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Antonella Bancalari

Welcome to my website!

I'm a Senior Research Economist at the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and a Research Associate at University College London (UCL), Department of Economics, and at the IZA Institute of Labor Economics.

I'm an applied microeconomist and my research sits at the intersection of Development, Health and Public Economics. I use applied econometrics and field experiments to understand the principles underlying effective public good/service delivery in low- and middle-income countries. I also explore ways to induce people to adopt welfare-improving technologies and behaviours.

Previously, I was an Assistant Professor in Economics at the University of St. Andrews (2021-2022). In Fall 2022, I was a UK-US Fulbright Visiting Scholar at the Economic Growth Centre, Department of Economics, Yale University. I hold a PhD and MPA from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), and a BSc in Economics from Universidad del Pacifico.

Home: About

Antonella Bancalari

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Stethoscope on the Cardiogram

Social Proximity and Misinformation:

Experimental Evidence from a Mobile Phone-Based Campaign in India

(with A. Armand, B. Augsburg and K. Kumar)

R&R - Journal of Health Economics

We study how social proximity between the sender and the receiver of information shapes the effectiveness of preventive health campaigns. Focusing on shared religious affiliation as a signal of proximity, we implemented a field experiment during the initial phase of the COVID-19 pandemic in two major Indian cities characterized by Hindu-Muslim tensions. We randomly allocated a representative sample of slum residents to receive either ``doctor messages'' consisting of voice messages promoting recommended practices to prevent virus transmission or uninformative control messages on their mobile phones. The messages, introduced by a local citizen (the sender), were cross-randomized to commence with a greeting signaling either a Hindu or a Muslim identity, thereby manipulating the religion concordance between the sender and receiver. As compared to control messages, doctor messages are effective at improving compliance with recommended practices. However, the impact of these messages is contingent on the presence of religion concordance. In instances of concordance, the take-up of doctor messages is larger, and the intervention demonstrates efficacy in establishing a protective barrier against misinformation related to preventive practices.

An Ounce of Prevention for a Pound of Cure: Basic Health Care and Efficiency in Health Systems 

(with P. Bernal, P. Celhay, S. Martinez and D. Sanchez)


We examine the efficiency gains in health systems generated after the national roll out of basic healthcare in El Salvador between 2010 and 2013. Using data from over 120 million consultations and five million hospitalizations, we demonstrate that the expansion of community health teams, comprising less-specialized health workers, increases preventive care and decreases curative care and preventable hospitalizations. We also estimate coverage improvements for previously unattended chronic conditions amenable to effective primary care. These results suggest that decentralization of tasks to less-specialized health workers improves efficiency, maintaining quality of care.

COVID-19 Vaccine Acceptance and Hesitancy in LMICs, and Implications for Messaging

(with D. Karlan, M. Callen, M. Teachout, M. Humphreys, SB Omer, A M Mobarak et al.)

Nature Medicine (2021)

As vaccination campaigns are deployed worldwide, addressing vaccine hesitancy is of critical importance to ensure sufficient immunization coverage. We analyzed COVID-19 vaccine acceptance across 15 samples covering ten low- and middle- income countries (LMICs) in Asia, Africa, and South America, and two higher income countries (Russia and the United States). Methods Standardized survey responses were collected from 45,928 individuals between June 2020 and January 2021. We estimate vaccine acceptance with robust standard errors clustered at the study level. We analyze stated reasons for vaccine acceptance and hesitancy, and the most trusted sources for advice on vaccination, and we disaggregate acceptance rates by gender, age, and education level. Findings We document willingness to take a COVID-19 vaccine across LMIC samples, ranging from 67% (Burkina Faso) to 97% (Nepal). Willingness was considerably higher in LMICs (80%) than in the United States (65%) and Russia (30%). Vaccine acceptance was primarily explained by an interest in personal protection against the disease (91%). Concern about side effects (40%) was the most common reason for reluctance. Health workers were considered the most trusted sources of information about COVID-19 vaccines. Interpretation Given high levels of stated willingness to accept a COVID-19 vaccine across LMIC samples, our study suggests that prioritizing efficient and equitable vaccine distribution to LMICs will yield high returns in promoting immunization on a global scale.

