Work in Progress

"Do you have COVID-19? How to increase the use of diagnostic and contact tracing apps" (w/D. Martínez V., C. Parilli, AM Rojas M., and A. Simpser) (under submission)

Abstract: Diagnostic and contact tracing apps are a needed weapon to contain contagion during a pandemic. We study how the content of the messages used to promote the apps influence adoption by running a survey experiment on approximately 23,000 Mexican adults. Respondents were randomly assigned to one of three different prompts, or a control condition, before stating their willingness to adopt a diagnostic app and contact tracing app. The prompt emphasizing government efforts to ensure data privacy, which has been one of the most common strategies, reduced willingness to adopt the apps by about 4 pp and 3 pp. An effective app promotion policy must understand individuals' reservations and be wary of unintended reactions to naïve reassurances.

"On the Demand for Telemedicine: Evidence from the COVID-19 Pandemic" (w/M. Busso and M.P Gonzalez) (under submission)

Abstract: Telemedicine can expand access to health care at relatively low cost. Historically, however, demand for telemedicine has remained low. Using administrative records and a difference-in-differences methodology, we estimate the change in demand for telemedicine experienced after the onset of the COVID-19 epidemic and the imposition of mobility restrictions. We find a 233 percent increase in the number of telemedicine calls and a 342 percent increase in calls resulting in a medication being prescribed. The effects were mostly driven by older individuals with pre-existing conditions who used the service for internal medicine consultations. The demand for telemedicine remains high even after mobility restrictions were relaxed, which is consistent with telemedicine being an experience good. These results are a proof of concept for policymakers willing to expand access to healthcare using technology.

"Let's (not) get together! The role of social norms on social distancing during COVID-19" (w/D. Martínez V., C. Parilli, and A. Simpser) (R&R)

Abstract: While effective preventive measures against COVID-19 are now widely known, many individuals fail to adopt them. We provide experimental evidence about one potentially important driver of compliance with social distancing: social norms. We asked each of 23,000 survey respondents in Mexico to predict how a fictional person would behave when faced with the choice about whether or not to attend a friend's birthday gathering. Every respondent was randomly assigned to one of four social norms conditions. Expecting that other people would attend the gathering and/or believing that other people approved of attending the gathering both increased the predicted probability that the fictional character would attend the gathering by 25\%, in comparison with a scenario where other people were not expected to attend nor to approve of attending. Our results speak to the potential effects of communication campaigns and media coverage of compliance with, and normative views about, COVID-19 preventive measures. They also suggest that policies aimed at modifying social norms or making existing ones salient could impact compliance.

"Disaster and Political Trust: A Natural Experiment from the 2017 Mexico City Earthquake" (w/M. Frost, S. Kim, P. Zamora, and E. J. Zechmeister) (under submission)

Abstract: Political trust undergirds democratic legitimacy, representative government, and the provision of effective public policy. We argue that natural disasters can affect citizens' trust in government by undermining their confidence in the beneficence and competence of public servants. However, disaster relief could countervail these effects. We test the relationship among disaster, trust, and aid using novel data gathered immediately before and after a 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck Mexico City in September 2017. Our results demonstrate that the earthquake negatively affected several measures of political trust. Further, we find that disaster relief could offset this decrease in trust. The results add to the scholarship on the politics of disaster and are important for policy, shedding light on the potential for disaster assistance to restore political trust following a disaster.

"Do Rewards Work? Evidence from the Randomization of Public Works" (w/P. Carrillo, and E. Castro) (R&R)

Abstract: Positive inducements and rewards have become popular tools to generate good behavior, including tax compliance. We evaluate the effect of a reward using a visible and durable good on property-tax compliance by exploiting a natural experiment where a Municipality of Argentina publicly recognized and awarded the construction of a sidewalk to 400 good taxpayers randomly selected through a lottery. We present novel evidence showing that this type of reward can have positive and persistent direct (higher compliance by winners) and spillover (higher compliance by the non-compliant neighbors of the winners) effects. Lessons from this intervention are relevant for the design of the mechanisms to reduce tax evasion, they highlight the importance of evaluating the spillover effects of any intervention, and they provide evidence on the components of rewards that are conducive to positive and persistent effects.

"A Heavy Hand or a Helping Hand? Information Provision and Citizen Preferences for Anti-Crime Policies" (w/D. Gingerich) (under submission)

Abstract: Anti-crime policy is often unresponsive to reductions in crime. To address why, we provide a model and empirical test of how citizens' anti-crime policy preferences respond to information. Our model shows that preferences for anti-crime policy hinge on expectations about the crime rate: punitive policies are preferred in high crime contexts, whereas social policies are preferred in low crime contexts. We evaluate these expectations through an information experiment embedded in the 2017 LAPOP survey conducted in Panama. As expected by our theory, a high crime message induced stronger preferences in favor of punitive policies. Unanticipated by our theory, but in line with cursory evidence and survey results, we find that a low crime message did not induce stronger preferences in favor of social policies. These findings are consistent with policy ratcheting: punitive policies increase during periods of high crime and remain in place during periods of low crime.

