This paper investigates whether the decision to attend university is affected
by university enrollment of close neighbors. I create a unique dataset combining
detailed geographic information and educational records from different public
agencies in Chile, and exploit the quasi-random variation generated by student
loans eligibility rules. I find that close neighbors have a large and significant
impact on university enrollment, especially in areas with low exposure to university
and among individuals who are more likely to interact: the effect decreases both
with geographic and social distance and is weaker for individuals who have spent
less time in the neighborhood. I also show that the rise in enrollment translates
into higher university completion rates. These effects are mediated by an increase
in applications rather than by an improvement in academic performance. This set of
results suggests that policies that expand access to university generate positive
spillovers on close peers of the direct beneficiaries.
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.
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.
Using rich administrative data from Chile, we investigate how the context to which young inmates are released affects their probability of returning to prison. In a difference-in-differences setting, we exploit variation generated by the opening of new Pentecostal churches and compare former prisoners from the same neighborhood who live at different distances from the new church. We find that the opening of a new Pentecostal church significantly reduces recidivism among individuals who served sentences related to property crimes; the effects are smaller and less precise for more severe crimes. We discuss three broad classes of mechanisms and argue that our results are more consistent with a decrease in the benefits of committing a crime driven by access to better and wider networks.