Source: Nelson Arancibia

Collective Action in Networks: Evidence from the Chilean Student Movement

October 2017

Hundreds of thousands of students skipped school during the 2011 student movement in Chile to protest and reform educational institutions. Using administrative data on millions of students' daily school attendance decisions on protest and non-protest days, a large network composed by the lifetime history of classmates, and differential network exposure to the first national protest, this paper tests how networks affect protest behavior. The main finding is that individual participation follows a threshold model of collective behavior: students were influenced by their networks to skip school on protest days only when more than 40 percent of the members of their networks also skipped school. Additional findings show that protest participation imposed significant educational costs on students and helped to shift votes towards non-traditional opposition parties. Taken together, results indicate that networks amplify the effect of protests in non-linear ways with potentially significant consequences for institutional change.


Distorted Quality Signals in School Markets

October 2017

Nominated to the Juan Luis Londoño Prize to best paper on social issues by a young researcher

Joint work with José ignacio Cuesta and Cristián Larroulet

Information plays a key role in markets with consumer choice. In education, data on school quality is often gathered through standardized testing. However, the use of these tests has been controversial because of behavioral responses that could distort performance measures. We study the Chilean educational market and document that low-performing students are underrepresented in test days, generating distortions in school quality information. These distorted quality signals affect parents' school choice and induce misallocation of public programs. These results indicate that undesirable responses to test-based accountability systems may impose significant costs on educational markets.


Losing Your Dictator: Firms During Political Transition

October 2017

Joint work with Mounu Prem

Can firms transfer distortions across political regimes? To answer this question, we use a novel dataset and a network analysis to study firms during Chile’s transition to democracy. We find that firms with links to the dictatorship were relatively unproductive before the transition, increased their productive capacity, enjoyed higher profits, and obtained more loans from state-owned banks during political transition. We test for different explanations and provide suggestive evidence consistent with strategic behavior aiming to improve their market position in democracy. These results suggests that distortions can be transferred across political regimes. 


Protesting for democratic change: student strikes and electoral outcomes

November 18, 2017

Joint work with Felipe Vial

Can protests generate political change within existing democratic institutions? After the 2011 student movement in Chile, some of its leaders created political parties and formed a coalition to compete in the 2017 parliamentary and presidential elections. This paper estimates the impact of student strikes on turnout and votes for this newly formed coalition using a pre-specified research design. Our empirical strategy exploits the differential intensity of strikes across the country and electoral administrative data in a statistical model that we specify before elections take place, an approach that minimizes data mining, specification searching, and cherry-picking of statistically significant estimates. The objective is to credibly estimate the association between student strikes and electoral outcomes. This document is our pre-analysis plan to analyze electoral outcomes.


Políticas de inclusión universitaria y comportamiento estratégico en educación secundaria

Diciembre 2017

Trabajo en conjunto con Esperanza Johnson

Con el objetivo de mejorar la inclusión del sistema educacional chileno, en junio del 2012 se incorporó el ranking de notas en educación secundaria al sistema de admisión universitario. Aunque esta política intenta bonificar a los mejores estudiantes de cada establecimiento, su efecto real depende del comportamiento de todos los integrantes del sistema de educación secundaria. Este artículo estudia el desempeño académico y las decisiones de migración de establecimiento de cientos de miles de estudiantes en Chile y presenta dos resultados. Primero, comparando las notas de enseñanza media con las de octavo básico antes y después del puntaje ranking documentamos un aumento en las notas de estudiantes de educación secundaria. Segundo, luego del anuncio del puntaje ranking observamos migración de establecimientos entre los estudiantes que más se podrían beneficiar con esta migración. En conjunto, estos resultados sugieren que el puntaje ranking incentivó a estudiantes y establecimientos a cambiar su comportamiento para maximizar los beneficios de esta política.


Take the money and run? Privatizations and rent extraction

Currently presentating

Joint work with Mounu Prem and Francisco Urzúa




Warming increases suicide rates in the United States and Mexico


Joint work with Marshall Burke, Patrick Baylis, Ceren Baysan, Sam Heft-Neal, Sanjay Basu, and Solomon Hsiang



Recruiting Migrants for Development: Consequences of a 19th Century Settlement Policy

Reject and resubmit, Explorations in Economic History

This paper studies a settlement policy implemented by the Chilean government between 1882 and 1904 to analyze the relationship between European immigration and development. Based on historical census data, I show that this settlement policy was successful in recruiting Europeans, who located in different parts of the country. Using a panel data of provinces observed between 1860 and 1920, I find a strong, positive, and robust correlation between recruited Europeans and measures of development. Moreover, the arrival of Europeans is strongly associated with local economic output fifty years after the policy was terminated. These results together with narrative historical evidence suggest that the settlement policy was successful in triggering local development.