Research

Working Papers

Abstract: This paper studies the impact of services liberalization on education and the gender education gap at the district level in India. We focus on the time period 1987 to 1999 and three services sectors - banking, insurance and telecommunications - which were all state monopolies, have been heavily liberalized in the time frame studied, have relatively high shares of female employment and require high education investments. Our hypothesis is that the national-level liberalization spurred higher investment in education in districts with higher employment growth in these key services sectors. Our results indicate that employment growth in the liberalized sectors increases the average years of schooling and reduces the gender education gap. These effects are persistent and mostly driven by the banking and telecommunications sectors. Further analysis suggests that both growing incomes and higher returns to education drive these relationships.

A Generation of Italian Economists (with Ugo Panizza and Martina Viarengo)

[Latest version here] [Harvard CID Faculty Working Paper] [VOX column] [under review]

Presentations: Rare Voices in Economics Conference (2021); IHEID Brown Bag Lunch seminar (2021)

Abstract: We examine the role of financial aid in shaping the formation of human capital in economics. Specifically, we study the impact of a large merit-based scholarship for graduate studies in affecting individuals’ occupational choices, career trajectories, and labor market outcomes of a generation of Italian economists with special focus on gender gaps and the role of social mobility. We construct a unique dataset that combines archival sources and includes microdata for the universe of applicants to the scholarship program and follow these individuals over their professional life. Our unique sample that focuses on the high end of the talent and ability distribution also allows us to analyze the characteristics of top graduates, a group which tends to be under-sampled in most surveys. We discuss five main results. First, it is easier to become a high achiever for individuals from households with a lower socio-economic status if they reside in high social mobility provinces. However, high-achievers from lower socio-economic status households face an up-hill battle even in high social mobility provinces. Second, women are less likely to be shortlisted for a scholarship as they tend to receive lower scores in the most subjective criteria used in the initial screening of candidates. Third, scholarship winners are much more likely to choose a research career and this effect is larger for women. Fourth, women who work in Italian universities tend to have less citations than men who work in Italy. However, the citation gender gap is smaller for candidates who received a scholarship. Last, women take longer to be promoted to the rank of full professor, even after controlling for academic productivity.

Abstract: As of 2020, 770 million people still lack access to electricity worldwide and 10% of this population is in Nigeria. Nevertheless, the country has received so far little attention in this respect from the academic community. The economic literature also does not generally agree on the impact of access to electricity on education outcomes, despite being the object of several programmes and policies, and one of the key SDGs of the 2030 Agenda. This paper aims at filling these gaps in the literature by providing a medium-term analysis of the effect of village-level electricity access on kids’ schooling in rural Nigeria. It also contributes to the methodological debate using a novel instrument in this context, namely the frequency of lightning strikes in the area surrounding households. The results show that electricity access leads to an increase in school enrolment and a decrease in the grade-for-age (GFA) gap, a measure of educational performance. The paper also discusses some of the mechanisms that can lead to the observed findings, their robustness and heterogeneity, as well as the role of the quality of electricity received.

Academic Publications

The impact of electrification on labour market outcomes in Nigeria (with Simone Tagliapietra, Giovanni Occhiali and Robert Kalcik)

[Economia Politica - Journal of Analytical and Institutional Economics (July 2020)]

Abstract: This article aims at providing a better understanding of the effect of electricity access onto labour market outcomes in Nigeria, a country which hosts the second largest population without access to electricity in the world after India, but which has received so far very little attention from the academic community. We assess, through a rigorous econometric analysis carried out employing probit, biprobit and propensity score matching, this impact on the proportion of employed working age components of a household. We consider both female and male employment as well as agricultural and non-agricultural employment separately, further disaggregating the effect between rural and urban households. Our results show that, once the possible endogeneity in the relationships under investigation is tackled, electricity access has indeed a relevant impact on particular labour market outcomes. Specifically, we show a consistent shift out of agricultural employment of around 7% and into non-agricultural employment of about 15%., with some evidence of a positive effect on overall labour participation. These findings show that the expansion of electricity access to households which are not yet connected to the grid could play a relevant role in both increasing labour market participation and in helping the transformation of the Nigerian economy away from agricultural activities.

Metabolic and psychological effects of increased consumption of less-processed foods in daily diets (with Gianluca Isoardo, Giuseppe Migliaretti and Stefano Ciullo)

[European Journal of Public Health (February 2020)]

Abstract

Aim: This study evaluated whether the consumption of locally produced food without additives might have a positive effect on known risk factors for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as hypertension, and levels of fasting glucose and visceral adipose tissue (VAT). Attention was focused on various types of cheese, sausages, fresh pasta, pastries, biscuits and chocolate without additives to make them palatable and durable for transport.

Methods: Healthy volunteers were randomized to purchase the foods under study from either local producers not using additives (group 1) or supermarkets (group 2). At baseline and after 6 months, both groups underwent evaluation for weight, blood pressure, VAT, serum sodium, potassium, fasting glucose, insulin, C-peptide and creatinine levels, and also the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) and Beck Depression Inventory (BDI-II) by examiners blinded to group allocation. At baseline, the state part of the STAI and Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale IV were also performed, and body mass index, HOMA index and estimated glomerular filtration rate calculated.

