Adaptation and mitigation of pollution: evidence from air quality warnings (Job Market Paper)

Standard economic analyses of environmental policy focus on either reducing pollution externalities through mitigation or reducing the harms from exposure by encouraging adaptation. In practice, these issues are both critical, particularly when looking at the health effects of local air pollutants, which can be acute, and policymakers often pair information provision with short and long-run mitigation actions. This paper studies one widely used example of such a policy— air quality alerts. I explore whether, in the context of the Mexico City air quality alert program, information policy is more effective when paired with mitigation. I find that the policy did not improve air quality or health outcomes until the mitigation component, which limited transport emissions, was introduced. I also use sensor-level traffic data, geo-tagged accident reports, and search data as a measure of awareness of the policy to unveil the mechanisms through which considerable short-run improvements in air quality and health are achieved after issuing an alert. I find that the alert reduces car usage even before the driving restrictions enter into place, suggesting that, due to an increased awareness of pollution, people reduce their trips.

Working papers

Inside the black box of child penalties (With Eva Arceo-Gomez and Elia de la Cruz Toledo) – Under Review. Presented at the Gender and the Economy NBER Summer Institute 2020

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.

Recipient of the 2020 Victor Urquidi Economic Research Award

Norms Formation: The Gold Rush and Women’s Roles (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.

Leadership, mobility and COVID19 (With Eva Arceo-Gomez and Elia de la Cruz-Toledo). Selected for participation in the UNDP LAC COVID-19 Policy Documents Series and the UNDP Regional Human Development Report 2020

The effectiveness of wide-spread policy measures in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic hinges upon compliance with the ordinances. This study explores how leaders’ discourse relates to compliance with stay-at-home orders to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in Mexico. We use municipality-level mobility data from geolocation events of smartphone users and daily briefings from the President and Health Minister Dr. Hugo López-Gatell. Using quantile regressions, sentiment analysis and topic modelling, we shed light on the dynamics between political discourse and containment of mobility. We find discrepancies between the content and tone of the President and those of the COVID-19 czar. These contrasts translate into differences on the association between the content of the speeches and mobility patterns. Our findings, using a LASSO penalized quantile regression, indicate that when President AMLO’s discourse is positive, mobility tends to decrease, but when the Health Minister’s discourse is positive, mobility tends to increase. Across the distribution of mobility changes, those in the inter-quantile range are more responsive to the discourse. We also find that the discourse’s association to mobility is mediated by awareness of COVID-related topics and by individuals’ political affiliation.

Selected work in progress

Extreme temperatures and loan defaults: Evidence from bank-firm level data in Mexicoredit management. with Emilio Gutierrez, David Heres David Jaume, and Martín Tobal

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

Published work

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

Period teasing, stigma and knowledge: A survey of adolescent boys and girls in Northern Tanzania (With Anja Tolonen, Rebecca Cai, Naomi Heller Batzer and Elias Charles Nyanza) – Accepted for publication PLOS One  

Emerging evidence suggests that menstruation-related teasing is a common experience among adolescent girls with ramifications on their school participation, yet empirical evidence on the prevalence and determinants of period teasing in schools remain scarce. In fact, menstrual hygiene research and policies almost exclusively focus on girls and women, leading to a dearth of knowledge of male attitudes toward the topic. To overcome this lack of evidence, we conducted the first quantitative survey of period teasing in schools in sub-Saharan Africa, focusing on 432 male and 524 female students in four co-educational secondary schools in northern Tanzania. Period teasing is prevalent; 13% of girls have experienced period teasing, and more than 80% fear being teased, especially by male classmates. Girls’ fears are associated with insufficient menstrual hygiene management resources and practices. Girls cope by reducing school attendance, participation, and concentration in the classroom during periods. Boys engage in period teasing because they perceive periods as embarrassing, especially visible markers of periods (odor or  stains). Social norms, such as peer behavior and home restrictions on menstruating women, are associated with more teasing. Boys believe it is strongly inappropriate for girls to reveal period status or to discuss periods with males, including male teachers. In contrast, boys are well informed about basic biological facts of menstruation (scoring 60% on a knowledge quiz, not statistically different from the girls) and have received information from school curricula and health workers. Lack of suitable menstrual hygiene practices and restrictive social norms is correlated with period teasing, which hinders gender equality in educational opportunities. Providing narrowly bio-medical focused education about menstruation may not be enough to reduce period teasing in contexts with period stigma.

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