Raising the bar: the economics of air quality warnings

In the past decades, public agencies have taken several measures to prevent and mitigate the large health effects of outdoor air pollution. While navigating politically complex long run solutions to improve air quality, the Mexico City Environmental Alert System constitutes an ambitious short run pollution mitigation program that seeks to mitigate same-day health effects of very polluted days. The program not only publishes pollution warnings but also implements a series of strong measures ranging from driving restrictions to closing schools, government offices, gas stations and factories. Using regression discontinuity design exploiting the fact that the program is activated once pollution exceeds a threshold, and an instrumental variables approach exploiting changes in wind speed, I find that the program has modest impacts on pollution, which are mostly driven by stopping production in publicly owned industries. I also find that as a consequence of the driving restrictions, traffic congestion decreases significantly, as well as road accidents, as people switch away from the car and ride public transportation on restricted days. The effects are heterogeneous by hour and by type of public transportation.

Inside the black box of child penalties (With Eva Arceo-Gomez and Elia de la Cruz Toledo)

As developed countries have been unable to completely close the gender wage and participation gap, recent literature has revisited the old findings regarding the existence of child penalties in the labor market. Developing countries, however, present different challenges to the ability of women to work for pay. In this paper, we produce the first formal estimation of the child penalties in the Mexican labor market, and the second in a Latin American context. Using an event study approach and an instrumental variable strategy as a robustness check, we estimate the short run impact of children on labor force participation and wages, as well as their effect on transitions between the informal and formal sector. We find significant gaps between men and women in the short run impacts of children on both paid and unpaid work.

Fueling conflict: Oil distribution and Violence in Mexico – with Ricardo Olivares-Armas

Mexico has a long history of dependency on oil. The country has transformed in the past in order to connect wells and distribution centers. Recently, the same infrastructure (pipelines) has been used for other perverted purposes. Criminal organizations extract fuel from these pipelines, creating a new wage of violence. In this paper we try to understand the incentives behind fuel extraction and we provide a casual link between prices and violence, using the potential exogenous variation from international oil prices as an instrument for the local fuel prices we study the transmission of shocks and their length on the local homicide rate. We find significant effects of fuel prices on violence and a strong relationship between pipelines presence violence, also we address the potential bias introduced by the non random allocation of the pipelines and our results are robust to the inclusion of geographical controls.

Giving birth under the weather: Heat waves and perinatal care in Mexico – Work in progress


Previous work has a documented robustly the impact of climate change on short and some long run child health outcomes, but the exact mechanisms of these impacts have not been disentangled. In this paper, I seek to fill part of this gap by studying a critical part of childbearing: delivery. I study the impact of heat waves in Mexico on infant health and on obstetric care.

By looking at weather shocks during the day of delivery, I isolate the well-established adverse impact of in-utero exposure to heat from the two mechanisms that interplay in the day of birth: the health service effectiveness mechanism and the physiological exhaustion effect. Using hospital discharge data and birth records, I analyze all the births occurring in Mexico between 2010 and 2014, and model the probability of medical procedures as a flexible function of temperature. Using hospital-level fixed effects linear probability models, I find a positive and monotonous relationship between the maximum temperature on the day of delivery and the probability of poor birth outcomes for children and mothers. On the other hand, I find an inverted U-shape relationship between temperature and certain medical procedures, suggestive evidence of a mismatch between women’s needs and health services provided.

Gold Rush and Marriage Markets (with Anja Benshaul-Tolonen) – Presented at ASSA 2018, APPAM 2018 and SusDever 2018.

How does scarcity of women affect gender norms? We explore the gold rush in Western United States in the late 19th century as a natural experiment to answer this question. We use a geographic difference-in-difference methodology, exploiting the location and discovery of the gold deposits and its influence on sex ratios, to understand short term and medium term changes in women’s labor market participation and marriage market opportunities. Gold mining, and the oversupply of marriageable men with income, increased marriage rates among women. Women also married up: older men with higher prestige occupations. In parallel, the gold rush created a market based service sector economy, potentially catering to men with money but poor marriage prospects. We find support for the hypothesis that these effects persist in the medium term using the 1940 census, also when controlling for contemporaneous sex ratio and presence of mining.

Estimating the Long-run Relationships between State Cigarette Taxes and County Life Expectancy ( With Sanjay Basu, Aaron Baum and Emilie Bruzelius) – Under Review at Tobacco Control

A large body of literature suggests that tobacco control legislation—including fiscal measures such as excise sales taxes—reduces tobacco smoking, and that tobacco smoking confers such high risk of mortality that it may be plausibly related to large-scale variations in life expectancy across counties. Here, we test the hypothesis that increases in state cigarette excise taxes are positively associated with increases in life expectancy at the county level. We additionally examine whether the relationship between cigarette taxes and life expectancy varies by the sex, income, and rural/urban composition of a county, and whether it is mediated by changes to county smoking prevalence. Data on estimated life expectancy at birth for all U.S. counties across the period 1996 to 2012 by sex was merged to state cigarette excise tax rates by year. A multilevel dynamic panel regression model with fixed effects for county was used to assess relations between tax rates and life expectancy, separately estimating short-run and longer-run associations. We found that for every 1 dollar increase in cigarette tax per pack, county life expectancy increased over the long-run by approximately 6 months for men and 4 months for women, on average. We also found that the benefit of the policy was greater in lower-income and rural counties, and that the association was mediated by long-run reductions in county smoking prevalence.

Menstruation, Boys and Stigma: Evidence from Tanzania (with Anja Benshaul-Tolonen and Naomi Batzer) – Work in Progress.


Female empowerment policies almost exclusively target women. This project explores the potential role for including boys in empowerment programs in developing countries. The context is menstrual hygiene management in secondary schools in Tanzania. Girls often face fear, stigma and hardship when managing periods. In this project, we explore how stigmas can be sustained when the stigmatized topic is plausibly universal. In addition, we explore the role of including boys in menstrual health curriculum in determining girls’ welfare. In a separate but adjacent paper we use network analysis and list experiments to cross-verify self-reporting of stigmatized and socially undesirable behavior.

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