Selected working papers
Globalization, unions and robots: The effects of automation on the power of labor and policymaking. Mimeo, New York University. 2023. (Job market paper) (Submitted)
International economic competition has led to the increasing adoption of labor-replacing technology. What are the consequences of this development for international integration? I posit that robots make (skilled) workers more productive, increasing the opportunity cost of rent-seeking behavior via union activities. Consequently, the political influence of unions falls in response to robot adoption, with important implications for domestic and international politics and policy. Using data from the U.S. (2004-2014) and a shift-share that leverages quasi-exogenous variation in international competition in the exposure to robots, at the congressional district level, I show that an increase in robot adoption reduces substantively the likelihood that congresspeople vote with unions' interests, especially regarding policy that compensates the losers from international competition. This effect is larger in areas with larger shares of skilled workers, lending support to the hypothesized opportunity-cost mechanism. Reductions in union membership and activities, political contributions from workers, lower support for cosmopolitanism and lower support for taxation in response to the exposure to robots, explain this finding. My findings are robust to import competition and to unemployment as competing mechanisms.
Unions and protectionist populism: The role of unions in the backlash against globalization Mimeo, Yale University. 2023.
The connection between import competition, economic nationalism and the rise of populism has been well-established, but little is known about the mechanisms that drive it. I argue that import competition weakens labor unions, who are essential for protecting voters from elite cues by populists. Strong unions provide costly political information to voters, hamstringing the effect of elite cues. I provide evidence for my claims using data from the U.S. (2002-2016) and a shift-share that leverages quasi-exogenous variation in import competition, at the congressional district level. I find that where unions have weakened the most, import competition leads to an increase in the use of populist rhetoric, a negative effect on voters' attitudes towards cosmopolitanism, and increased vote share for politicians supporting economic nationalism. I also show that import competition leads to a reduction in congresspeople's support of unions' interests in welfare and trade-related policy making, and further decline in union power, explaining the aforementioned findings.
A theory of protectionist populism: The role of elite cues and identity on protectionism. Mimeo, New York University. 2022.
The combination of populism and protectionism emerged primarily from social class cleavages during the 20th century, to protect those affected by international economic competition. In the 21st century these cleavages have also involved an ethnic dimension, which regards the ethnic majority as the citizens deserving protection even though ethnic minorities are affected by international competition. What does explain this puzzle? I posit that this protectionist populism is especially likely to emerge when populists shape voters’ preferences over protectionism using elite cues. Cues generate voter polarization by activating voters’ social identities, and this benefits populists. Populists may not use cues on ethnic minorities when their support isn't essential because doing so isn't cost-effective. Counterintuitively, populists use cues when there’s little voter polarization ex-ante. I also find that higher international competition is generally insufficient to generate demands for protectionist populism in the absence of elite cues. My findings also provide various empirical implications.
A theory of self-determination: The role of local and international economic interdependence on secessionism Mimeo, New York University. 2023.
Can economic connections between territories within a country, and to other countries, affect whether a nation can govern all of its territory? I develop a theory where the probability of self-determination in the form of secession is a non-monotonic function of the level of economic interdependence: i) When economic connections between territories are weak, the government uses the threat of coercion to control the nation. In this case, an economically-disadvantaged territory has no incentives to secede. ii) When these connections are strong, governments face economic-efficiency costs if there is a secession, thus the government preemptively redistributes resources to the territory seeking to secede. The redistribution reduces the incentives to secede because the opportunity cost of a secession rises. iii) At some mid-level of economic interdependence, neither approach is sufficient to stop a secessionist conflict. I also show that if a country's economy becomes less competitive internationally, the probability of secession increases if the home-country substitutes local goods for foreign goods. Thus while economic integration between countries may promote peace, it can engender secessionism under specific circumstances.
Kicking away the ladder: Intergenerational Value Transmission on Migration between Migrants Mimeo, Yale University. 2023.
with Hugo Ñopo.
Do migrants' offspring support migration to their host country? Are their opinions on migration influenced by their parents'? We use unique data survey data to investigate both questions on students around fifteen years of age in eighteen countries. Using a gravity model of migration and an instrumental variable design that exploits the quasi-exogenous assignment into redshirting into primary school, we show that youngsters that are first generation migrants are less likely to support migration, and are more likely to adopt the negative attitudes toward migration from their parents, in comparison to their peers. Second generation migrants, on the other hand, are less likely to adopt their parents opinions' on migration, and exhibit higher degrees of cosmopolitanism. We also find that intergenerational transmission of these negative views also translates to other issues of global importance, such as concern for climate change. Our findings indicate that second generation migrants are likely to adopt their (first-generation migrant) parents' negative views on global issues, expressing the intention of ``kicking away the ladder'' to others similar to them.
