Ph.D. Candidate in Economics
University of California, Berkeley
I will be on the job market in 2018-19 and available for interviews at the 2019 ASSA Meetings in Atlanta.
Fields: Public Finance, Development, Labor Economics
"Can Wealth Taxation Work in Developing Countries? Quasi-Experimental Evidence from Colombia", with Javier Avila (Job Market Paper)
We study responses to wealth taxes and wealth tax enforcement using personal income and wealth tax returns in Colombia between 1993 and 2016 linked with microdata from the leaked “Panama Papers.” First, we exploit quasi-experimental variation in exposure to wealth taxes introduced by tax reforms and discrete jumps in the wealth tax rate— notches—to estimate elasticities of reported wealth with respect to the net-of-tax rate. Our estimated elasticities are large (3.99) and driven predominantly by misreporting items subject to less third-party reporting, thus disproportionately reflecting sheltering (not real) responses. Second, the obfuscation of assets offshore is the primary conduit for evasion at the top of the wealth distribution. Offshore sheltering appears to be driven at least in part by heftier wealth tax rates. Third, enforcement initiatives encouraged wealthy tax evaders to disclose (at least part of) their true wealth, with two-fifths of taxfilers in the wealthiest 0.01 percent participating in an amnesty program. The bulk of disclosed assets had been concealed abroad. Shocks in perceived detection probability induced by the Panama Papers leak further encouraged disclosing hidden wealth. Finally, enforcement-driven disclosures also raised income tax compliance, raising revenues from the wealthiest taxfilers and restoring tax progressivity at the top of the distribution. We interpret our findings as encouraging evidence that wealth taxes can work in developing countries.
"Upstream and Downstream Impacts of College Merit-Based Financial Aid for Low-Income Students: Ser Pilo Paga in Colombia", with Fabio Sánchez and Catherine Rodríguez, R&R American Economic Journal: Economic Policy
We study the effect of need- and merit-based financial aid on access, persistence and performance in college, as well as the broader impacts of aid on equity, college choice, selectivity, diversity, and high school test performance. We exploit variation in eligibility rules from a recent program in Colombia using test score and wealth index cutoffs that are ex ante unknown to high school students. Financial aid eligibility increases immediate enrollment by 32.6 percentage points and raises persistence by 3.6 percentage points. It also induces substantial shifts in college choice, gearing students towards higher-quality, private universities. More broadly, demand for elite education expands among eligible high school students, increasing selectivity and student quality at top private schools. The SES enrollment gradient disappeared among top students, significantly raising class diversity increases at elite universities. Finally, relative performance in high school exit standardized test improved among low-income students following policy rollout.
Does class diversity affect preferences for redistribution and academic performance? I present results testing the effect of exposure to poor individuals on rich individuals’ perceptions of inequality and poverty, beliefs of social justice, redistributive preferences, and academic outcomes. I exploit the plausibly exogenous timing of a financial aid program that generated an unprecedented and discontinuous jump in the presence of poor students at an elite university in Colombia and test the effect of this shock in peer characteristics using survey experiments. I find a significant positive effect of exposure to poor students on interactions among students with heterogeneous family backgrounds, an increase in perceived inequality, poverty and upward social mobility, a higher perception of meritocracy in college admissions, and a stronger support for redistribution. I find no significant effect on dropout rates and GPA. Moreover, I find weak evidence that younger cohorts are reacting to what has become a more competitive college admissions process by exerting more effort in preparing for the entry exam.
- Summary for broader audience: FocoEconómico
Selected Works in Progress
"The Impact of Large Cash Transfers on Individuals and their Communities", with Arlen Guarin and Christian Posso
"Technological Change and Tax Capacity: Evidence from a Financial Inclusion Reform", with Anne Brockmeyer