Do gender attitudes influence interactions with female judges in U.S. Circuit Courts? In this paper, we propose a judge-specific measure of gender attitudes based on use of gender-stereotyped language in the judge’s authored opinions. Exploiting quasirandom assignment of judges to cases and conditioning on judges’ characteristics, we validate the measure showing that higher-slant judges vote more conservatively in gender-related cases. Higher-slant judges interact differently with female colleagues: they are more likely to reverse lower-court decisions if the lower-court judge is a woman than a man, are less likely to assign opinions to female judges, and cite fewer female-authored opinions.
"The Challenges of Universal Health Insurance in Developing Countries: Evidence from a Large Scale Randomized Experiment in Indonesia" with Abhijit Banerjee, Amy Finkelstein, Rema Hanna, Ben Olken and Sudarno Sumarto.
American Economic Review. Vol. 111 (9), pp. 3035-63. September 2021.
To investigate barriers to universal health insurance in developing countries, we designed a randomized experiment involving about 6,000 households in Indonesia who are subject to a government health insurance program with a weakly enforced mandate. Time-limited subsidies increased enrollment and attracted lower-cost enrollees, in part by reducing the strategic timing of enrollment to correspond with health needs. Registration assistance also increased enrollment, but increased attempted enrollment much more, as over half of households who attempted to enroll did not successfully do so. These findings underscore how weak administrative capacity can create important challenges in developing countries for achieving widespread coverage.
How do different local policies in a federal system affect local land values, production, and sorting? We study the question exploiting a large historical policy change: U.S. Alcohol Prohibition in the early twentieth century. Comparing same-state early and late adopters of county dry laws in a difference-in-differences design, we find that early Prohibition adoption increased population and farm real estate values. Moreover, we find strong effects on farm productivity consistent with increased investment due to a land price channel. In equilibrium, the policy change disproportionately attracted immigrants and African-Americans.
"Man Bites Dog: Editorial Choices and Biases in the Reporting of Weather Events" with Nicola Mastrorocco, Matteo Pograxha, and Stephane Wolton. July 2023.
Every day, editors of media outlets decide what is news and what is not. We unpack the process of news production by looking at the share of newscasts devoted to weather events by local TV stations in the United States. We document that coverage increases with the severity of the weather event that day. We also uncover that stations operating in Democratic-leaning markets devote more time to extreme weather events and mention climate change more than outlets in Republican-leaning markets. We make sense of these publication and presentation biases with a stylised model of news production and consumption.
"The Returns to Viral Media: The Case of US Campaign Contributions" with Johannes Böken, Mirko Draca, and Nicola Mastrorocco. August 2023.
Social media has changed the structure of mass communication. In this paper we explore its role in influencing political donations. Using a daily dataset of campaign contributions and Twitter activity for US Members of Congress 2019-2020, we find that attention on Twitter (as measured by likes) is positively correlated with the amount of daily small donations received. However, this is not true for everybody: the impact on campaign donations is highly skewed, indicating very concentrated returns to attention that are in line with a ‘winner-takes-all’ market. Our results are confirmed in a geography-based causal design linking member’s donations across states.
"Who Watches the Watchmen? Local News and Police Behavior in the United States" with Nicola Mastrorocco. June 2023.
R&R at the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy. Winner of the European Economic Association Young Economist Award 2020.
Do U.S. municipal police departments respond to news coverage of local crime? We address this question exploiting an exogenous shock to local crime reporting induced by acquisitions of local TV stations by a large broadcast group, Sinclair. Using a unique dataset of 8.5 million news stories and a triple differences design, we document that Sinclair ownership decreases news coverage of local crime. This matters for policing: municipalities that experience the change in news coverage have lower violent crime clearance rates relative to municipalities that do not. The result is consistent with a decrease of crime salience in the public opinion.
Does reducing politicians’ control over public employees’ hiring and firing improve bureaucratic performance? I answer this question exploiting population-based mandates for U.S. municipal police department merit systems in a regression discontinuity design. Merit system mandates improve performance: crime rates are lower in departments operating under a merit system than in departments under a spoils system. Changes in resources or police officers’ characteristics do not drive the effect, but I provide suggestive evidence that the limitations to politicians’ ability to influence police officers are instead important.
Selected Work in Progress
"Media Consolidation" with Josh McCrain, Gregory Martin, and Nicola Mastrorocco. Draft coming soon!