Research

Peer-Reviewed Publications:
  • Is Mining and Environmental Disamenity? Evidence from Resource Extraction Site Openings. Environmental and Resource Economics, 2020. [View]
  • Spatial Aggregation Bias in Implicit Prices of Environmental Amenities. Economics Bulletin, 2019. [View]
  • Mineral Taxes and the Local Public Goods Provision in Mining Communities (with Dusan Paredes). Resources Policy, 2017. [View]
  • Disaggregation of Sectors in Social Accounting Matrices Using a Customized Wolsky Method: A Comment on its Estimation Bias. Applied Economics Letters, 2016. [View]
  • Scales of Production and Mining Economies: The Case of Chile in its Regional Dimension with Patricio Aroca) (In Spanish). EURE, 2014. [View]
Working Papers: 

Oil, Politics, and “Corrupt Bastards” (Job Market Paper – with Alexander James) (In Preparation for Submission) [Paper][Latest Version]

We develop an analytical framework in which a natural-resource-extracting firm pays an incumbent politician both legal and illegal bribes in exchange for a reduced severance tax rate. A positive resource shock increases the marginal benefit of a tax cut and more bribes are given. We test this theory using forty years of U.S. state-level data, measuring legal corruption as contributions to political campaigns from the oil and gas sector. We measure illegal corruption in two ways: convictions of public corruption and as “reflections” of corruption — measured as the fequency that iterations of words like “corrupt” and “fraud” appear in local newspapers. We find that oil-rich U.S. states are significantly more corrupt than their oil-poor counterparts and that this is especially true during periods of high oil prices, suggesting an underlying causal relationship. Beyond natural resources, our theory predicts that political competition increases legal contributions and decreases illegal ones. The former prediction is supported by the data.

Figure: Average Corruption Convictions per Million Inhabitants.

Air Quality Warnings and Temporary Driving Bans: Evidence from Air Pollution, Car Trips, and Mass-Transit Ridership in Santiago (Under Review)[Paper]

Driving restrictions are a common governmental strategy to reduce airborne pollution and traffic congestion in many cities of the world. Using high-frequency data on air pollution, car trips, and mass-transit systems ridership, I evaluate the effectiveness of temporary driving bans triggered by air quality warnings in Santiago, Chile. I employ a fuzzy regression discontinuity design that uses the thresholds in the air quality index used to announce these warnings as instruments for their announcement. Results show that these temporary bans reduce car trips by 6-9% during peak hours, and by 7-8% during off-peak hours. This is consistent with air pollution reductions during peak hours, and with increases in the use of Santiago’s mass-transit systems during hours the systems run with excess capacity. Increments in mass-transit ridership uncover the importance of alternatives modes of transportation in securing the effectiveness of temporary driving bans.

Figure: Discontinuity Plot on Hourly Vehicle Trips by Environmental Episode

The Coal-to-Gas Fuel Switching and its Effects on Housing Prices (with Scott Loveridge) (In Preparation for Submission) [Latest Version]

We derive causal property value impacts of the coal-to-gas fuel switching conversion carried by several power plants in the United States. We use an extensive dataset of property transactions around the United States and adopt several spatial difference-in-difference approaches that use records of residential property transactions of homes with wind exposure and proximity to the switching plants before and after the innovation. A triple-differences control function estimator using coal-fired plants that did not innovate strengthens these estimations. Our results indicate that the shutting down of coal-fired generators increases property values of downwind homes by 15% in the immediate vicinity of fuel-switching plants (<1.2mi), which brings to light the strong disamenity effect of coal-fired power plants. Our back-of-the envelope calculations suggest that the fuel-switching led to a $1.78 billion-increase in property values around the country.

Figure: Property Value Impact of the Coal-to-Gas Fuel Switching – DID Control Function Estimates Using Downwind Exposure to Pollution
Work in Progress:

The Health Benefits of Solar Power Generation:Evidence from Chile (with Cristobal Ruiz-Tagle and Beia Spiller)

Renewable energy can yield social benefits through local air quality improvements and their consequent impacts on human health. We estimate some of these benefits using the rapid adoption of solar power generation experienced by Chile over the last decade. Our focus is on the spatial heterogeneous effects of this adoption. Using daily variation in generation, we find that solar energy (1) displaces fossil-fueled generation, primarily coal-fired generation, and (2) curtails hospital admissions and urgent care visits –particularly those due to upper and lower respiratory diseases–. These effects are noted mostly in cities that host fossil-fueled generation, and among vulnerable age groups such as seniors, infants and toddlers. Our results document the existence of an additional channel through which renewable energy can increase social welfare.

Pre-Doctoral Work (in Spanish):
  • Chapters in Books:
    • Project Analysis and the Regional Dimension (with P. Aroca), in Evaluación Social de Proyectos: Orientaciones para su Aplicación. Aguilera, R. (Editor). Facultad de Ciencias Sociales, Universidad de la República, Uruguay. 2011.
    • Copper Mining in the Antofagasta Region (with P. Aroca), in Región de Antofagasta, Pasado, Presente y Futuro. Llagostera, A. (Editor). Ediciones Universitarias, Universidad Católica del Norte, Chile. 2010.
    • Water Resources in a Dry Area (with M. Lufin and M. Hasewaga), in Región de Antofagasta, Pasado, Presente y Futuro. Llagostera, A. (Editor). Ediciones Universitarias, Universidad Católica del Norte, Chile. 2010.
    • La Experiencia del Instituto de Economía Aplicada Regional (IDEAR) de la Universidad Católica del Norte (with E. López), in Centros de pensamiento estratégico territorial: Instrumentos de la gobernanza regional en Chile, Vergara, P. (Editor). Subsecretaría de Desarrollo Regional y Administrativo, Chile. 2010.
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CU Environmental and Resource Economics Workshop. Colorado, 2017 – Photo Credits: Sarah Jacobson