Biography

I am a Research Professor at Tecnologico de Monterrey’s Graduate School of Government and Public Transformation. My fields of research are Political Economy and Development Economics. My work leverages advanced quantitative methods to study the political causes and consequences of some of today’s most pressing development issues - inequality, violence, trade, migration and growth. I have a PhD in Public Policy from Harvard University, and pursued postdoctoral research at Princeton Politics and Harvard’s Growth Lab. Previously, I was an Assistant Professor in Texas A&M’s Bush School of Government and Public Service.

You can download my CV here.

Interests
  • Political Economy
  • Development Economics
  • International Trade
  • Applied Econometrics
  • Latin America
Education
  • PhD in Public Policy, 2022

    Harvard University

  • Masters in Public Administration in International Development, 2012

    Harvard University

  • Bachelor of Arts in Economics, 2009

    Universidad Católica Andrés Bello

Research

Published and Accepted Work

Local electoral effects of opposition candidate visits in dominant party regimes: Evidence from Venezuela (Journal of Politics, 2024)

Abstract: Aiming to stimulate local electoral support, presidential candidates often devote their scarce time to visiting local communities. Comparing visited and non-visited communities to assess the effect of visits is likely to yield biased results, as other campaign interventions tend to correlate with visits. This paper studies the local electoral effects of Henrique Capriles Radonsky (HCR)’s visits in 2012 on his presidential bids against Hugo Chávez in 2012 and Nicolás Maduro in 2013. Leveraging the panel structure of electoral outcomes and unique data on local priorities for the deployment of campaign efforts, I estimate that HCR visits improved his electoral support by 0.5 percentage points without affecting electoral turnout. These effects concentrate for the 2013 election, and are contingent to low-priority environments, suggesting that visits operate as substitutes of other campaign interventions. Overall, results suggest that visits affected electoral outcomes by locally enhancing access to information about HCR.

Transparent corruption: The effect of illicit connections and trusted references on the demand for bureaucratic intermediation (Journal of Experimental Political Science, 2024)

Abstract: This paper investigates the effect of priming the existence of corrupt connections to the bureaucracy on the demand for intermediary services. We perform an experimental survey with undergraduate students in Caracas, Venezuela. Participants are presented with a hypothetical situation in which they need to obtain the apostille of their professional degrees in order to migrate, and are considering whether to hire an intermediary (“gestor”) or not. The survey randomly reveals the existence of an illicit connection between the gestor and the bureaucracy. Our findings are not consistent with a “market maker” hypothesis that revealing the existence of illicit connections increases demand. Consistent with the view that trust is a key element in inherently opaque transactions, we find that the demand for intermediaries is price inelastic when gestores are referred by trusted individuals.

Export side effects of wars on organized crime: The case of Mexico (Journal of International Economics, 2023)

Abstract: This paper finds that law enforcement interventions during the Mexican Drug War (MDW) hindered local export growth. We leverage exogenous variation in drug enforcement from the close election of mayors affliated with the national ruling party during the MDW. Firms servicing the same markets but exogenously exposed to drug enforcement experienced lower export growth. The MDW decreased capital investments, eroding productivity gains in capital-intensive activities. (Online appendix) (Faculti Interview)

Economic Development in Historical Political Economy (The Oxford Handbook of Historical Political Economy, 2022)

Abstract: Understanding the primary causes of human prosperity is one of the most important endeavors of social scientists. Much research in the 20th century followed a neo-classical approach which emphasized important factors such as physical capital, human capital, and technological change, but was nonetheless devoid of historical context and political factors. In recent decades there has been a resurgence of political and historically-embedded explanations of economic development, which have greatly expanded upon the works of early political economists such as Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, and Karl Marx. This chapter provides an overview of this recent research on geography, institutions, and human capital, along with their interactions, as drivers of long-term economic development. We then move beyond these paradigms to argue that explanations focused on state capacity and state-led development have been largely overlooked by many historical political economists. A better understanding of the state should help scholars identify paths to break away from the low-growth equilibrium of less-developed countries.

Gains from globalization and economic nationalism: AMLO v. NAFTA in the 2006 Mexican election (Economics and Politics, 2022)

Abstract: Do gains from globalization erode support for economic nationalism? We implement a shift-share strategy to study how NAFTA-enhanced local access to US-markets affected Mexican demands for protectionist platforms. The left, led by Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), under-performed in cities benefiting from export access gains during the 2006 presidential elections. This effect is observed strictly in 2006, the only post-NAFTA election in which debates over trade integration played a salient role. Our findings are robust to controls for import competing pressures from NAFTA and the China Shock. AMLO’s 2006 protectionist platform likely cost him that year’s election, and campaign media strategies in 2012 map to this earlier backlash.