"Trustful voters, trustworthy politicians: A Survey Experiment on the influence of Social Media in Politics" (w/N. Aruguete, E. Calvo, and T. Ventura) (under submission)

Abstract: The increase of uncivil dialogue, polarization, and the proliferation of fake news in social media raise questions about the relationship between online negative messages and the decline in political trust. We implement a Trust Game in a survey experiment with 4,800 respondents in Brazil and Mexico. Our design models the effect of social media on trust and trustworthiness. Survey respondents alternate as agents (politicians) and principals (voters), with rewards contingent on their preferred "candidate'' winning the election. We measure the extent to which voters deposit their trust in others and the extent to which they are trustworthy, honoring requests that run counter to their benefit. Results provide robust support for a negative effect of uncivil partisan discourse on trust behavior and null results on trustworthiness.

"Partisan Cues and Perceived Health Risks: The effect of partisan social media frames during the Covid-19 crisis in Mexico" (w/N. Aruguete, E. Calvo, F. Cantú, and S. Ley) (under submission)

Abstract: We present the results of a survey experiment designed to evaluate the effects of social media exposure on perceptions of personal health and job risks during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mexico. Our framing experiment treats respondents to positive and negative partisan messages from high-level politicians. Descriptive findings show divergent evaluations of how the government is addressing the crisis by supporters of the government and opposition parties. Results show that respondents are sensitive to negative frames regardless of the political color of the messenger. Further, supporters of the incumbent are more likely to deflect government's responsibility when treated with a negative frame by a politician from the opposition.

"Property taxation and noncompliance: Evidence from high-frequency panel data" (w/C. Traxler)

Abstract: This project studies property tax noncompliance in a large city in Argentina. We exploit a complex tax reform. The reform implied a series of quarterly or bi- annually nominal tax increases (or decreases) over a period of more than three years. We measure the behavioral responses to within-variation in property taxes using high-frequency panel data on the timing of the payment (and non- payment) of the monthly tax bills for all households and property owners in the city. Preliminary results from two-way fixed effects estimates indicate that higher (real) taxes lead to more delayed tax-payments and an increase in the rate of non-payment. Quantitatively, however, these effects are small on average. Studying heterogeneity of responses according to property values, we find much stronger responses for smaller and less valuable properties. In a second step, we analyze social-interaction effects. Using within-variation in a district’s minimum-tax level, we find that “unaffected” property owners respond to (minimum-tax induced) increases in non-compliance rates in their block. Using an updated wave of data we will substantiate this observation and translate our estimates into a social multiplier of non-compliance.

"Do Tax Amnesties Work? Results from a Field Experiment" (w/E. Castro) Download

Abstract: Limited attention affects our ability to make good choices, but governments can improve decision-making by providing simpler and more salient information. We evaluate the role of inattention in decision-making in the context of a field experiment implemented during a tax amnesty in the city of Santa Fe (Argentina). Tax amnesties are advertised to delinquent taxpayers through direct communication. In the intervention, we redesign the communication notices sent to the taxpayers to evaluate whether increasing salience and reducing cognitive costs increase the probability that taxpayers put attention to the message and understand better the benefits of tax amnesty. We randomize more than 54,000 taxpayers. A group of taxpayers receives the traditional messages. The treatment groups receive redesigned communications. Our results show that messages that reduce the cognitive costs increase the probability that taxpayers will enter the tax amnesty. The amount collected in the treatment groups is up to 8 percent higher than in the control group. We also exploit the exogenous variation in attention to evaluate the convenience of the tax amnesty program for the city given that some people may stop paying the regular bills (creates moral hazard). We find that while people are more willing to cancel their past debt, they are also more likely to reduce their compliance with the current tax bills. Moreover, there is a negative spillover effect in the compliant population (those who had no debts). When the tax amnesty becomes more noticeable, their incentive to comply falls substantially. Making public policy more salient, easier to understand, and less cognitive intensive facilitates decision-making. However, doing it during a tax amnesty may increase collection of past debt, but it could also generate negative incentives for tax compliance in the overall population.


Field Experiment with Aguas de Quito (water service provider) in Quito, Ecuador: Transparency, Payments, and Water Consumption (w/P. Carrillo)

Field Experiment in Mexico City: Pollution, Information, and the Demand of Public Policies (w/B. Hoffman)

Survey Experiment on the Politics of Crime (w/D. Gingerich)

What Policies do Latin Americans Demand for Fighting Crime? (w/F. Cafferata)

Police corruption, trust and demand for public policies. An experimental approximation for Latin America (w/F. Cafferata)

Reframing Demand for Harsher Punishment: Prison Population Information and Its Impact on Policy Choices in Chile (w/F. Cafferata)

Age Eligibility, Elections, and Information Gathering (w/R. Vlaicu)

"Threat, credibility and tax collection: evidence for urban property taxes" (w/Daniel Ortega and Mónica Mogollón)

Effect of Mexico's 2017 earthquake on demand for public policies (w/Paula Zamora R.)

Incentives for Civil Servants. The Role of Nudges and Training (w/Paula Zamora R.)