Job Market Paper:

Dominant groups around the world have historically asserted their power by constructing in public spaces monuments that glorify their narrative, vis-à-vis their opponents’. How does the presence of divisive symbols affect the location choices of those who oppose them? I investigate this issue focusing on Confederate monuments in the US South, symbols that were erected by southern whites in the early 20th century and opposed by African Americans because of their connection to slavery. I isolate the role of these monuments from that of the underlying shifts in ideology and find that monuments directly impacted African Americans' migration patterns, both at the time of construction and today. Historically, I show that southern counties with monuments experienced a sharp decline in the African American share of the population following the construction. Individual-level data confirm this effect was driven by African Americans’ out-migration. I then exploit the presence of a quasi-monopolist producer of Confederate monuments to construct an instrument for the stock of monuments based on transportation costs and the years in which the producer was active. The instrumental-variable analysis confirms that an exogenously higher stock of monuments caused a substantial reduction of the African American share of the population. In the contemporary context, I conduct an online experiment to assess whether monuments continue influencing migration choices. I randomize the presence of Confederate monuments in the visual description of hypothetical destination cities and I ask respondents to consider job offers located there. I find that respondents ask higher reservation wages and are substantially less likely to accept job offers if the city has a monument. The effect for African Americans is twice the size for whites in the South.


Economics & Politics (2023[PDF]

I provide evidence for the importance of direct electoral processes by investigating the con- sequences for public spending of an unexpected reform that repealed direct elections as the way to select local politicians in Italy. Provincial elections were substituted with an indirect process, whereby directly elected municipal politicians choose a municipal mayor to serve as provincial president. Using a difference-in-differences strategy, I document two main consequences of the reform. First, municipalities where the provincial presidents were born tend to receive disproportionately more public funds after the reform. Second, the share of provincial resources spent on public goods drops in favor of bureaucratic costs. I discuss suggestive evidence hinting that these results are driven by lower electoral incentives rather than by the selection of worse politicians.

Working Papers:

with Kevin Dano, Vincenzo Galasso , Caroline Le Pennec , Vincent Pons. NBER working paper 30541. (Revise and Resubmit, Journal of the European Economic Association)

   Column: [VoxEU]

In theory, free and fair elections can improve the selection of politicians and incentivize them to exert effort. In practice, incumbency advantage and coordination issues may lead to the (re)election of bad politicians. We ask whether these two forces compound each other. Using a regression discontinuity design in French two-round local and parliamentary elections, we find that winning an election increases candidates’ chances to win the next election by 25.1 percentage points. Close winners are more likely to run again and more likely to win, conditional on running, than close losers. Incumbents personalize their campaign communication more and face fewer ideologically close competitors, indicating that parties coordinate more effectively on the winning side than on the losing side. A complementary RDD reveals that marginally qualifying for the runoff also enables candidates to rally new voters, but does not affect the number of competitors on their side. We conclude that party coordination and voters rallying candidates who won or gained visibility in an election both contribute to their success in future races, even absent any actual difference in quality with candidates on the losing side.

with Stephanie Kang

We study the consequences of immigrant enfranchisement by exploiting Romania’s accession to the EU in 2007, which granted municipal election voting rights to Romanian immigrants in Italy. We conduct an event-study analysis at the municipality-by-year level and reach three key findings. First, we find that the enfranchisement of Romanian immigrants leads to an increase in the likelihood of electing a Romanian-born councilor in municipal elections, with higher increases for municipalities expecting a competitive election. Using an instrumented difference-in-differences approach, we find the increase in representation is driven by enfranchisement of the preexisting population and not by new Romanian arrivals following the accession. Second, we find that social capital among Romanian immigrants increases after 2007, indicating that the effect of enfranchisement extends beyond political representation to integration. However, despite the increase in representation and social capital, we find that immigrant presence increases the likelihood of a right-leaning party victory, raises municipal spending on public security, and lowers spending on social programs. This suggests that natives’ backlash against immigrant presence plays a bigger role in determining the winning party than the existence of a newly enfranchised immigrant community.

with Brian Knight. NBER working paper 30393. (Revise and Resubmit, Journal of Public Economics)

This paper develops a new approach to detecting electoral fraud. Our context involves repeaters, individuals voting in multiple states in the U.S. during 19th Century Congressional Elections. Given high travel times, and the associated difficulties of voting in multiple states on the same day, we exploit the staggered introduction of holding federal elections on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November (1T1M). The key finding is that county-level turnout rates fell when the closest neighboring state coordinated on 1T1M. This result is consistent with 1T1M adoption making repeating more difficult. In terms of mechanisms, the pattern is stronger in states that had not yet adopted the secret ballot, consistent with the secret ballot itself reducing voter fraud. The pattern is also driven by smaller population counties, consistent with repeaters particularly inflating turnout rates in these places.

Selected Work in Progress: