Welcome to my website!
I am 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 service delivery.
I will be joining the School of Economics and Finance at the University of St. Andrews from January 2021 as an Assistant Professor. I am also a Research Associate at the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB). I am completing a PhD at the London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Social Policy.
Job market paper and work in progress
Can White Elephants Kill?
The Unintended Consequences of Infrastructure Development in Peru
It is widely accepted that investing in public infrastructure promotes economic development. However, there is little awareness of the prevalence of unfinished infrastructure projects 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, I find that unfinished sewerage projects increased early-life mortality, driven by lack of water availability, water-borne diseases and accidents. I also show that while unfinished projects pose hazards to the population, completed sewerage projects decrease early-life mortality, in line with public health studies in advanced economies during the previous centuries.
Runner up for Best JMP - RES Junior Symposium
Winner of "Nada es Gratis" JMP in Economics
Challenges when Promoting Demand for Shared Infrastructure: Experimental Evidence from Slums in India
(with A. Armand and B. Augsburg)
Shared infrastructure can help improve living standards in urban slums, where insufficient public goods provision has led to extremely poor health and low levels of human capital. However, poor quality infrastructure, generated partially by low valuation and payment, can hamper environmental quality even further. We study how to break this vicious cycle in the context of community toilets in Uttar Pradesh, India. Our data reveal rampant free-riding and a remarkably low willingness to pay for community toilets of very bad quality and underutilised. We used a randomised field experiment to test the effectiveness of two interventions: (i) a ``supply push'' that rehabilitates the infrastructure and promotes cleanliness; and (ii) a complementary information campaign. We document that externally funded improvements crowd-out willingness to pay to use the shared infrastructure, worsen attitudes towards paying the users' fees, increase the demand for public intervention and generate no sustained improvement in usage.
Fake news and COVID-19 in Slums of India (with A. Armand and B. Augsburg)
One of the most, if not the most, at-risk groups of COVID-19 is the urban poor, living in overcrowded conditions with very limited access to public (health) infrastructure. We conduct phone surveys to analyse to what extent slum dwellers can and do respond to COVID-19 advise. We further run a field experiment to analyse whether social media can be successfully used to counter the spread of misinformation and fake news, as well as exploring religion bias.
Sustainability of Sanitation Behaviour: Evidence from rural Pakistan (with B. Augsburg)
Slippage back to unsafe behaviour explains why sanitation interventions may not achieve sustained improvements in public health. We rely on a cluster-randomized experiment in rural Pakistan to evaluate the effectiveness of follow-up visits after a community total-led (CTLs) sanitation campaign. We find that reminders are effective at sustaining safe behavior in areas in which the sanitation infrastructure is prone to becoming obsolete.
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.
Media and Blogs
LSE Teaching Excellence Award 2019