Research

Reducing Alcohol-Related Violence: A Field Experiment with Bartenders, with Darío Maldonado, Michael Weintraub, Andrés Felipe Camacho, and Daniela Gualtero. (Under review).

This paper studies whether bartenders that adopt standardized practices can promote responsible alcohol consumption and subsequently reduce alcohol-attributable violence. We conduct a randomized experiment in four localities of Bogotá in cooperation with Colombia’s largest brewery and Bogotá’s Secretariat of Security, Coexistence, and Justice. Our design allows estimating direct and spillover effects on reported incidents within and around bars. Results show that bartenders in treatment locations sell more water and food, thus contributing to more responsible alcohol consumption by patrons. We find no direct or spillover effects of these changes in consumption on brawls, but some improvement on other alcohol-related incidents.

*This field experiment was pre-registered in the AEA’s RCT Registry #3845.

Recent patterns and trends in the youth labor market in Colombia: Diagnosis and public policy challenges” with Darío Maldonado and Carlos S. Guzmán-Gutiérrez. [In Spanish] [In English] (Accepted at the IZA Journal of Labor Policy).

This paper characterizes the youth labor market in Colombia from 2008 to 2017. We estimate labor market indicators for individuals aged between 14-28 years using microdata from Colombia’s household surveys over the period of study. Our estimates document the main patterns and trends in the labor market for youth in labor force participation, employment, unemployment, informality, and earnings. We compare these statistics to the same indicators for adults (individuals aged between 29-65 years), and explore differences within youth by characteristics such as gender, region, educational attainment, socioeconomic status, and experience. Results indicate that young Colombians have greater labor market attachment in recent years, but mostly in low-quality jobs: unsalaried and informal. We also find inequalities in labor market indicators by youth characteristics. These findings suggest that while aggregate conditions and labor policies have improved certain youth labor outcomes, further efforts are still required to create quality jobs for Colombian youth.

*Media Coverage: Foco Económico (In spanish).

Lassoing Welfare Dynamics with Cross-Sectional Data” with Leonardo Lucchetti, Paul Corral, and Santiago Garriga. [World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 8545] (Submitted)

This paper introduces, validates, and applies a Least Absolute Shrinkage and Selection Operator with multiple imputation by Predictive Mean Matching (LASSO-PMM) method to estimate intra- generational welfare dynamics using cross-sectional data. Compared to previous welfare dynamic prediction methods, the LASSO-PMM makes fewer and less restrictive assumptions and allows estimating poverty transitions and income changes. We validate the method using 36 harmonized panel data sets in four Latin American countries and then apply it to cross-section data from 43 countries across the world. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first paper that uses these many datasets to validate and estimate welfare and mobility predictions. Validation results indicate that LASSO-PMM predictions are in general statistically indistinguishable from actual household poverty rates, mobility indicators, and income or consumption changes; results which are further supported by a series of sensitivity tests and robustness checks. These findings are sufficiently encouraging to suggest that estimating economic mobility using a LASSO-PMM approach may accurately approximate actual welfare dynamics in settings where panel data are unavailable. This application provides useful policy information on the dynamics of individual welfare in countries where two or more rounds of cross-section data are available.

Can’t Stop the One-Armed Bandits: The Effects of Access to Gambling on Crime with Nicolas Bottan and Ignacio Sarmiento-Barbieri.

We study the effect of a large increase in access to gambling on crime by exploiting the expansion of video gambling terminals in Illinois since 2012. Even though video gambling was legalized by the State of Illinois, local municipalities were left with the decision whether to allow it within their jurisdiction. The City of Chicago does not allow video gambling, while many adjacent jurisdictions do. We take advantage of this setting along with detailed incident level data on crime for Chicago to examine the effect of access to gambling on crime. We use a difference-in-differences strategy that compares crime in areas that are closer to video gambling establishments with those that are further away along with the timing of video gambling adoption. We find that (i) access to gambling increases violent and property crimes; (ii) these are new crimes rather than displaced incidents; and (iii) the effects seem to be persistent in time.

*Media Coverage: The Inquirer, News-Gazette, Illinois News Network.

“How important is spatial correlation in randomized controlled trials?” with Kathy Baylis.

Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have become the gold standard for impact evaluation since they provide unbiased estimates of causal effects. This paper focuses on RCTs that allocate treatment status over clusters in geographical proximity. We study how omitting spatial correlation in outcomes or unobservables at the cluster-level affects difference-in-difference estimates at the individual-level. Using Monte Carlo experiments, we identify bias and efficiency problems and propose solutions to overcome them. Our framework is then tested on data from Mexico’s Progresa program. Results show that spatial correlation may affect both the precision of the estimate and the estimate itself, especially when geographic dependence is high.