Job Market Paper

The social consequences of organized crime groups (in progress)

This paper analyzes the impact of organized crime groups on social outcomes. In particular, it studies how the exposure to the organized crime groups presence affects the social capital of civilians in Italy. I empirically test it using new data on social capital combined with newly compiled fine-grain data on organized crime group presence in Italy. In absence of any exogenous shock, I attempt to provide a causal interpretation of the results by using several identification strategies, key informant interviews and by directly addressing reverse causality, omitted variable bias, measurement error and social desirability bias. Results show that exposure to the presence of organized crime groups reduces social capital by -0.04SD with the negative effects coming from a reduced social trust (-0.11SD), reduced vertical trust (-0.08SD) and reduced civic sense (-0.06SD). On the other hand, exposure to organized crime groups presence has a positive effect on civic engagement (+0.02SD) and null effects on political behaviour. As social capital is an essential ingredient for counter-crime policies, these results help us interrogating circa the effectiveness of policies against organized crime. Two policies such as more police or state presence could backlash if civilians do not trust and do not comply to rules and norms imposed by the same institutions promoting these policies. In contrast, a policy such leveraging collective mobilization seems like a crucial area of experimentation as individuals exposed to organized crime groups presence appear to be engaged and willing to act for change despite the presence (or not) of the institutions.

Organized crime index (2000-2018)
Organized crime index (2000-2018)

Working paper

Improving Parenting Practices for Early Child Development: Experimental Evidence from Rwanda (submitted in April 2020) | P. Justino, M. Leone, P. Rolla, M. Abimpaye, C. Dusabe, D. Uwahamoro and R. Germond

UNU-WIDER Working Paper | Presentation | Blog (BA) | Blog (GlobalDev) | Twitter thread

This paper investigates the short- and medium-term impact of a randomized group-based early child development program targeting parents of children aged 6-24 months in a poor, rural district of Rwanda. The program engaged parents through sessions that included a radio show and facilitated discussions during seventeen weekly village-level meetings. Twelve months after baseline, children’s communication, problem-solving and personal social skills improved in treated groups and persisted in the medium term. The intervention resulted also in increases in maternal time investments in the short- and medium-term, as well as improvements in parents’ perceptions about their influence over their child’s development and their self-efficacy. A linear mediation analysis shows that 20 percent of the positive changes observed in child development can be attributed to more time mothers spent engaging with their children.

Pictures taken during the radio show intervention @SavetheChildrenRwanda

Nudging Parental Investment by Improving Efficacy and Beliefs? A Randomized Video Intervention in Rwanda (in progress) | P. Justino, M. Leone, P. Rolla, M. Abimpaye, S. Malik , D. Uwahamoro and R. Germond

This paper investigates the causal impact of a randomized intervention designed to boost different components of parental self-efficacy. We study the effects on parental non-cognitive dimensions, on parental investments and on other parental outcomes at the core of a child human capital production function. We designed and screened two videos delivering messages centered around the role of parenting and the importance of being confident parents for child development. The second video included positive feedbacks directed at parents, praising them on their accomplishments. The intervention did not affect parental self-efficacy but both treatments (mostly the feedback arm) improved parental time investment. The intervention influenced also parental attitudes towards child development, some indicators of child well-being, material investments and indicators of perceived social support within the community. These results suggest that a low-cost video intervention targeting non-cognitive determinants of parental investments can produce behavioral changes.

Snapshot of the video screened to the parents @Looking for Livingstone LTD

Does Economic Inequality Affect Local Governance? The Mediating Role of Trust, Political Behaviour and Social Mobilization in Colombia (in progress) | L. Fergusson, A.M. Ibanez, P. Justino, J.C. Munoz and P. Rolla


There is an implicit assumption – seldom made explicit – that the diverse effects of inequality on governance are shaped by the social fabric of each society, including how different social groups trust and cooperate with each other and trust the institutions that govern their social, economic and political interactions. Equality, trust and strong governance generally go hand in hand. Yet, the relationship between inequality, trust and governance remains under-researched in the social sciences. We theorize and estimate the link from perceived inequality to governance while exploring the mediating role of trust in Colombia, using individual level data. According to our findings, perceived inequality decreases the quality of governance by as much as 0.09SD. Nonetheless, trust can largely mediate the negative effect of perceived inequality on governance. Although we cannot assign any causal interpretation to these results, our paper provides descriptive evidence which sheds light on the relationship between inequality, trust and governance in a middle income and politically unstable context – outside the EU and the US – where limited evidence exists.


Improving Food Security through Remittances in Rural Zimbabwe (submitted in December 2020) | F. Jena, J. Litchfield and P. Rolla


Our paper examines the extent to which migrant remittances contribute to the food security of rural households in Zimbabwe. We use primary data collected by the Migrating out of Poverty research consortium from a 2015 rural household survey of approximately 1200 households in three districts of the country, namely, Chivi, Gwanda, and Hurungwe. We consider two concepts of food security used by the Food and Agriculture Organization, namely, the share of household expenditure on food and a measure of the dietary diversity of the household. We find that food security is indeed enhanced by the receipt of remittances but that the magnitude of the effect is sensitive to the method of estimation. A naïve approach which fails to account for the simultaneity between remittance receipt and household food security yields estimates that are very low. When we address this simultaneity, adopting an instrumental variable approach, we find that the effect of remittances on food security is substantial, in particularly boosting food diversity. Furthermore we find that the effect is stronger for households where the budget decision-maker is female, and we observe a shift in consumption towards a more diverse diet incorporating milk and vegetables, the former of which we argue is driven in part by the acquisition of cattle.

The effect of the Gaza Blockade on the Palestinian political attitudes: An empirical investigation (in progress) | P. Rolla, S. Miaari and M. Cali 

This paper explores whether the Gaza Blockade, an Israeli embargo on Gaza started in late September of 2007 until 2010, has radicalized the political views of the Palestinians. Using novel data from a set of opinion surveys from 2000 to 2008, we implement a difference-in-difference analysis comparing political attitudes between Gaza and the West Bank. Since the Blockade was applied only to Gaza, this makes the West Bank a natural comparator. Results show that the Gaza Blockade increases the support for extremist parties in Gaza by almost 5 percentage points. This finding provides evidence for the Isreali Government of the negative effect of indiscriminate policies, like the Gaza Blockade, for pursuing stability in the region, by also reducing the likelihood of a peace deal.

Life with Corona (in progress) with ISDC , IGZ , UNU-WIDER and IDS


Life with Corona captures the voices and moods of affected citizens around the world, collecting data to provide answers to these questions. Life with Corona is a charitable open access citizen science project based on rigorous academic methods. The data will be made available for academic non-profit analyses.

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