Andres Barrios Fernandez

Ph.D. in Economics, LSE






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I am an Assistant Professor at the School of Business and Economics of the Universidad de Los Andes, and an associate at the Centre for Economic Performance at LSE. I received my Ph.D. from the Department of Economics of LSE in 2019, and recently completed a postdoc at the Department of Economics of MIT.

My research interests cover different topics in labor and public economics, but I primarily work on economics of education. I am particularly interested in understanding how family and social networks impact human capital investment decisions, as well as the role that they play in shaping inequality and intergenerational mobility. Through my research, I aim to contribute to understanding and tackling inequality on educational attainment and on access to opportunities.


Published papers:

Neighbors' Effects on University Enrollment (AEJ: Applied Economics) #Data #Code
Last draft , Online Appendix

This paper provides causal evidence that close neighbors significantly influence potential applicants’ decision to attend university. I create a unique dataset combining detailed geographic information and individual educational records in Chile, and exploit the quasi-random variation generated by student loans eligibility rules. I find that potential applicants are significantly more likely to attend and complete university when their closest neighbor—-defined as the closest individual applying to university one year before—-becomes eligible for a student loan and enrolls in university. This increase in enrollment is mediated by an increase in the probability of taking the admission exam and applying to university. The closest neighbor typically lives 0.09 km away, and neighbors’ influence decays with distance. My results highlight the importance of social influences for university enrollment decisions and suggest that financial aid and university access policies may have important spillover effects.

O Brother, Where Start Thou? Sibling Spillovers on College and Major Choice in Four Countries (The Quarterly Journal of Economics) with A. Altmejd, M. Drlje, J. Goodman, M. Hurwitz, D. Kovac, C. Mulhern, C. Neilson and J. Smith.
Online Appendix , Summary Video

Family and social networks are widely believed to influence important life decisions but causal identification of those effects is notoriously challenging. Using data from Chile, Croatia, Sweden, and the United States, we study within-family spillovers in college and major choice across a variety of national contexts. Exploiting college-specific admissions thresholds that directly affect older but not younger siblings’ college options, we show that in all four countries a meaningful portion of younger siblings follow their older sibling to the same college or college-major combination. Older siblings are followed regardless of whether their target and counterfactual options have large, small or even negative differences in quality. Spillover effects disappear, however, if the older sibling drops out of college, suggesting that older siblings’ college experiences matter. That siblings influence important human capital investment decisions across such varied contexts suggests that our findings are not an artifact of particular institutional detail but instead a more generalizable description of human behavior. Causal links between the postsecondary paths of close peers may partly explain persistent college enrollment inequalities between social groups and suggests that interventions to improve college access may have multiplier effects.

It's Time to Learn: School Institutions and Returns to Instruction Time (Economics of Education Review) with G.Bovini. #Data #Code

This paper investigates whether the effects of a reform that substantially increased daily instruction time in Chilean primary schools vary depending on school institutions. Focusing on incumbent students and exploiting an IV strategy, we find that longer daily schedules increase reading scores at the end of fourth grade and that the benefits are greater for pupils who began primary education in no-fee charter schools rather than in public schools. We provide evidence that these two types of publicly subsidized establishments, which cater to similar students but differ in their degree of autonomy, expand the teaching input in different ways: in order to provide the additional instruction time, no-fee charter schools rely more on hiring new teachers and less on increasing teachers’ working hours than public schools do.

Submitted papers:

Recidivism and Neighborhood Institutions: Evidence from the Rise of the Pentecostal Church in Chile (R&R Journal of Labor Economics) with Jorge Garcia-Hombrados
CEP Discussion Paper CEPR Discussion Paper

Rehabilitating convicted criminals is challenging; indeed, an important share of them returnto prison only a few years after their release. Thus, finding effective ways of encouraging crimedesistance, particularly among young individuals, has become an important policy goal to reducecrime and incarceration rates. This paper provides causal evidence that the local institutionsof the neighborhood that receives young individuals after prison matter. Specifically, we showthat the opening of an Evangelical church reduces twelve-months re-incarceration rates amongproperty crime offenders by more than 10 percentage points. This effect represents a drop of 16% in the probability of returning to prison for this group of individuals. We find smaller and less precise effects for more severe types of crime. We discuss three classes of mechanisms thatcould explain our results: social support, promotion of evangelical values, and social monitoring. We provide evidence that the social support provided by evangelical churches is an importantdriver of our findings. This suggests that non-religious local institutions could also play an important role in the rehabilitation of former inmates.

Elite Universities and the Intergenerational Transmission of Human and Social Capital (Submitted) with C.Neilson and S.Zimmerman
Online Appendix

Do elite colleges help talented students from modest backgrounds join the social elite, or help incumbent elites retain their positions? We combine five decades of linked data on parents and children in Chile with a regression discontinuity design to show that, in the long run, elite colleges in fact do both. We first document intertwined intergenerational persistence in academic achievement and social status. Mean child rank on college admissions exams is linear in parent rank, with higher intercepts and flatter slopes for children whose parents attend a set of high-status, high-tuition private high schools. At the same time, children of high-status parents are more likely to attend high-status high schools and enroll in elite college degree programs, with gaps increasing in parents’ exam rank. We then show that parents’ access to elite colleges raises child social capital, but not human capital. Children of lower-status parents just above the threshold for admission to elite degree programs score no better on college entrance exams than children of parents just below, but are 21% more likely to attend a high-status private high school. Social and spousal links to high-status college peers are the key mechanism. Combining our descriptive and quasi-experimental estimates in a VAR model of social and academic mobility shows that elite universities raise both the intergenerational correlation between parent and child social capital and the cross-sectional correlation between social and human capital. Elite universities thus reduce social capital mobility but shift its distribution along meritocratic lines, towards academic high-achievers.

Click here to see my working papers and ongoing research.


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