This paper studies the effects of a large-scale information policy that nudges high school students towards college information websites in Colombia. We collect survey and administrative data on 6,000 students in 115 public schools over time. Students in 58 randomly-chosen schools received a 35-minute presentation on the earning premiums of college, funding opportunities to cover costs, and the importance of test scores for admissions and financial aid. Our findings indicate that students learn about financial aid but do not update their inflated beliefs about college earnings, are not motivated to improve academic performance, nor substantially modify their enrollment choices. These null results are precisely estimated, robust, and consistent with the related literature. We conduct an in-depth analysis of the reasons driving the limited effects of information provision on higher education choices, identifying factors that may increase the effectiveness of these policies to motivate the demand for college.

*Featured in the World Bank’s Development Impact Blog (Jul 2016).

We study the effect of a large increase in access to gambling on crime by exploiting the expansion of video gambling terminals in Illinois since 2012. Even though video gambling was legalized by the State of Illinois, local municipalities were left with the decision whether to allow it within their jurisdiction. The City of Chicago does not allow video gambling, while many adjacent jurisdictions do. We take advantage of this setting along with detailed incident level data on crime for Chicago to examine the effect of access to gambling on crime. We use a difference-in-differences strategy that compares crime in areas that are closer to video gambling establishments with those that are further away along with the timing of video gambling adoption. We find that (i) access to gambling increases violent and property crimes; (ii) these are new crimes rather than displaced incidents; and (iii) the effects seem to be persistent in time.

Media Coverage: The Inquirer, News-Gazette, Illinois News Network.

  • “How important is spatial correlation in randomized controlled trials?” with Kathy Baylis.

Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have become the gold standard for impact evaluation since they provide unbiased estimates of causal effects. This paper focuses on RCTs that allocate treatment status over clusters in geographical proximity. We study how omitting spatial correlation in outcomes or unobservables at the cluster-level affects difference-in-difference estimates at the individual-level. Using Monte Carlo experiments, we identify bias and efficiency problems and propose solutions to overcome them. Our framework is then tested on data from Mexico’s Progresa program. Results show that spatial correlation may affect both the precision of the estimate and the estimate itself, especially when geographic dependence is high.