Results: Data for 159 subjects (89 in group 1, 70 in group 2) were analyzed. Baseline evaluations did not differ between groups. At 6 months, HOMA scores and fasting glucose levels were lower in group 1 than in group 2 (P < 0.01). Also, in group 1, VAT (P = 0.006), systolic blood pressure (P = 0.001) and BDIII score (P = 0.0005) were decreased, whereas serum fasting glucose (P = 0.04) and C-peptide (P = 0.03) levels, and diastolic blood pressure (P = 0.02), were increased in group 2.

Conclusions: Consumption of the locally produced food under study improved some of the major risk factors for NCDs after 6 months.

Policy Publications

Global Value Chain Development Report 2021: Beyond Production (Chapter author)

[Asian Development Bank - World Trade Organization (November 2021)] [VOX column]

Abstract: The report shows how the rise of services value chains offers a new path to development and how protectionism and geopolitical tensions, environmental risks, and pandemics are undermining the stability of global value chains and forcing their reorganization geographically. Global value chains (GVCs) are the cross-border networks that bring a product or service from conception to market. The tasks that add most value in these chains usually occur before or after production, such as product design or marketing. Intangible assets and intellectual property—including brands, patented technologies, and supply chain management know-how—increasingly determine the ability of firms to lead and benefit from GVCs. Meanwhile, digital platforms are changing who participates in GVCs, increasing opportunities for developing economies and micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises. These platforms can also bring challenges, including uneven access to digital infrastructure and a tendency toward consolidation that reduces competition. Participation in services GVCs can help generate well-paying jobs and boost inclusive growth. To support such participation, policy makers need to tackle obstacles to increasing educational attainment. Reducing risks to GVCs, including geopolitical, environmental, and pandemic risks, requires outward-oriented strategies.

Low carbon technology exports: the race is still open (with Georg Zachmann)

[Bruegel (August 2017)]

Abstract: A country’s relative strength in exporting a certain product is likely to persist. But it is easier to gain a comparative advantage in exporting low carbon products. When it comes to R&D, strength in a certain technological field is much less linked to past specialisation. This also holds for low carbon technologies. Finally, our preliminary findings are consistent with the view that R&D can help a country specialise in clean technology exports. However, we are not yet able to show that policy action supporting R&D in clean technologies is a sensible way to develop a comparative export advantage in these sectors.

Building positive incentives: the potential of coalitions for sustainable finance (with Dirk Schoenmaker)

[Bruegel (July 2017)]

Abstract: We need to move towards more sustainable, long-term thinking in the corporate and financial worlds. Coalitions of willing actors could play a role in driving this process. But what makes for an effective coalition, and how can this be measured? The authors assess existing coalitions for sustainable finance and business, and argue that well-functioning coalitions can positively reinforce social and government action.

Brexit goes nuclear: The consequences of leaving Euratom (with Simone Tagliapietra)

[Bruegel (February 2017)]

Abstract: The UK Government has confirmed that it will withdraw from Euratom. But what does Euratom actually do? And what will happen when the UK leaves? The authors find major risks, potential costs and open questions.

The impact of Brexit on UK tertiary education and R&D (with Maria Demertzis)

[Bruegel (February 2017)]

Abstract: In this blog post, we look at the impact of Brexit on UK’s education and research and development sectors in terms of students and staff, as well as funding.

OPEC’s revival or swan song? First evidence from financial markets (with Simone Tagliapietra)

[Bruegel (December 2016)]

Abstract: On Wednesday, 30 November 2016, OPEC reached a milestone agreement to cut oil production by 1.2 million barrels a day in a long-awaited attempt to end the savage two-year downturn in prices that has shredded the budgets of its members. The deal will come into effect in January 2017 and it will mark a U-turn from the pump-at-will policy adopted by the group in November 2014.

Work-in-Progress

The Agricultural Technical Efficiency-Food Security Nexus in Nigeria

[April 2022 version here]

Food insecurity is one of the world’s greatest challenges and there is still no consensus on which structural strategies should be adopted to cope with it. In sub-Saharan Africa, and particularly in Nigeria, food insecurity is accompanied by very poor technical efficiency of farmers, resulting in below potential profits. These two challenges can be tackled jointly: this paper studies the relation between agricultural technical efficiency and food insecurity using a two-step approach. It first estimates farmers’ technical efficiency, employing a profit stochastic frontier framework on three waves of Nigeria’s General Household Survey (GHS) data. Then, it assesses the impact of these estimates on mild, moderate and severe measures of food insecurity at the province level, thanks to both probit and biprobit models with a rich set of covariates. I find that technical efficiency improvements are particularly effective in reducing the more severe types of food insecurity, with an estimated elasticity of about -0.40 (-0.45) for moderate (severe) food insecurity. Therefore, policies aimed at improving farmers’ profit technical efficiency can also have a strong impact on reducing food insecurity.