Research

Publications

The Power of Example: Corruption spurs Corruption (Slides) – American Economic Journal: Applied Economics

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.

Effect of a Social Norm Email Feedback Program on the Unnecessary Prescription of Nimodipine in Ambulatory Care of Older Adults (with F. Torrente, J. Bustin, F. Triskier, A. Tomio, R. Mastai and F. Lopez Boo) – JAMA Network Open

Working Papers

Salience and Accountability: School Infrastructure and Last-Minute Electoral Punishment (with Ruben Durante) R & R at The Economic Journal

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) – Best Paper (Applied Micro) Brazilian Econometric Society 2020 – WP: IZA, CEPR

Featured in O Globo, A os Fatos, Exame, Folha, Estadão, La Nacion, Foco Economico, VoxEU, The Economist

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 program 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) – IZA , CEPR, EBRD

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) – WP: IZA

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

Order Effects Influence Employment Choices: Experimental Evidence from a Nationwide Program (with G. Elacqua, L. Marotta and A. Olsen) – draft in preparation

Abstract: Order effects have been found to influence choice in low-stakes decisions. In this paper, we show that they also operate in the context of high-stakes, real-world decisions: career choices. We experimentally evaluate a nationwide program in Ecuador that changed the order of teaching vacancies in a job application platform in order to reduce teacher sorting. In the treatment arm, the platform showed hard-to-staff schools first, while in the control group, teaching vacancies were displayed in alphabetical order. In both arms,hard-to-staff schools were labeled with an icon and the information provided to teachers was identical. We found that a teacher in the treatment arm was more likely to apply to hard-to-staff schools, rank them in their highest priority, and be assigned to a job vacancy in one of these schools. The effects were not driven by inattentive, altruistic, or less qualified teachers. The results contributed to reducing the unequal distribution of qualified teachers across schools with different socioeconomic backgrounds

Do you want to become a teacher? Career choice motivation using behavioral strategies (with G. Elacqua, D. Hincapie, A. Jaimovich, F. Lopez Boo, D. Paredes, A. Roman) – draft in preparation

Abstract: Qualified teachers are a fundamental input for any education system. Yet, many countries struggle to attract highly skilled applicants to the teaching profession. This paper presents the results of a large-scale intervention to attract high-performing high-school students into the teaching profession in Chile. The intervention was a three-arm email campaign that made salient three types of motivations typically associated with the teaching profession: intrinsic/altruistic, extrinsic, and prestige-related. The objective was to identify which type of message better appealed to high-performing students to nudge them to choose a teaching major. The “intrinsic” and “prestige” arms reduced applications to teaching majors among high performers, while the “extrinsic” arm increased applications among low performers. A plausible interpretation could be that the “intrinsic” and “prestige” messages made more salient an issue that could otherwise be overlooked by high performing students (typically from more advantaged households), negatively impacting their program choice: that while the social value of the teaching profession has improved, it still lags behind other professions that are valued more by their families and social circles. In turn, the “extrinsic” arm made salient the recent improvements in the economic conditions of the teaching profession in Chile, thus appealing to low-performing students who in general come from disadvantaged families and for whom monetary incentives are potentially more relevant. These results emphasize the importance of having a clear picture of the inherent motivations that could influence individuals’ career choices. Making salient certain types of motivations to the wrong target group could lead to undesired results.

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

Do stigma reduction strategies increase program take-up? Evidence from a large-scale experiment using SMS. (AEARCTR-0006549)

Nudging parents to increase preschool attendance: Evidence from a nationwide RCT in Uruguay (with L. Becerra, J. Hernandez, F. Lopez Boo, M. Perez, A. Vazquez and M. Mateo)

Work in Progress

Institutions Shape Social Preferences: The Civic Imprint of Democracy (with Daron Acemoglu, Cevat Giray Aksoy and Martin Fiszbein and Carlos Molina)

(Successful) Democracies Breed Their Own Support (with Daron Acemoglu, Cevat Giray Aksoy and Martin Fiszbein and Carlos Molina)

Civic Duty, Personal Interest and Tax Compliance: Evidence from a Large-Scale Field Experiment in Argentina (with Ruben Durante and Ricardo Perez-Truglia)

Single sex versus co-ed schooling and the formation of gender norms

Technical and Policy Notes

Lessons from behavioral economics to improve treatment adherence in parenting programs: an application to SMS (with Florencia Lopez Boo)

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)