantly reduce later criminality through increased participation in the labor market. Again, the Nordic countries serve as inspiration for other countries in how to form and direct resources to the penal system.

I could not have received this prize had it not been for my fantastic coauthors. We have shared the hard work, ups and downs and the happiness when finally nailing a project. I especially want to thank my PhD supervisor Kjell Erik Lommerud who is both my mentor and friend. Without the support of colleagues, friends, and family I would not be here today.

On this note, I thank the Nils Klim Committee for recognizing the importance of my research.

Thank you.

Professor Katrine Vellesen Løken
Nils Klim Laureate 2017