Research

Job Market Paper

Caffeinated Development: Export Sector, Human Capital, and Structural Transformation in Colombia

This paper studies the effect of the first wave of globalization on developing countries’ structural transformation, using data from Colombia’s expansion of coffee cultivation. Counties engaged in coffee cultivation in the 1920s developed a smaller manufacturing sector by 1973 than comparable counties, despite starting at a similar level in 1912. My empirical strategy exploits variation in potential coffee yields, and changes in the probability to grow coffee at different altitudes. This paper argues that coffee cultivation increased the opportunity cost of education, which reduced the supply of skilled workers, and slowed down structural transformation. Using exogenous exposure to coffee price shocks as an instrument, I show that reductions in cohorts’ educational attainment led to lower manufacturing activity in the long-run. The effect is driven by both a decrease in demand for education, and reductions in public goods. Finally, coffee cultivation during the early 20th Century had negative long-run effects on both individual incomes and poverty rates.

Published Papers

Expropriation of Church Wealth and Political Conflict in 19th Century Colombia (2019)

Explorations in Economic History, vol. 73

The redefinition of Catholic Church property rights was common in Europe and the Americas during late eighteenth- and nineteenth-centuries. In Latin America, the expropriation of the Church’s assets was part of the violent process of institutional change after independence. This paper focuses on Colombia after 1850. It measures the impact of the expropriation of Church wealth on political violence. The paper contests the traditional idea of the expropriation of the real estate of the Church as a source of political violence by highlighting the change in political competition when the alliance between Conservative factions and the Church was weakened. With yearly data on the number of battles per municipality, archival information on the reform, and difference-in-differences, the paper documents a reduction of political violence in places where the Church’s assets were expropriated. Furthermore, it shows the reduction was concentrated in municipalities with high political competition and where the Conservative Party was relatively weak. These results support a political explanation of why the reform reduced political violence.

Working Papers

Shaped by Violence: The Impact of Early Violence Exposure on Financial Risk Preferences (2018), with James Byder and Diego Agudelo [Revise and resubmit Emerging Markets Review]

This paper examines whether growing up in areas with high homicide rates affects financial risk preferences. Our key conjecture is that individuals who have grown up in violent areas possess more risk averse financial preferences. We find support for this hypothesis using a dataset of mutual fund investors from one of Colombia’s largest stock brokers alongside Colombian official data on homicide rates. The likelihood of investing in risky assets is found to be negatively related to violence exposure during early childhood. We address potential identification issues by exploiting the timing of the violent confrontation between the Medellin cartel and the Colombian government between 1984 and 1993 to instrument for the level of violence. We compare investors from Colombia’s biggest cities to investors from Medellin born in a narrow bandwidth around 1984. When we focus exclusively on investors from Medellin, our empirical strategy resembles a fuzzy regression discontinuity design.

Ride-sharing Apps and Reallocation of Motorpark: Evidence from Colombia, with Isabel Granada and Daniel Perez

Ridesharing services have rapidly expanded in Latin America, unleashing protests and incumbent’s disapproval. Understanding the net effects derived from these services is key for policy makers and the current discussion on technology and regulation. Existing literature has traditionally focused on the case of developed countries and general benefits from the user perspective. However, ridesharing services have also become a financial alternative for acquiring new vehicles in developing countries, thus having effects on ownership and motorization rates in urban areas. We estimate the effect of Uber on motorpark reallocation using data from Colombia’s National Unified Transportation Registry. We follow a difference-in-difference approach with Uber-operating municipalities as treatment units and other municipalities as control observations. Estimates show statistically significant increases on registries for small-size cars after Uber entry and declines on new taxi units.

Work in Progress

Economic Perspectives on the Orphan Trains, with Ran Abramitzky, Igor Popov, and Cody Tuttle

Political and Economic Instability, with Matt Summers and John J. Wallis

Commodities’ Production Function and Human Capital: Evidence from Puerto Rico, with Matthew Curtis