Antonella Bancalari

Welcome to my website!

I'm an Assistant Professor at the School of Economics and Finance, University of St Andrews. I'm also a Research Associate at the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB). 

I'll be at Yale University, the Economic Growth Centre in the Department of Economics, in 2022-S1 as a UK-US Fulbright Visiting Scholar.

I'm an applied microeconomist and my research sits at the intersection of Development, Public and Health 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.

I hold a PhD from the Social Policy Department and an MPA International Development/Economic Policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), and a BSc in Economics from Universidad del Pacifico.

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Antonella Bancalari

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Stethoscope on the Cardiogram

Effectiveness of Community Health Teams: Evidence from El Salvador
(with P. Bernal, P. Celhay and S. Martinez)

Access to high-quality preventive health care can deter mortality. Community health teams have emerged as an alternative to deficient formal health care provision in low- and middle-income countries, but the evidence on their effectiveness is inconclusive. Using quasi-experimental techniques and a fine-grain panel dataset of health records, we evaluate the effectiveness of a nation-wide reform in El Salvador that mobilized communities to access preventive healthcare. We find that the reform improved preventive behavior and reduced hospitalizations and deaths caused by diseases amenable to health access and quality.

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Countering misinformation with targeted messages: Experimental evidence using mobile phones (with A. Armand, B. Augsburg and K. Kumar)


There remains limited evidence on the instruments that facilitate or counteract misinformation, especially in lower-income contexts. We study microtargeting, an approach used by political parties throughout the world to influence voters. The development of the COVID-19 pandemic in India provides a unique setting as the surge in misinformation was accompanied by the prevalence of misconceptions based on religious identity, a politically-salient dimension. We implement a field experiment in a population at high risk of misinformation – slum residents – by randomly allocating participants to receive on their mobile phones messages introduced by a local citizen, the messenger, and in which doctors debunk misconceptions. We randomly vary the signaled religious identity of the messenger into either Muslim or Hindu, guaranteeing exogenous variation in religion concordance with the recipient. Doctor messages are effective at increasing citizens’ knowledge, but misconceptions are affected only in presence of religion concordance and for religious-salient misconceptions.

When Nature Calls Back: Sustaining Behavioural Change in Rural Pakistan (with B. Augsburg, Z. Durrani, M. Vaidyanathan and Z. White)

R&R Journal of Development Economics

We implement a mixed method approach that combines a randomized controlled trial and qualitative data collection to assess whether, and if so how, behavioural 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, reduced reversal to unsafe sanitation, but only where initial conditions are unfavourable ---i.e. poor public infrastructure and low-quality sanitation facilities. Promotion efforts are hence best targeted towards those that face larger difficulties in constructing and maintaining high quality sanitation.

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.

Public Service Delivery and Free Riding: Experimental Evidence from India

(with A. Armand and B. Augsburg)


This paper provides novel evidence on the trade-off between public service delivery and free riding in low- and middle-income countries. We implement a field experiment in the slums of two major Indian cities, where inadequate access to sanitation restricts residents to either free ride, by disposing human waste in common-property areas, or use a fee-funded public service provided by community toilets. Using original survey, behavioral and objective measurements, we show that top-down incentives for the quality of service provision improves delivery and reduces non-payment of fees, but excludes a share of residents from using the service, forcing them into free riding. Willingness to pay for the service is unaffected, but demand for public intervention in the quality of delivery increases, replacing the demand to address free riding. Adding a campaign sensitizing the consequences of free riding among residents raises awareness, but does not induce any behavioral change. Supplementing reduced form estimates with structural estimates, we show that eliminating free riding requires subsidizing use beyond free basic services.

Can White Elephants Kill?

The Unintended Consequences of Infrastructure Development in Peru


It has long been accepted that investing in public infrastructure promotes economic development. However, there is little awareness of the prevalence of "white elephants" and their consequences. In this paper, I study the effect of unfinished sewerage infrastructure on early-life mortality in Peru. I compile several sources of administrative panel data for 1,400 districts spanning 2005--2015, and I rely on the budgetary plans and timing of expenditure for 6,000 projects to measure unfinished projects and those completed in a given district. I document that mid-construction abandonment and delays are highly prevalent. I exploit geographical features and partisan alignment to instrument for project implementation. Surprisingly, unfinished sewerage projects increased early-life mortality, driven by lack of water availability, water-borne diseases and accidents. While unfinished projects pose hazards to the population, completed sewerage projects decrease early-life mortality, in line with studies in advanced economies during the previous centuries.

Runner up for Best JMP - Royal Economic Society Junior Symposium

Winner of "Nada es Gratis" JMP in Economics


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 )


Media and Blogs

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?


Antonella Bancalari
Curriculum Vitae

Upcoming talks:
Women in Economics - CEPR
Poverty and Inequality - LACEA-RIDGE
Women in Applied Microeconomics - University of Chicago

Research Associate
Institute for Fiscal Studies


Prof Orazio Attanasio

Prof Oriana Bandiera

Prof Stephen Jenkins

Prof Robin Burgess

Dr Berkay Ozcan

Dr Joan Costa-Font

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


Antonella Bancalari

School of Economics and Finance
University of St Andrews
Castlecliffe, The Scores, St Andrews KY16 9AZ

Institute for Fiscal Studies

7 Ridgmount St, London WC1E 7AE

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