Remote Work Wanted? Evidence from job postings during COVID-19 (Published version for ACM’s COMPASS 2021 Conference)

Abstract: As the COVID-19 pandemic pushed firms to comply with social distancing guidelines, the relative demand for work that could be performed from home was expected to increase. However, while employment in “remotable" occupations was relatively resilient during the pandemic, online job postings, which measure demand for new hires, for these occupations dropped disproportionately. This apparent contradiction is not explained by prior job “churning" in “non-remote” jobs, nor by the recomposition of the labor market across economic sectors. The underperformance of postings for “remotable” jobs during the pandemic is concentrated in essential occupations and occupations with high returns to experience.

Revise and Resubmit

GLocal: A global development dataset of local administrative areas. (R&R, Scientific Data)

Abstract: The purpose of the Glocal dataset is to enable development research that requires both international scope and subnational precision. Leveraging modern geospatial analysis tools, we process a diverse array of sources to provide researchers with a growing set of economic, demographic, ecological and socio-political variables at comparable geographic and temporal units. We provide separate files for data at the first (Country), second (i.e. State) and third administrative (i.e. Municipality) levels with either static, yearly or monthly periodicity. We also provide a number of ad-hoc files for specific topics. Given the growing number of public, granular and relevant sources, we hope to continue expanding this dataset in the future.

Working papers

Autocrats in crisis mode: Strategic favoritism during economic shocks (Submitted)

Abstract: Do autocrats favor their supporters during economic shocks? I introduce a model of redistribution and regime stability that shows how in-group favors can be a strategic response to economic downturns. The model predicts that, as economic shocks worsen, autocrats may favor their supporters and confront opposition protests to save on appeasement costs. I test the model’s main results in two empirical settings. First, I focus on the Venezuelan blackouts of 2019. Consistent with the model, the Maduro regime was more likely to exempt regime-supporting regions affected by the blackout from later power rationing. Moreover, blackout-induced protests were limited to opposition-leaning regions. I then focus on negative rainfall shocks in Sub-Saharan Africa. Droughts magnify differences in development, protests and state-coercion outcomes in favor of leaders’ home regions. (VoxDev Column)

Vulnerability, fear of discrimination and clientelism: Organizer identity and the backfire of solidarity (Submitted)

Abstract: Fear of discrimination can distort the negative effect of vulnerability-reducing interventions on clientelism. Distortions should be greatest in poorer communities, and weakest in incumbent-supporting areas. We study the opposition-linked Alimenta la Solidaridad soup-kitchens in Caracas at the peak of Venezuela’s humanitarian and democratic crises. Turnout rates were more resilient in kitchen-adjacent voting centers after the opposition’s electoral boycott. This apparent backfire was strongest in poorer areas, and weakest in regime-supporting areas. Results are contingent to areas that experienced past electoral irregularities due to regime local mobilization efforts, and cannot be explained by concurrent redistribution initiatives.

Direct flights, trade and specialization (Submitted)

Abstract: We leverage geographic discontinuities in international air travel to show that regular direct connections between countries enable them to trade, especially in specialized products. Back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that the effect of direct flights at this margin could account for up to 1.6% of world trade. While direct flights do not affect transportation expenses, they do induce bilateral business travel. Finally, we show that countries with stronger air connections tend to specialize away from each other’s comparative advantages. These findings underscore the enduring importance of face-to-face interactions in initiating and sustaining commercial partnerships.

Coalition trimming in spiraling economies: The case of Venezuela’s Oil Czar (Submitted)

Abstract: Do leaders court or cut the entourage of sidelined elites during economic crises? We look at the case of Rafael Ramirez, Venezuela’s former Oil Czar, who was purged from Chavismo’s Cabinet in late 2014. We find that Ramirez-affiliated individuals and firms became discretely less likely to receive government appointments and contracts upon his purge. Effects on appointments are greatest for high-spending agencies, and firms affiliated with the military and with Nicolas Maduro gained access to government contracts. Downstream agents seem to share the fortunes of their patrons after coalition-shaping policies induced by worsening economic conditions.

