Place of Origin
BA Economics (2008, summa cum laude)
MS Economics (2011, summa cum laude)
Fields of Interest
Primary: Political Economy, Development Economics
Secondary: Applied Microeconomics, Economic History
Entered program in 2011
Expected graduation June 2017
Chasing the Key Player: A Network Approach to the Myanmar Civil War (Job Market Paper)
Abstract: I study the determinants of civil conflict in Myanmar. As governments in weak states often face several armed groups, they have to strategically allocate resources to fight a subset of them. I use a simple model to embed heterogeneity among rebel groups stemming from their network of alliances and enmities. The key insight is that, by attacking a group, the Myanmar army weakens its allies. Therefore, the model predicts that the Myanmar army strategically targets armed groups who are central in the network of alliances. To test the model's predictions, I collect a new data set on rebel groups' locations, alliances, and enmities for the period 1989-2015. Using geo-referenced information on armed groups attacked by the Myanmar army, the empirical evidence strongly supports the predictions of the model. A one standard deviation increase in a group's centrality increases the likelihood of conflict with the Myanmar's army by 1.2% (over a baseline yearly conflict probability of 6.4%), thus identifying a new determinant of conflict. This result is robust to variables measuring the opportunity cost of conflict such as rainfall and commodity price shocks. Since past (and expected) conflicts might affect alliances and enmities between armed groups, I pursue an instrumental variable strategy to provide evidence that the mechanism proposed is indeed causal.
Abstract: I study the cultural transmission of fertility preferences among second generation immigrant women observed in U.S. Censuses from 1910 to 1970. As hypothesized by Bisin Verdier (2001), the transmission of preferences can be "vertical" or "horizontal". Using a unique source documenting the variation in fertility behavior in Europe before and after the first demographic transition (1830-1970), I unpack the influence of parents (measured by source-country fertility at the time of departure from Europe) versus the influence of peers (measured by fertility of the same-age cohorts living in the source country and transmitted by same-age recent immigrants). I find that the transmission mechanism is crucially affected by the number of foreign born immigrant peers living in the same MSA. On one hand, the "vertical" channel of transmission is stronger in places where there are few newly arrived foreign born immigrant couples from the same source countries. On the other hand, fertility choices of second generation women are strongly correlated with marital fertility choices measured over peer cohorts in the sources countries whenever they live in MSAs densely populated by recently arrived immigrants.
Pecunia Non Olet. Loan Outcomes and Firm Identity: Evidence from a Field Experiment
(with Stefano Fiorin)
Abstract: Economists have argued that home-bias --the preference for goods produced in consumers' country-- is responsible for low levels of observed trade between countries (relatively to predictions from economic models). However, identifying home-bias in preferences is hard because it requires fixing the product attributes and merely changing the identity of the producer. We design a randomized controlled trial, in which we offer consumers a financial product (i.e. an uncollateralized loan) marketed by a U.S. firm operating through a subsidiary in Kenya. We randomize the perceived nationality of the financial firm offering the loan by informing its customers via text messages: customers in a control group are told that the firm is Kenyan, while customers in the treatment group are told that the firm is from the US. Since home-bias can be the result of imperfect knowledge (with customers being more informed about the quality of local goods with respect to foreign ones), our sample includes both customers who never applied for the financial product before as well as customers who successfully repaid the loan. We measure the effect of learning the firm's nationality on customers' future demand and repayment behavior.
Peaceful and Violent Power Consolidation: Evidence from Myanmar
Abstract: This paper studies the process of state formation in Myanmar. Using a newly collected dataset of conflict events and ceasefire deals between the Myanmar army and various armed groups in the country, I study how rebels' characteristics affect the Myanmar army's choice of weakening them peacefully or through military conflict from 1988 onward. In line with the theoretical predictions of Powell (2012, 2013), I find empirical evidence that heterogeneity in armed groups' resources and military ability affect the Myanmar army's consolidation decisions. Namely, groups whose ethnic homeland lacks resources and/or are unable to resist sustained offensives because of their limited military capacity, are more likely to be peacefully absorbed by the Myanmar army. Moreover, peaceful consolidation takes time: only three armed groups out of the forty-seven active in 1988 can be said to be completely disarmed by 2015 while almost twenty of them keep playing a role as militias linked to the Myanmar army.