When Nature Calls Back: Sustaining Behavioural Change in Rural Pakistan 

(with B. Augsburg, Z. Durrani, M. Vaidyanathan and Z. White)

Journal of Development Economics (2022)

We implement a randomized controlled trial and a qualitative study to assess whether, and if so how, behavioral change can be sustained. We do so in the context of Pakistan’s national sanitation strategy to combat open defecation, Community-Led Total Sanitation. Our findings demonstrate that continued follow-up activities that build on the original intervention lead to only modest reductions in reversal to unsafe sanitation on average, but gain in importance where initial conditions are unfavorable, i.e. poor public infrastructure and sanitation facilities. Promotion efforts are hence best targeted towards those who face larger difficulties in constructing and maintaining high-quality sanitation. The effects were sustained at least one year after the implementation of activities.

Public Service Delivery, Exclusion and Externalities: Theory and Experimental Evidence from India

(with A. Armand, B. Augsburg and M. Ghatak)


This study explores the interaction between the quality of public services, the implementation of user fees, and the resulting potential for exclusion, that can lead to negative externalities.  Our theoretical framework takes account of the possible externalities that result from excluded users accessing alternative options in the context of sanitation,  i.e., open defecation, and challenges the conventional wisdom that higher quality unequivocally leads to increased use. Instead, it highlights the ambiguity that results from a simultaneous increase in usage due to improved services (quality effect) and a decrease caused by the fees (price-elasticity effect). We then provide empirical evidence from a randomized controlled trial, where we incentivized the quality of water and sanitation services in the two largest cities of Uttar Pradesh, India. We show that higher service quality increases fee compliance but excludes some users, leading to unintended negative health externalities. Our detailed data provides evidence that results are driven by changes in caretaker behaviour. This finding highlights the need to be cautious regarding user fees, especially for public services involving significant externalities, and in settings where the users are very poor.

The Unintended Consequences of Infrastructure Development

Forthcoming - Review of Economics and Statistics

    I investigate the social costs imposed by poor implementation of public infrastructure. Focusing on the period from 2005 to 2015 in Peru, when the government embarked on a nationwide initiative to expand sewerage systems, I leverage quasi-random variation in initiation of the implementation phase. By combining several sources of administrative data, I find that infrastructure development increased infant and under-5 mortality. These effects are driven by health and safety hazards associated with construction work, leading to increased deaths from accidents and waterborne diseases. The severity of these effects is more pronounced in areas where construction activity was more intense.

Home: Publications

Work in Progress

Resource windfalls and local labor markets: Evidence from Peru

The political economy of public works: Evidence from a reform in term limits

Financing health providers: 
The case of universal health insurance in Peru

(with Juan Pablo Rud)

(with Claudio Ferraz and Gabriel Granato)

(with Gabriela Smarrelli and Marcos Vera-Hernandez )

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Upcoming talks

Stanford's Rosenkranz Global Health Policy Research Symposium

PSE Seminar in Development Economics

TSE BID Seminar

World Bank/IFS/ODI Tax Conference: The Political Economy of Public Finance

CEPR 8th Zurich Conference on Public Finance in Developing Countries 

Senior Research Economist
Institute for Fiscal Studies

Research Affiliate
IZA - Institute of Labor Economics

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Media and Blogs

The Economist
"Latin America’s local governments too often fail their people"

The Economist article

The dire consequences of infrastructure projects

Incentivising quality of public infrastructure excludes users and worsens public health

Can ‘white elephants’ kill? Evidence from infrastructure development in Peru


Incentivising quality of public infrastructure excludes users and worsens public health

Has COVID-19 ‘infected’ infrastructure development in Peru?

IGC and I4I
COVID-19 and the willingness to vaccinate: Evidence from India

Reuters Foundation
The global sanitation challenge: Is there a silver bullet?

World Bank Development Impact Blog
Can White Elephants Kill? Evidence from Infrastructure Development in Peru

El Comercio
El coronavirus “infecta” la ejecución de obras públicas

Semana Ecómica
¿Pueden matar los elefantes blancos?

Sustaining behavioural change: Evidence from rural Pakistan

Home: Courses
Teacher Writing a Formula on a Blackboard


University of St Andrews

Development Economics

Health Economics 


MSc in Economics Dissertation supervision 

University of Edinburgh

MSc in Economics Dissertation supervision 

London School of Economics and Political Science

Social Economics and Policy - LSE Teaching Excellence Award 2019

Home: Welcome

Antonella Bancalari

Institute for Fiscal Studies
7 Ridgmount St, London WC1E 7AE

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