Teaching

INTA670: Capstone Seminar in International Affairs - Economic integration of Venezuelan Refugees in Ecuador and Peru

Texas A&M University - College Station, TX - Spring, 2024

BUSH635: Quantitative Methods II - Intro to Causal Inference and Machine Learning

Texas A&M University - College Station, TX - Spring, 2024

BUSH631: Quantitative Methods I - Intro to Statistics

Texas A&M University - College Station, TX - Fall, 2023

Introduction to Causal Inference (in Spanish)

Universidad Católica Andrés Bello - Caracas, Venezuela - Spring, 2022

Teaching Fellow - ECON50: Using Big Data to Solve Economic and Social Problems

Harvard University - Cambridge, MA - Spring, 2020

Teaching Fellow - API209: Advanced Quantitative Methods I

Harvard University - Cambridge, MA - Fall, 2019

  • Taught by Dan Levy at the Harvard Kennedy School
  • Syllabus
  • Received HKS’s Distinction in Student Teaching

Teaching Fellow - DEV309: Development Policy Strategy

Harvard University - Cambridge, MA - Fall, 2018

  • Taught by Ricardo Hausmann at the Harvard Kennedy School
  • Syllabus
  • Received HKS’s Distinction in Student Teaching

Co-Author - “Improving Worker Safety in the Era of Machine Learning”

Harvard Business School Teaching Case Study (Part A and Part B) - April, 2018

  • Abstract: Managers make predictions all the time: How fast will my markets grow? How much inventory do I need? How intensively should I monitor my suppliers? Which potential customers will be most responsive to a particular marketing campaign? Which job candidates should I employ? Machine learning, data science, big data, and predictive analytics all use statistical techniques to predict an outcome. This case enables students to begin using data to make predictions and teaches the core metrics to evaluate how accurate predictions are. It helps students understand how to choose among alternative model specifications and introduces the concepts of overfitting and in-sample versus out-of-sample prediction. The case discussion also promotes an understanding of factors beyond prediction accuracy—such as transparency and perceived fairness—that managers need to consider when deciding which predictive algorithm to deploy. The class discussion also helps students appreciate the differences between prediction, correlation, and causation. The case protagonist recently joined a new data science team at the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a government agency, and needs to evaluate and recommend one of several alternative approaches that OSHA should use to improve how it targets its government inspections of workplaces to better assure safe working conditions. The case includes a dataset and exercise.

Professor - Political Economy (in Spanish)

Universidad Católica Andrés Bello - Caracas, Venezuela - Fall, 2012

Policy

Prosperity over Conflict: Leveraging economic interdependence for offshore energy developments in the Levant

Mosbacher Institute - May 2024

Economic Integration of Venezuelan Immigrants in Colombia: A Policy Roadmap

Center for Global Development - December 2022 (Versión en Español)

Remote work wanted? Analyzing online job postings during COVID-19

The Brookings Institution - August 2021

Growing cities that work for all: A capabilities-based approach to regional economic competitiveness

The Brookings Institution - May 2019

Economic complexity and technological relatedness: Findings for American Cities

The Brookings Institution - May 2019

Impact of the 2017 sanctions on Venezuela: Revisiting the evidence

The Brookings Institution - May 2019

Sanctions on Venezuela: Cause or consequence of the crisis?

Prodavinci and Medium - May 2019 (Versión en Español)

There is a future after cars: Economic growth analysis for Hermosillo

CID Working Papers - October, 2018

Tabasco: Reporte de complejidad económica

CID Working Papers - September 2018

Campeche: Reporte de complejidad económica

CID Working Papers - September 2018

Baja California: Reporte de complejidad económica

CID Working Papers - September 2018

Diversificación y desarrollo en Venezuela: ¿Qué hacer si el petróleo ya no basta?

Prodavinci - January, 2018

Panama beyond the Canal: Using technological proximities to identify opportunities for productive diversification

CID Working Papers - October, 2016

Economic complexity in Panama: Assessing opportunities for productive diversification

CID Working Papers - October, 2016

Pobreza, cobertura de las Misiones y necesidad de protección social para la reforma económica de Venezuela

CID Working Papers - June, 2016

Direct Distribution of Oil Revenues in Venezuela: A Viable Alternative?

CGD Working Papers - September, 2012

Rethinking the Taboo: Gasoline Subsidies in Venezuela

Harvard Kennedy School - May, 2012 (Policy Brief)

Policy-oriented data visualization tools:

Opinion and Media

Interviews and Media Appearances

Opinion pieces for Project Syndicate

Opinion pieces for Caracas Chronicles

Other opinion pieces:

Contact