Job Market Paper

Unequal Assignments to Public Schools and the Limits of Schools Choice   [results under disclosure review-coming soon]

This paper studies the limits of school choice policies in the presence of residential sorting. Using data from the Boston Public Schools choice system, I first show that white pre-kindergarteners are assigned to higher-achieving schools than minority students, and that cross-race school achievement gaps under choice are no lower than would be generated by a neighborhood assignment rule. To understand why choice-based assignments do not reduce gaps in school achievement, I use rich data on applicants' rank-order choices to estimate applicants' preferences over schools, and consider a series of counterfactual assignments. I find that between 60% and 70% of the gap in achievement at the schools assigned to black and hispanic students relative to white students is explained by travel costs to high-performing schools. Differences in location-independent preferences for schools explain about 30% of the gap, while algorithm rules have no significant effect. Importantly, if black and hispanic parents faced the average travel costs of white parents, the improvement in school achievement for minority students would be coupled with school-matches that are preferred to these students. This effect is equivalent to an increase in average ex-post-utility of 0.4 miles less traveled.

Work in Progress

Civilian Collaboration and Violence in Civil Wars

with Austin Wright

We propose a mechanism that rationalizes changes in violence in civil wars after economic shocks and test it with newly collected data. The rationale we propose, different from previous mechanisms studied, relies on a theory of violence where political groups choose the type of violence -selective or indiscriminate- that maximize their expected control, and where information provided by civilian informants will determine the relative effectiveness of these types of violence. Civilians, on the other hand, are producers of an agricultural good, they choose the political group they will supply information to, if any, having considerations on expected revenue and chances of survival. We argue that increases in the price of commodities whose production relies on collaboration reduce the incentives of civilians to inform against fellow community members. This is the case since denouncing a fellow civilian will lower the gains from collaboration. Since informants feed armed groups with the necessary inputs to effectively carry out selective attacks, a reduction in the information available to political groups will cause a reduction in selective violence. We use text analysis algorithms to classify violent attacks and test the mechanism.