Research

Publications

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

Salience and Accountability: School Infrastructure and Last-Minute Electoral Punishment (Slides) (with R. Durante) – Economic Journal (conditionally accepted)

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) – Economics of Education Review

On the Distributive Costs of Drug-Related Homicides (with Sebastian Galiani and Enrique Seira) Journal of Law and Economics.


Working Papers

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.

Link: WP

Abstract: A growing literature documents how exposure to a massive influx of immigrants often triggers sentiments of hostility and backlash among native populations, in some cases even affecting political preferences and thus electoral outcomes. Among the main concerns identified by surveys, labor market conditions rank typically at the top. In this paper, we focus on the context of Chile, where the foreign-born population almost tripled in five years, to show that while immigration did not systematically affect the levels of employment, it did cause an increase in unemployment-related concerns. 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. Our results provide a plausible hypothesis to explain the backlash against immigrants: misperception regarding the effect of immigrants on labor market conditions.

Abstract: How do political leaders’ 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.

Link: IZA WP

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.

Link: IZA WP

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.

Link: IZA WP

Abstract: Using large-scale survey data covering more than 110 countries and exploiting within-country variation across cohorts and surveys, we show that individuals with longer exposure to democracy display stronger support for democratic institutions. We bolster these baseline findings using an instrumental-variables strategy exploiting regional democratization waves and focusing on immigrants’ exposure to democracy before migration. In all cases, the timing and nature of the effects are consistent with a causal interpretation. We also establish that democracies breed their own support only when they are successful: all of the effects we estimate work through exposure to democracies that are successful in providing economic growth, peace and political stability, and public goods.

Link: WP

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.

Link: IZA WP

Abstract: This paper presents the results of a nationwide low-cost behavioral intervention based on correcting parents’ mistaken beliefs aimed at increasing preschool attendance in Uruguay. Behaviorally-informed messages were delivered through the government’s official mobile app. We document a large reduction in absenteeism, as well as an increase in some measures of cognitive development, though only for children around the median of the attendance rate baseline distribution (between deciles 4 and 6). The intervention was ineffective for children with very high or very low pre-treatment absenteeism levels. Our results, although encouraging, emphasize the limits of these types of interventions, especially for children in families where barriers to reduce absenteeism might be structural rather than behavioral.

Link: WP


Other Publications

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

Promoting Handwashing Behavior: The Effects of Large-scale Community and School-level Interventions (with Sebastian Galiani, Paul Gertler, and Alexandra Orsola-Vidal) – Health Economics.


In the field

Humans Against Bots: Scaling-up Behavioral Interventions (AEARCTR-0008269)

Getting out the (swing) vote: evidence from Argentina (with G. Cruces, AEARCTR-0008510)

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

Cognitive Dissonance in Prosocial Employment Choices: a Nationwide RCT


Work in Progress

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

Skin Color and Public Attitudes Towards Immigrants: Experimental Evidence from Latin America

Raising a Climate Movement Through Building a Common Identity: Experimental Evidence from Argentina

Using behavioral strategies to rise WTP to reduce CO2 emissions in the real world: evidence from airline tickets purchases (with JP Rud and LF Fontez)

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)