Andres Barrios Fernandez

Ph.D. in Economics, LSE

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I am a Postdoc Fellow at the Department of Economics of MIT and an Associate in the Centre for Economic Performance. I completed my Ph.D. at the Department of Economics of LSE supervised by Steve Pischke and Johannes Spinnewijn. My research interests cover topics on labor and public economics. I am particularly interested in understanding how family and social networks influence human capital investment decisions, as well as their role in inequality and intergenerational mobility.

I will be available for interviews during the:

Job market paper:

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

Are elite colleges drivers of upward mobility, or sites of elite reproduction? This paper combines five decades of intergenerationally linked data on educational outcomes for parents and children in Chile with a regression discontinuity design to document the joint evolution of social and human capital across generations and provide causal evidence on how elite colleges shape this evolution. We first show that social capital---measured by the type of high school parents attend---mediates the transmission of human capital, as measured by test scores. Even after controlling for parents' performance in the college admission exam, children whose parents attended elite private schools are more likely to obtain high scores on college entrance exams and attend elite college programs than children whose parents attended other private schools or subsidized schools. Social capital itself is persistent: it is much more difficult for the children of high scoring, low social capital parents to reach the top of the social capital distribution than for children of low scoring, high social capital parents. We then turn to the causal analysis. We show that admission to an elite college promotes the intergenerational accumulation of social but not human capital. Children of parents from non-elite social backgrounds are 24% more likely to attend an elite private school and 7.1% more likely to attend an elite college when their parents are admitted to an elite college program. These effects are driven not by generic increases in educational expenditures, but by changes in the family and neighborhood environment: parents admitted to elite college programs are more likely to marry high status partners and to live near other high-status families. In contrast, parents' admission does not raise children's test scores. We conclude that while elite colleges reproduce social capital across generations, programs encouraging talented children from low social capital backgrounds to enroll in elite college programs could help to increase intergenerational mobility to the top.

Published papers:

Neighbors' Effects on University Enrollment (Forthcoming, 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.


Working papers and ongoing projects