Exposures to particulate matter from the eruptions of the Puyehue volcano and birth outcomes in Montevideo, Uruguay. With Ana Balsa and Marcelo Caffera. Published in Environmental health perspectives, 2016, 124(11), 1816-1822.

The effect of Crianza Positiva e-messaging program on adult-child language interactions. With Ana Balsa, Florencia López Boo, Alejandrina Cristia, Alejandro Cid, María de la Paz Ferro, Rosario Valdés and María del Luján González. Forthcoming in Behavioral Public Policy.

Working Papers

Using Behavioral Insights in Early Childhood Interventions: the Effects of Crianza Positiva E-messaging Program on Parental Investment (joint with Ana Balsa and Alejandro Cid)

Abstract: We study whether an e-messaging program rooted on behavioral economics insights helps improve parental investment and commitment. Treated families received messages thrice a week for 24 weeks. The messages were designed to help parents reorient their attention towards positive parenting goals, simplify parental tasks, and reinforce positive identities. Using an RCT on 24 early childhood centers in Uruguay, we find positive effects on the frequency of parental involvement and parenting quality that range around 0.24 standard deviations. Effects were larger for families experiencing more negative shocks and lower negative identity at baseline, suggesting the program triggered the right channels.

The effect of maternal education on infant health: Evidence from an expansion of preschool facilities

Abstract: The aim of this study is to measure the effect of mothers starting school earlier, instead of additional schooling at the end, on health at birth of the next generation. The identification strategy uses a construction program of preschool facilities implemented in Uruguay by the mid 90’s. I exploit variation across regions and over time in the number of facilities built. I find that health at birth as measured by extreme low birth weight and extreme prematurity improves for first-born children of mothers that were exposed to the schooling reform. Also, the likelihood that the birth occurs before the 28th week of gestation is completed, is significantly lower for the entire sample of females exposed to the reform. Maternal education increases preventive care during pregnancy, and reduces fertility.

Explaining the student achievement decline between 2003 and 2012 in Uruguay: Evidence from PISA

Abstract: Despite a substantial increase in government spending in education in recent years, the test results of Uruguayan students have followed a disappointing declining trend. The efforts of the government have been useful to increase secondary school enrollment but the evidence shows that they do not seem to be effective at increasing the skills that students learn while in school. This paper aims to enhance understanding on what is behind the drop in the scores of Uruguayan students in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) between 2003 and 2012. With this purpose, the paper is divided in two parts. First, it analyzes whether the decline can be attributed to differences in students’ characteristics or to differences in the way these characteristics have been used throughout the years. Using traditional and more recent decomposition techniques, a decomposition analysis at the mean and at different points of the score distribution is performed. The analysis reveals that the student performance decline in Uruguay can be attributed almost entirely to changes in the returns to students’ characteristics. Moreover, the analysis is useful to suggest candidate causes of the student achievement decline that are worth to explore in a forward causal way. In particular, one of the candidate causes that stems from the decomposition exercise is the variation in instruction time across years. The second part of this paper uses a within-student identification strategy to estimate the effect of instruction time on achievement at two points in time. The finding from the latter analysis is that instruction time is not able to explain the performance drop of Uruguayan students that is evidenced in PISA data.