Petra Persson is an Assistant Professor of Economics at Stanford’s Department of Economics, where she teaches in the PhD program. She is also a Faculty Research Fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research, a Faculty Fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research and at the Stanford Center for International Development, and a Research Affiliate at the Centre for Economic Policy Research. Her research agenda centers on social insurance and family structure, and explores the interaction between government-provided insurance and intra-family insurance.

Petra Persson was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research from 2013 to 2014, and a Predoctoral Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School Women and Public Policy Program from 2012 to 2013. She earned her PhD in Economics from Columbia University in 2013, her MSc in Economics from Stockholm School of Economics in 2006, and her BA in Political Science and Mathematics from Stockholm University in 2005.

Academic Appointments

Stanford Advisees

All Publications

  • Does medicine run in the family-evidence from three generations of physicians in Sweden: retrospective observational study. BMJ (Clinical research ed.) Polyakova, M., Persson, P., Hofmann, K., Jena, A. B. 2020; 371: m4453


    OBJECTIVE: To examine occupational heritability in medicine and changes in heritability over time, with Swedish population wide administrative data that allowed mapping family trees of physicians spanning up to three generations.DESIGN: Retrospective observational study.SETTING: Individual level administrative registry data from Sweden.PARTICIPANTS: Physicians born in 1950-90 and living in Sweden at some time during 2001-16 (n=47400).MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The proportion of individuals with a completed medical degree with at least one parent who also trained in medicine, and the change in this proportion across birth cohorts. Additional analyses were conducted among other relatives (grandparents, aunts and uncles, and siblings) and for individuals with a law degree.RESULTS: For 27788 physicians, where the educational background for both parents was known, 14% had a parent who was also a physician and 2% had two parents who were physicians. The proportion of physicians with at least one physician parent increased significantly over time, from 6% for physicians born in 1950-59 to 20% for physicians born in 1980-90 (P<0.001). The same pattern of increasing occupational heritability was not seen for individuals with law degrees.CONCLUSIONS: In recent cohorts of physicians in Sweden, one in five had a parent who was also a physician, more than triple the proportion seen for physicians born three decades earlier. A similar pattern was not seen in lawyers, suggesting that increasing occupational heritability in medicine does not reflect intergenerational persistence of high paying degrees alone. Rather, for physicians in Sweden, medicine might increasingly run in families.

    View details for DOI 10.1136/bmj.m4453

    View details for PubMedID 33328192

  • Social Insurance and the Marriage Market JOURNAL OF POLITICAL ECONOMY Persson, P. 2020; 128 (1): 252–300

    View details for DOI 10.1086/704073

    View details for Web of Science ID 000507285500007

  • Family Ruptures, Stress, and the Mental Health of the Next Generation AMERICAN ECONOMIC REVIEW Persson, P., Rossin-Slater, M. 2018; 108 (4-5): 1214–52
  • Family Ruptures, Stress, and the Mental Health of the Next Generation: Reply AMERICAN ECONOMIC REVIEW Persson, P., Rossin-Slater, M. 2018; 108 (4-5): 1256–63
  • Family Ruptures, Stress, and the Mental Health of the Next Generation. The American economic review Persson, P., Rossin-Slater, M. 2018; 108 (4): 1214-52


    This paper studies how in utero exposure to maternal stress from family ruptures affects later mental health. We find that prenatal exposure to the death of a maternal relative increases take-up of ADHD medications during childhood and anti-anxiety and depression medications in adulthood. Further, family ruptures during pregnancy depress birth outcomes and raise the risk of perinatal complications necessitating hospitalization. Our results suggest large welfare gains from preventing fetal stress from family ruptures and possibly from economically induced stressors such as unemployment. They further suggest that greater stress exposure among the poor may partially explain the intergenerational persistence of poverty.

    View details for PubMedID 30091569