How does rural-urban migration shape urban production in developing countries? We use longitudinal data on Chinese manufacturing firms between 2000 and 2006, and exploit exogenous variation in rural-urban migration induced by agricultural income shocks for identication. We find that, when immigration increases, manufacturing production becomes more labor-intensive and productivity declines. We investigate the reorganization of production using patent applications and product information. We show that rural-urban migration induces both labor-oriented technological change and the adoption of labor-intensive product varieties.
Presented at: Harvard Cities and Development Workshop (2019), NBER Summer Institute (2019), Yale Agri-Devo Conference (2017), Harvard China Economy Seminar (2016).
Media coverage: VoxDev.
(, Working Paper), joint with , , and .
Can efforts to eradicate inequality in wealth and education eliminate intergenerational persistence of socioeconomic status? The Chinese Communist Revolution and Cultural Revolution aimed to do exactly that. Using newly digitized archival records and contemporary census and household survey data, we show that the revolutions were effective in homogenizing the population economically in the short run. However, the pattern of inequality that characterized the pre-revolution generation re-emerges today. Almost half a century after the revolutions, individuals whose grandparents belonged to the pre-revolution elite earn 16 percent more income and have completed more than 11 percent additional years of schooling than those from non-elite households. We find evidence that human capital (such as knowledge, skills, and values) has been transmitted within the families, and the social capital embodied in kinship networks has survived the revolutions. These channels allow the pre-revolution elite to rebound after the revolutions, and their socioeconomic status persists despite one of the most aggressive attempts to eliminate differences in the population.
Presented at: NBER Economics of Mobility meeting (2020).
This paper identifies the negative spillovers exerted by large, successful factories on other local production units in China. A short-lived cooperation program between the U.S.S.R. and China led to the construction of 156 "Million-Rouble plants" in the 1950s. The identification exploits the ephemeral geopolitical context and exogenous variation in location decisions due to the relative position of allied and enemy airbases. We find a rise-and-fall pattern in counties hosting a factory and show that a double curse explains their long-run decline. The analysis of production linkages shows that a very large cluster of non-innovative establishments enjoys technological rents along the production chain of Million-Rouble plants. This industrial concentration reduces the local supply of entrepreneurs.
Presented at the 2019 Conference on Urban and Regional Economics (CURE), Harvard Cities and Development Workshop (2020).
This paper exploits exogenous changes in the course of the Yellow River in China to isolate variation in the natural distribution of economic centers across space. I compute time-varying trade costs and collect original data on population and taxation from dynastic histories and local gazetteers spanning 2,000 years. This allows me to assess the effect of exogenous variation in market access on population density and resource extraction. I find that the changes in connectedness have two opposite effects. First, they induce a very large increase in the level and concentration of economic activity in the shorter run. Second, they trigger a large increase in rent capture by local elites, which severely mitigates the concentration effect in the longer run.
Presented at the 2019 India-China Conference, Warwick.
Migration increases sending households' capacity to invest but introduces additional information asymmetry between household members. In this paper, I establish a new stylized fact: Migrants systematically overestimate assets that they typically invest in and that are held by their households. This is shown using novel data with matched reports from Senegalese migrants and their own households of origin. I find empirical support for a self-selection mechanism: migrants are more likely to sort into investment, the more optimistic they are about their households' trustworthiness, and reject alternative interpretations based on behavioral biases. I finally assess the extent of missing investments: Selection out of investment is large and severely reduces the developmental impact of migration.
An earlier version was awarded the Grand Prix (first prize) of the International Competition of Master's Degree Theses in Economics and Finance and presented at the AEA Meetings in 2015.
Policy Reports and Publications
Glass Barriers: Constraints to Women's Small-Scale Cross-Border Trade in Cambodia and Lao PDR (2018). In P. Brenton and M. Bartley Johns (Eds.), How Trade Helps Reduce Poverty, and What More Can Be Done. World Bank and World Trade Organization. Joint with Julian Clarke (World Bank) and Richard Record (World Bank).
Earlier, longer version published as World Bank Policy Research Working Paper WPS8249 (2017).
Lao PDR Investment Climate Assessment 2014: Policy uncertainty in the midst of a natural resources boom (2014). Joint with Richard Record (World Bank), Konesawang Nghardsaysone (World Bank) and George Clarke (Texas A&M).
Background paper for the Lao Development Report 2014: Expanding Productive Employment for Broad-Based Growth (2014). World Bank.