I am an assistant professor of economics at IÉSEG school of Management. I hold a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. My research focuses on labor and development economics. I have a special interest on topics regarding education, trade, labor markets, and policy evaluation in developing economies.
I am the organizer of the FLAME Seminar Series. Please contact me in case you want to present.
We document substantial variation in the effects of a highly-effective literacy program in northern Uganda. The program increases test scores by 1.40 SDs on average, but standard statistical bounds show that the impact standard deviation exceeds 1.0 SD. This implies that the variation in effects across our students is wider than the spread of mean effects across all randomized evaluations of developing country education interventions in the literature. This very effective program does indeed leave some students behind. At the same time, we do not learn much from our analyses that attempt to determine which students benefit more or less from the program. We reject rank preservation, and the weaker assumption of stochastic increasingness leaves wide bounds on quantile-specific average treatment effects. Neither conventional nor machine-learning approaches to estimating systematic heterogeneity capture more than a small fraction of the variation in impacts given our available candidate moderators
The Economics Behind the Math Gender Gap: Colombian Evidence on the Role of Sample Selection (2018), Journal of Development Economics , 135: pp. 368-391. [paper]
Featured in Marginal Revolution
The literature that has previously shown that boys outperform girls in math tests has failed to explain the underlying causes of the phenomenon. This math gender gap has been documented to vary across countries, and shown to grow as students advance through school. In this paper I suggest that these patterns may be explained by sample selection caused by gender differences in schooling's opportunity costs, which lead lower-achieving males to drop out. I present and test the implications of a labor supply model that examines the opportunity cost of school attendance and, thereby, the observed math gender gap. Using an exogenous policy change, the launch of a conditional cash transfer program in Colombia, I estimate that sample selection explains between 50 percent and 60 percent of the gap. Estimates of non-parametric bounds show that selection in the lower quantiles of the male distribution explains a significant portion of the gap.
Enrollment, Graduation, and Dropout Rates in Latin America, Is the glass half empty or half full? (2015), Joint with Marina Bassi and Matías Busso. Economia Journal. Fall 2015. pp. 113-156.
Press Coverage: Huffington Post
We use 292 household surveys from eighteen Latin American countries to document patterns in secondary school graduation rates over the period 1990–2010. We find that enrollment and graduation rates increased during that period, while dropout rates decreased. We provide two types of explanations for these patterns. Countries implemented changes on the supply side to improve access, by increasing the resources allocated to education and designing policies to help students stay in school. Despite this progress, graduation rates are still generally low, and there are remarkable gaps in educational outcomes in terms of gender, income quintiles, and regions within countries. The quality of education is also generally low.
We study how import competition and foreign inputs coming from high-income countries affect employment and earnings in less-developed economies. We use administrative data from Colombia, and exploit exogenous tariff reductions that increased Colombian imports from the United States, to derive five conclusions that contrast with previous findings for high-income economies. First, import competition decreases employment in a similar magnitude that foreign inputs increase it. Second, losses in manufacturing employment are driven by substitution with foreign inputs. Third, labor market adjustment among informal workers occurs by decreased earnings rather than employment. Fourth, high-skilled workers experience significant earnings losses, whereas low-skilled do not, and the effect is focused towards the informal, high-skilled jobs. Fifth, isolated regions experience proportionally larger manufacturing losses. Our results show that international trade between countries with different levels of economic development does not create only winners in developing countries, but, instead, has highly heterogeneous responses that contrast with those found within developed economies.
We examine whether school shootings erode property values using a difference-in-differences strategy and individual transactions data. We find that house prices within a school district decline by 7.8 percent in the three year period after a mass shooting episode takes place. Additionally, we find evidence of decline in number of transactions in the affected districts after the shooting. The drop in property prices is most pronounced among houses with more bedrooms, a measure that serves as a proxy for properties most likely to have school-age children in the household. We also find evidence of decrease in school enrollment and in the number of teachers in the aftermath of the shooting. Prices appear to be unaffected by proximity to the school in which the shooting occurred. The analysis suggests that deterioration in school quality and place based stigma decrease the demand for houses in affected areas, and results in a lower willingness to pay.
The Signaling Effect of Specific Skills on the Career of Young Professionals, Joint with Matías Busso and Sebastián Montaño
We evaluate the economic returns to signaling specific skills by means of a distinction that is given to top-scorers in field specific-exams awarded at the national level in Colombia. We employ a regression discontinuity design, and administrative earnings records, to document the effect of the distinction on earnings of young professionals. We find that the distinction increases initial earnings in about seven to twelve percent, which is equivalent to an additional year of education in Colombia. Our estimates are robust to alternative estimation strategies and alternative ways of measuring the outcome. In addition, we find strong evidence that the results are not due to differences in skills around to cutoff, nor driven by manipulation or by selective attrition. We explore potential mechanisms and find compelling evidence about two of them. First, firms in specialized industries highly value signals of field-specific skills. Second, the signal given by the distinction substitutes the signal given by college reputation, and benefits mainly income-constrained, high-skilled students who attend lower-ranked schools. These results suggest that the distinction is able to correct potential negative college sorting caused by income constraints among low-income students.
Unbundling Returns to Skills and Degrees : Evidence from Postsecondary Education in Colombia, Joint with Matías Busso and Sebastián Montaño
This paper shows that returns to education are not enough to capture all the returns to human capital. Using longitudinal data of all college graduates in Colombia, we estimate labor market returns to postsecondary degrees and to various skills --including literacy, numeracy, foreign language, field-specific, and non-cognitive skills. Graduates of longer programs, of private institutions, and of schools with higher reputation earn higher wages. Even after controlling for all the characteristics of the degree, a one standard deviation increase in each skill predicts an average wage increase of two percent. Returns to skills vary along the wage distribution, with tenure, with the field of specialization and the type of job obtained immediately after graduation.
Selected Work in Progress
We estimate the long-term effects of a program that provided alternative delivery methods of conditional cash transfers in Bogotá, Colombia. We evaluate the effects on a rich array of education and labor market outcomes, and extend the analysis to include the spillover effects of the program on beneficiaries and their family members. We specifically estimate the education and labor market effects on parents and siblings of treated students. By definition these parents and siblings were not treated but they could have benefit for the money transfer to one of their household members. We rely on a randomized control trial that allocated the program at random to children among a set of families with eligible students.
Opportunity Costs and the Local Effects of Migration, Joint with Mateo Arbeláez and Nicolás Urdaneta
We study the differential effects of migration by suggesting a novel hypothesis that reconciles pre-existing contradictory evidence of the effects of migrants on local communities. Our hypothesis relates the effects of migration to the migrants' cost of not migrating (i.e. the opportunity cost of migration), and suggests that the consequences of migration vary depending on the migrants' incentives to migrate. Most of the negative effects of migrants are usually driven by the their willingness to accept lower paid jobs, but the incentives to migrate depend on the opportunity cost (i.e. the benefit received by not migrating), which varies between several types of migrants. It is expected that migrants with low opportunity cost of relocating (or less incentives to stay in their origin) accept lower paid others (including joining illegal activities), whereas migrants with a higher opportunity cost will not.
This project received funding by LEM and is it in the process of data collection.