On the Distributive Costs of Drug-Related Homicides (with Sebastian Galiani and Enrique Seira) – Journal of Law and Economics.
Promoting Handwashing Behavior: The Effects of Large-scale Community and School-level Interventions (with Sebastian Galiani, Paul Gertler, and Alexandra Orsola-Vidal) – Health economics.
Reducing the prescription of unadvised drugs using social norm feedback by e-mail: a randomized controlled trial at a national scale (with F. Torrente, J. Bustin, F. Triskier, A. Tomio, R. Mastai and F. Lopez Boo) – JAMA Network Open (conditionally accepted)
Featured in La Nacion
Abstract: Can seemingly unimportant factors influence voting decisions by making certain issues salient? We study this question in the context of Argentina’s 2015 presidential elections by examining how the quality of the infrastructure of the school where citizens were assigned to vote influenced their voting choice. Exploiting the quasi-random assignment of voters to ballot stations located in different public schools in the City of Buenos Aires, we find that individuals assigned to schools with poorer infrastructure were significantly less likely to vote for Mauricio Macri, the incumbent mayor then running for president. The effect is larger in low-income areas – where fewer people can afford private substitutes to public education – and in places where more households have children in school age. The effect is unlikely to be driven by information provision, since information on public school infrastructure was readily available to parents before elections. An alternative interpretation is that direct exposure to poor school infrastructure at the time of voting makes public education – and the poor performance of the incumbent – more salient.
More than Words: Leaders’ Speech and Risky Behavior During a Pandemic (with Tiago Cavalcanti and Daniel Da Mata).
Abstract: How do political leader’s words and actions affect people’s behavior? We address this question in the context of Brazil by combining electoral information and geo-localized mobile phone data for more than 60 million devices throughout the entire country. We find that after Brazil’s president publicly and emphatically dismissed the risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and advised against isolation, the social distancing measures taken by citizens in pro-government localities weakened compared to places where political support of the president is less strong, while pre-event effects are insignificant. The impact is large and robust to different empirical model specifications and definitions of political support and events. Moreover, we find suggestive evidence that this impact is driven by localities with relatively higher levels of media penetration, municipalities with the presence of active Twitter accounts, and municipalities with a larger proportion of Evangelic parishioners, a key group in terms of support for the president.
Altruism or money? Breaking teacher sorting using behavioral interventions in Peru (with E. Bertoni, G. Elacqua, L Marotta and C. Mendez Vargas)
Abstract: Inequality in access to high-quality teachers is an important driver of student socioeconomic achievement gaps. We experimentally evaluate a novel nation-wide low-cost government pro- gram aimed at reducing teacher sorting. Specifically, we tested two behavioral strategies designed to induce teachers to apply to job vacancies in disadvantaged schools. These strategies consisted of an “Altruistic Identity” treatment arm, which primed teachers’ altruistic identity by making it more salient, and an “Extrinsic Incentives” arm, which simplified the information and increased the salience of an existing government monetary-incentive scheme rewarding teachers who work in underprivileged institutions. We show that both strategies are successful in triggering teacher candidates to apply to such vacancies, as well as making them more likely to be assigned to a final in-person evaluation in a disadvantaged school. The effect among high-performing teachers is larger, especially in the “Altruistic” arm. Our results imply that low-cost behavioral strategies can enhance the supply and quality of professionals willing to teach in high-need areas.
Exposure to Transit Migration, Public Attitudes and Entrepreneurship (with Cevat Giray Aksoy and Sergei Guriev).
Abstract: Does exposure to temporary mass migration affect the economic behavior of natives? In order to answer this question, we use a unique locality-level panel from the 2010 and 2016 rounds of the Life in Transition Survey and data on the main land routes taken by migrants in 18 European countries during the refugee crisis in 2015. To capture the exogenous variation in natives’ exposure to transit migration, we construct an instrument that is based on the distance of each locality to the optimal routes that minimize travelling time between the main origin and destination cities. We first show that the entrepreneurial activity of natives falls considerably in localities that are more exposed to mass transit migration, compared to those located further away. We then explore suggestive mechanisms and find results consistent with the view that the effect is driven by a change in risk attitudes, a decline in institutional trust and in the perceived political stability and an increase in the sense of lack of law and order. We also document an increase in the anti-migrant sentiment while attitudes towards other minorities remained unchanged. We rule out the possibility of out-migration of natives or of trade-related shocks (potentially confounded with the mass-transit migration) affecting our results.
Immigration, Crime, and Crime (Mis)Perceptions (with Patricio Dominguez and Raimundo Undurraga)
Abstract: Does immigration affect beliefs and concerns about crime? We answer this question in the context of Chile, where the foreign-born population almost tripled in five years. To identify a causal effect, we use two strategies: a two-way fixed effects model at the municipality-year level and a 2SLS model, based on a shift-share type of instrument. First, we show that immigration increases concerns and perceptions about crime and public security. We then document a substantial effect on behavioral responses such as investing in home security or adopting coordinated anti-crime measures with neighbors. Finally, we show that these concerns about crime seem ungrounded as we fail to find any significant effect on victimization. When exploring potential channels that could explain the widening in the crime-perceptions gap, we find suggestive evidence of the effect being driven by municipalities with a higher presence of local media (such as local radio stations). In addition, the effect seems to be larger when immigrants are predominantly low-skilled. Finally, using an index of bilateral ethnic distance, we show that the genetic distance between Chile and the nationality of immigrants does not seem to be driven the effects, ruling out the effect being driven by the intergroup threat
Crime Concentration and Hot-Spots Dynamics in Latin America (with Laura Jaitman)
Abstract: Using micro-geographic units of analysis, the paper finds, first, that crime in Latin America is highly concentrated in a small proportion of blocks: 50 percent of crimes are concentrated in 3 to 7.5 percent of street segments, and 25 percent of crimes are concentrated in 0.5 to 2.9 percent of street segments. This validates Weisburd’s “law of crime concentration at place”. These figures are fairly constant over time but sensitive to major police reforms. The second finding is that hot spots of crime are not always persistent. Crime is constantly prevalent in certain areas, but in other areas hot spots either appear or disappear, suggesting a possible rational adaptation from criminals to police actions that cause crime displacement in the medium run to other areas.
In the field
Order effect influences job choices: Evidence from a nationwide intervention in Ecuador (with G. Elacqua, L Marotta, V. Montalva and S. Olsen; AEA RCT AEARCTR-0005036)
Do stigma reduction strategies increase program take-up? Evidence from a large-scale experiment using SMS.
Nudging students to become teachers – Evidence from a Large Scale intervention in Chile.
Institutions Shape Culture: The Civic Imprint of Democracy (with Cevat Giray Aksoy and Martin Fiszbein)
Civic Duty, Personal Interest and Tax Compliance: Evidence from a Large-Scale Field Experiment in Argentina (with Ruben Durante and Ricardo Perez-Truglia)
Designing behaviorally informed health interventions: adherence to micronutrient treatment in El Salvador (with Pedro Bernal, Stewart Kettle, Florencia Lopez Boo and Emma Iriarte)
In the Cold Light of Day: A Case Study of Argentina’s 2001-2002 Economic Crisis (HKS Teaching Case Number 2086 – Harvard Kennedy School of Government, with Michael Walton, Eduardo Levy Yeyati and Pilar Tavella)