Research papers

Are elected politicians treated more leniently when facing criminal charges? I present evidence of judicial discretion in the world's largest democracy, India. I analyze whether pending criminal cases of politicians marginally winning the election are more likely to be closed without a conviction compared to cases from politicians marginally losing the election. I find that winning office increases the chances of a favorable outcome only for politicians from the ruling party. Evidence suggests that the misuse of executive powers and witnesses turning hostile are among the main explanations for this result.

Asymmetric Crime Dynamics in and out of Lockdowns, The Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, forthcoming.
Media converage: IMPRI India

Many crimes involve physical interaction between victim and perpetrator. I study the dynamic effects of a policy changing how individuals interact on crime and disentangle the underlying mechanisms. Using case-level data from Bihar, India and a regression discontinuity design in time (RDiT), I document a crime drop of 58 percent due to the imposition of the lockdown, driven by the low probability of a criminal-victim encounter. Districts with low lockdown compliance (high mobility) have lower crime reductions than high-compliance ones. I find evidence of temporal displacement for property crimes but not for personal crimes suggesting that lockdowns have an absolute positive impact on non-gainful criminal behavior.

Reputation shocks and strategic responses in electoral campaigns, The Journal of Politics, conditionally accepted.

Information affecting a candidate's reputation might have significant electoral consequences. Do candidates respond to the release of information? Using Brazilian elections and audits as an exogenous source of information, I show that both incumbent and challenger increase their campaign spending when detrimental information affects the incumbent's reputation. Conversely, beneficial information decreases candidates' spending. The main channel is that information affects the expected competitiveness of elections and, therefore, candidates' spending. Only information disclosed before electoral campaigns impacts campaign spending. Furthermore, incumbents also adapt a conditional cash transfers program by increasing (decreasing) the beneficiaries when detrimental (beneficial) reputation shocks occur. 

Over 150 countries allow expatriate citizens to vote in their country of origin. Yet, little is known about their voting behavior and how this is affected by host countries. Using unique micro-data on Chilean expatriates living in Europe, we study how the host country’s turnout affects expatriates’ electoral participation in the 2017 Chilean Presidential election. We focus on the 2014 European Parliament election turnout in the district of the Chilean’s geocoded residence and exploit local transitory shocks to the cost of voting given by the rainfall on the day of the election. We find that migrants living in areas with higher political participation have lower engagement with their home country politics. A 1 percentage point increase in the host country’s turnout decreases the electoral participation of Chilean expatriates by nearly 1 percentage point. The effects are stronger for young Chileans and those living in small communities, and in localities more welcoming to migrants. This suggests that integration into their local environment seems to play an important role on shaping political preferences. 

This paper introduces a two-stage contest model with reference-dependent preferences to study the determinants of conflict and its intensity.  I show the existence of a Subgame Perfect Nash equilibrium in pure strategies, and characterize the properties of the equilibrium. The model shows that reference points play a crucial role in the decision of waging war, and in the level of intensity of the conflict. The model delivers predictions in line with the evidence, and explains empirical regularities that previous models cannot account for. The model encompasses two of the most common empirical patterns found in the conflict literature. Conflicts are more likely to occur after negative income shocks due to the current situation being perceived as a loss compared to agents' reference points. Additionally, income reduces the odds of conflict if agents are more risk-averse for gains than risk-seeker for losses.

A global analysis of the impact of COVID-19 stay at home restrictions on crime, with A. Nivette and others, Nature Human Behavior, 2021, Vol 5: 868–877 .

The Great Lockdown and criminal activity - Evidence from Bihar, India , CEPR COVID Economics, 2020, 1(29): 141-163.
Media Coverage:  Ideas for India, Ideas for India (Hindi)

Equilibrium with limited-recourse collateralized loans with J.P. Torres-Martínez, Economic Theory, 2013, 53: 181.  

Selected work in progress

An Empirically Inspired Theory of Turnout and Voting, with Otto Swank

Why another theoretical model of voter behavior? First, recent empirical studies provide new insights into the drivers of people's turnout and vote decisions. Second, existing voter models predominantly focus on turnout decisions and often ignore vote decisions. This leads to inconsistent explanations of observed voting patterns. We build on Harbaugh (1996), who theoretically explored social image concerns as drivers of turnout decisions. Our model explains turnout, lying about abstaining, and vote decisions. Its predictions are consistent with studies on the effects of information about candidates in slums in a large city in India. Furthermore, the model casts new light on recent studies on expressive and strategic voting in elections in France and Germany. Finally, the model yields a variety of new testable predictions. 

Holi Crimes, with Claudia Martinez Valdebenito

A significant number of women experience physical or sexual violence throughout their lives, with a considerable portion of such incidents occurring in public spaces. Harmful social norms emphasizing men's power over women play a pivotal role in perpetuating such violence. We study a public festivity in India, Holi (the festival of colors), where a common phrase (``Bura na mano Holi Hai'' - Don't feel offended, it's Holi) has been misappropriated by many to justify inappropriate behavior. Leveraging different dates of the event based on the lunar calendar, we document a dramatic increase of over 60\% in crimes against women and 140\% assaults against women during Holi celebrations. We analyze how perpetrators' and victims' gender norms impact violence against women. We find that Holi not only legitimizes but also exacerbates existing underlying norms, attitudes, and beliefs that justify unequal behavior towards women. We also find the existence of a male backlash effect, where there is higher violence against women in district where women believe that wife beating is inappropriate. Underreporting nor lower mobility of women during Holi seem to account for the results.  The paper underscores the critical role of social norms and gender imbalances in shaping violence against women, emphasizing the urgent need for intervention and change.