I am an Assistant Professor at HEC Montreal.

Fields of Interest: Political Economy, Applied Microeconomics.

Email: eric.avis@hec.ca

CV: here


This paper examines the extent to which government audits of public resources can reduce corruption by enhancing political and judiciary accountability. We do so in the context of Brazil’s anticorruption program, which randomly audits municipalities for their use of federal funds. We find that being audited in the past reduces future corruption by 8 percent, while also increasing the likelihood of experiencing a subsequent legal action by 20 percent. We interpret these reduced-form findings through a political agency model, which we structurally estimate. Our results suggest that the reduction in corruption comes mostly from the audits increasing the perceived nonelectoral costs of engaging in corruption.

Working Papers

Do special interest groups use campaign contributions to buy influence from politicians? In this paper, I develop and structurally estimate a model which integrates interest group competition for influence and the spatial theory of voting. In the model, politicians weigh contributions against their ideological preferences when choosing how to vote, while interest groups allocate contributions across politicians to affect the probability of passage of bills. To estimate the model, I combine a new micro-dataset of interest group positions on over 10,000 bills with a dataset on campaign contributions. Exploiting shifts in contributions due to existing connections between interest groups and politicians, I find that contributions have a significant effect on legislative votes. Moreover, I find that moderate Republicans are more influenceable than ideologically extreme Republicans, but there is no relationship between ideology and influenceability among Democrats. A counterfactual analysis of the 110th to 114th Congresses of the U.S House of Representatives indicates that interest groups altered the outcomes of 3 to 19 votes per Congress, including several on the passage of important bills.

This paper studies the effects of campaign spending limits on political entry and competition. We study a reform in Brazil that imposed limits on campaign spending for mayoral elections. These limits were implemented with a discontinuous kink that we exploit for causal identification. We find that stricter limits increase political competition by creating a larger pool of candidates that is on average less wealthy. Stricter spending limits also reduce the likelihood that mayors are reelected. We interpret our reduced-form findings using a contest model with endogenous entry of candidates.

Work in Progress

  • Language, Assimilation and Identity: Evidence from a Natural Experiment, October 2018.

Theories of nation-building postulate that a common language affects the formation of a common identity. This paper provides the first causal evidence on the effects of common language on the assimilation and identity formation of minorities. I exploit the introduction of a Quebec law in 1977 which forced younger cohorts of migrant children to enroll in French instead of English schools. Using a differences-in-differences estimation strategy, I find that 20 to 30 years later, children required to be schooled in French were 13 percentage points more likely to adopt French as a home language and 13 percentage points less likely to adopt English. The shift in language carries over to a shift in identity: treated children are less attached to Canada and more likely to support Quebec independence and to vote for the Quebec separatist party. Moreover, families of eligible children are more likely to emigrate from Quebec to English Canada. These results are consistent with a model of cultural transmission where parents care about the identity their children will adopt in school.

  • Congressional Capacity and Productivity