Tariff revenues matter for democratization: Theory and evidence from the First Wave of Globalization. Mimeo, New York University. 2023. (Submitted)
with Rafael Ch.
Do tariff revenues affect democratization? We argue that tariff revenues have two effects: i) A rapacity effect because the fiscal windfalls generate incentives for controlling government, and ii) A redistributive effect because tariffs impact the returns to the factors of production, changing the distribution of power between groups. If ruling elites benefit from redistribution, this discourages challenging them. If elites lose from redistribution, they may share power to avoid expropriation. We test these claims during the First Wave of Globalization, when ruling elites were often landed. We find evidence that tariff revenues reduce democratization in land-abundant economies because ruling elites strengthen via the redistributive effect, as the return to land increases, and both controlling tariffs and its windfalls bolster the rapacity effect. In capital-abundant economies the return to land falls, thus the redistributive effect offsets the rapacity effect. Congruently, we find a positive but statistically-insignificant effect for tariff revenues.
Climate Change and Political Mobilization: Theory and Evidence from India. Mimeo, New York University. 2023. R&R at American Political Science Review.
with Amanda Kennard.
What are the implications of climate for state-society relations? Economic, physiological, and social pressures brought about by climate change can provide new opportunities for citizens to learn about: the loyalty of political leaders; the security capacity of the state; and their ability to rely on members of their own community. Thus successful political mobilization is likely in the wake of climate change. We develop a model of collective action in the presence of climate shocks and show that uncertainty about causal attribution can lead citizens to rationally under-estimate environmental impacts, attributing observed outcomes instead to features of their political environment. We provide evidence for our claims using geocoded weather data and a unique household-level panel survey from India. Unusually high temperatures reduce trust in leaders and security forces while increasing intra-community cooperation. High temperatures also increase voter turnout, rates of anti-incumbent voting, and the frequency of non-violent anti-government protest.
The Value of Redistribution: Natural Resources and the Formation of Human Capital under Weak Institutions. Journal of Development Economics, Vol. 149, 102581. 2021.
with Jorge Aguero, Stanislao Maldonado and Hugo Ñopo.
We exploit time and spatial variation generated by the commodities boom to measure the effect of natural resources on human capital formation in Peru, a country with low governance indicators. Combining test scores from over two million students and district-level administrative data of mining taxes redistributed to local governments, we find sizable effects on student learning from the redistribution. However, and consistent with recent political economy models, the relationship is non-monotonic. Based on these models, we identify improvements in school expenditure and infrastructure, together with increases in health outcomes of adults and children, as key mechanisms explaining the effect we find for redistribution. Policy implications for the avoidance of the natural resource curse are discussed.
Long-Run Effects of Democracy on Income Inequality in Latin America. Journal of Economic Inequality, Vol. 14, No. 3, pp. 289-307.2016.
I address the link between democracy and inequality in Latin America, analyzing whether the degree of democracy that birth cohorts experience during the course of their formative years is related to labor income dispersion later, in adulthood. For this, I measure inequality at the cohort level by using pseudo-panel data built from household surveys for fifteen Latin American countries (from circa 1995 to circa 2011) and measure democracy as the discounted cumulative value of the degree of democracy during the cohort’s formative years. I find that cohorts that have higher discounted cumulative values of the degree of democracy show lower income inequality. However, the effect of democracy on income dispersion is driven by those cohorts that benefited from the surge of democracies that came to exist during the second half of the twentieth century. I also present suggestive evidence that education is one mechanism explaining these results.
Think locally, regress globally: Promises and Pitfalls of Conventional IR Data. In Handbook of Research Methods in International Relations, Joseph Huddleston, Tom Jamieson, and Patrick James, Eds. Edward Elgar. 2022.
with Matt Malis.
This essay seeks to provide practical guidance for applied quantitative IR researchers regarding the steps of the research process in between theory development and statistical analysis. That is, given a clearly articulated theoretical prediction, what must be done before the researcher can run a regression? This chapter primarily addresses decisions pertaining to the selection of a sample of analysis, and the selection of variables to operationalize theoretical quantities of interests, with a focus on the implications of these decisions for internal and external validity and statistical power.