Research

Working papers

  1. Affording expensive ceremonies: Evidence from quinceañeras in Mexico (Job Market Paper)

    Despite their limited resources, low-income households in developing countries spend considerably on festivals and ceremonies. How do they afford this, and how do such events affect their economic outcomes? I address these questions using a coming-of-age ceremony in Latin cultures called a quinceañera. To overcome the endogeneity associated with ceremony timing, I exploit a unique feature of quinceañeras that only households with a 15-year-old girl have the ceremony. With repeated cross-sectional data from Mexico, I show that households fund quinceañeras using savings, transfers from other households, and increased labor supply by mothers. However, quinceañeras decrease the probability that households engage in non-agricultural businesses, suggesting that ceremonial expenses crowd out business resources. My study provides insights into how households facing incomplete credit markets in developing countries manage large expenditures.

  2. Temperature and the work of bureaucrats
    with Ana Paula Melo

    A growing body of literature shows evidence that high temperatures negatively impact performance. Less studied is the impact on the work performance of government bureaucrats. Our paper estimates the impact of temperature on auditors’ work performance, measured by the likelihood with which auditors report corruption. We use data on hundreds of municipalities randomly audited in an anti-corruption program in Brazil. We find that auditors are more likely to report corruption if their fieldwork is conducted under higher temperatures. We discuss the potential mechanisms underlying our findings, which highlight important avenues for further research. Our results have implications for understanding the influence of external factors on essential government functions that impact social welfare.

  3. Temperature, effort, and achievement: Evidence from a large-scale standardized exam in Brazil
    with Ana Paula Melo

    We provide empirical evidence on how the exam stakes affect the sensitivity of performance to temperature. We explore the unique Brazilian context in which the stakes of a large-scale standardized exam change from relatively low to high. Using within-individual variations in exam scores and temperature across two exam days, we find a negative impact of high temperature on exam scores. The effects are non-linear, especially when the temperature increases to the high 30s. When we interact temperature with the proportion of universities in a locality using the national exam as the primary admission criteria, we find that the higher the stakes, the smaller the effects of temperature on exam performance.

Work in Progress

  1. Winter weather on exam dates and matriculation for a prestigious university in Japan