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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.

In Fall 2023, I was a UK-US Fulbright Visiting Scholar at the Economic Growth Centre, Department of Economics, Yale University. Previously, I was an Assistant Professor in Economics at the University of St. Andrews. 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.

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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)


We study how social proximity between the sender and the receiver of information shapes the effectiveness of information campaigns. Focusing on shared religion as a signal of proximity, we implement a field experiment in the context of a preventive health campaign in two major Indian cities characterized by Hindu-Muslim tensions. While messages carrying informative content are effective at improving evidence-based behavior, their effectiveness does not differ by social proximity. When sender and receiver share the same religion, the intervention significantly reduces misinformation carrying in-group salience, highlighting the role of social proximity in fighting misinformation.

An Ounce of Prevention for a Pound of Cure: Efficiency of Community-based Healthcare

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


We study the efficiency in health systems generated by community health teams, a common strategy in low- and middle-income countries for primary healthcare delivery. We exploit the roll-out of a nation-wide expansion of coverage to this model in El Salvador. Using a panel dataset of municipalities spanning 2009-2018 from consultation and hospital records of almost 4 million episodes, we show that investing in community-based healthcare led to a more efficient allocation of care. Preventive care increased and curative care and hospitalizations from preventable conditions decreased, while coverage in curative care for previously unattended chronic diseases increased.

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 and Free Riding: Experimental Evidence from India
(with A. Armand, B. Augsburg and M. Ghatak)

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.

The Unintended Consequences of Infrastructure Development

R&R Review of Economics and Statistics

I provide evidence of the social costs imposed by the poor implementation of infrastructures at the core of public goods. The context is Peru, 2005-2015, when authorities pushed for a nationwide development of sewerage systems. Exploiting quasi-random variation in the timing of the start of the implementation phase (i.e. when projects were started, but not yet completed) and combining several sources of administrative data, I find that infrastructure development increased infant and under-5 mortality rates. These results are driven by health and safety hazards associated with construction, which increased deaths by waterborne diseases and accidents. Inefficiencies in the implementation phase exacerbated the lethal effects by exposing the population to more open projects and for longer.

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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

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Antonella Bancalari

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

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