Andres Barrios Fernandez

Ph.D. in Economics, LSE






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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 (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 renew the elite or reproduce it? This paper combines five decades of intergenerationally linked data on the educational trajectories of 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 describe the association between social capital--measured by the type of high school parents attended---and children's outcomes. Even after controlling for parents' performance on a national college admission exam, children whose parents attended elite private high schools are more likely to obtain high scores on college entrance exams and to attend elite colleges. These children are also more likely to attend elite private schools themselves. Turning to the causal analysis, we show that parents' admission to an elite college program changes their children's educational paths. 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 not driven 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. Back of the envelope calculations show that, among high human capital families, the intergenerational gains in social capital from elite colleges admission accrue disproportionately to the incumbent social capital elite, but that low social capital families are 20.92% more common among the beneficiaries of elite colleges admission than among the next generation's social elite as a whole. Elite colleges transmit social capital unequally, but less so than other paths through which social capital travels.

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.

Recidivism and Neighborhood Institutions: Evidence from the Rise of the Pentecostal Church in Chile
with Jorge Garcia-Hombrados CEP 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.

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 combines rich administrative data on college applications from seven very different countries: Brazil, Chile, China, Croatia, Finland, Greece, and Sweden. In all these countries, an important share of colleges select their students through centralized admission systems that only consider students' preferences and academic performance. We use these data to study differences in preferences for colleges and majors by gender and socioeconomic status. We find important differences both across the gender and socioeconomic dimensions. In all countries, female students are more likely to apply to health and education majors. Male students, on the other hand, are more likely to apply to STEM majors. These differences persist along the whole distribution of academic ability. Differences in preferences for fields of study are less prominent when comparing individuals from different socioeconomic backgrounds. However, we do find that conditional on academic ability, students from low-SES households apply to less selective programs. These differences could be important to understand some of the inequeality we observe in labor market trajectories. Finally, in none of the countries we study applicants to education programs come from the top of the ability distribution. However, whereas in most of them applicants trend to come from middle- and low-SES backgrounds, in Finland there is an important share of them who come from a high-SES background.

STEM-Moms: Intergenerational Transmission of Preferences for STEM Majors
with Christopher Neilson and Seth Zimmerman

We use data covering more than five decades of college applications from Chile to study the evolution of the gender gap on STEM majors. We then take advantage of family links that allow us to link mothers and their children, and exploiting sharp admission cutoffs, we study how having a mother marginally admitted into a STEM major affects the college applications of their sons and daughters. Preliminary results indicate that daughters whose mothers were marginally admitted to STEM majors are more likely to enroll in STEM majors themselves. We find no significant changes on the applications of sons. These preliminary results suggest that policies designed to close the gender gap in STEM majors could also have an indirect effect on the next generation.

(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.