Andres Barrios Fernandez

Ph.D. in Economics, LSE






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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 (Published, 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:

Elite Universities and the Intergenerational Transmission of Human and Social Capital 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.

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.

Closing Gaps in Higher Education Trajectories: The Effect of Targeted Information and Mentorship (RCT in progress)
with Josefina Eluchans-Errázuriz and Fernanda Ramírez-Espinoza
#Information pack #Visiting schools #Implementation team

Using a randomized controlled trial (RCT), this project aims to assess whether the provision of targeted information and mentoring to students attending vocational high schools affect the quantity and type of post-secondary studies they pursue and their higher education aspirations. The RCT randomly assigned 80 high schools to the control group, 80 high schools to an information-only treatment group, and 80 high schools to a combination of information and mentoring treatment group. The mentoring treatment is randomly assigned to only a few students per class, a feature that will allow us to study the spillovers of the mentoring program on the social network of treated individuals. With this last part of the experiment, we aim to understand to which extent social spillovers could be used to design more efficient and effective interventions to help students to make informed decisions about their post-secondary education trajectories.

Teacher Value Added and Gender Gaps on Educational Outcomes
with Marc Riudavets

This paper estimates teacher value added (TVA) models to study differences inteacher effectiveness for male and female students. Taking advantage of rich admin-istrative data from Chile, we build a unique dataset that allows us to link studentswith their eighth-grade math and reading teachers, and follow them in high schooland in their transition to higher education. We estimate TVA in test scores and inan educational attainment index, and show that differences on teacher effectivenessexplain an important part of the gender gaps we observe on standardized tests andon postsecondary education trajectories. Next, using survey data covering the uni-verse of eight grade students and their math teachers, we explore whether teachers’characteristics and practices explain the differences that we document on teacher effectiveness. Although we do not find important differences in the relationship between teachers’ practices and their effectiveness for male and female students, we do find significant associations that suggest that certain teaching practices benefit both male and female students.

Inequality in College Applications: Evidence from Three Continents (Draft coming soon)
with Adam Altjmed, Aspacia Bizopoulou, Martti Kaila, Christopher Neilson, Sebastián Otero, and Xiaoyang Ye

This paper documents large gaps in the fields and in the quality of the college programs to which individuals from different social and gender groups apply in Brazil, Chile, China, Finland, Greece, Spain, and Sweden. These seven countries significantly differ in size, economic development, culture, and geographic location. However, in all of them, universities select their students through centralized admissions. This feature of their higher education systems allows us to study differences in college applications conditioning on the only factor that colleges can consider to select their students---i.e., students' academic performance. We find that individuals from low-educated households consistently apply to worse-quality college programs measured by peer test scores. Indeed, low-SES students in the top decile of our measure of academic performance apply to programs in which admitted students score between 0.1SD and 0.2SD below than the students admitted to the programs to which similarly talented students from high-SES backgrounds apply. In addition, we document a large and significant gender gap in preferences for fields of study. Women are between 20 and 40 percentage points less likely to apply to STEM degrees, and between 10 and 30 percentage points more likely to apply to health degrees in all the countries we study. Our results suggest that closing gaps in academic performance is not enough to eliminate inequality in college trajectories across gender and social groups. There are important differences in the institutions and programs to which individuals with similar choice sets, but different gender or socioeconomic origin apply.

(Dis)Connecting People: Labor Market Consequences of the Nokia Decline
with Jarkko Harju and Tuomas Matikka

This paper exploits a large shock that affected the Finnish telecommunications industry— i.e., the launch of the iPhone and the decline of Nokia that followed—to study how different types of displaced workers responded to the shock. Using Finnish administrative registers we are able to follow individuals displaced from Nokia for up to eight years after the shock. Preliminary analyses show that although all displaced workers suffered important losses in the labor market, high skilled individuals were more likely to recover. In addition, many high skilled workers eligible to receive seed capital as part of their exit agreement, started new businesses. In comparison to other firms started by similar individuals around the same time, the firms started by ex-Nokia employees have higher survival rates and higher annual turnover.

Other writing:

Peer Effects in Education requested article for the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Economics and Finance.

Instruction Time and Educational Outcomes requested piece for IZA World of Labor.

Recidivism and Neighborhood Institutions with Jorge García-Hombrados. Vox EU, CEPR.

Instituciones Barriales y Reincidencia Criminal with Jorge García-Hombrados. Nada es Gratis.

Trayectorias Educativas y Redes Sociales Nada es Gratis.