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Working papers

State Recreational Cannabis Laws and Racial Disparities in the Criminal Legal System 

(joint with Angélica Meinhofer and Jamein P. Cunningham) - R&R, AEJ: Economic Policy

Racial disparities in enforcement of drug prohibition are longstanding, with Black communities disproportionately affected. We study the effect of cannabis legalization on racial disparities in criminal justice outcomes using a difference-in-differences framework. Legalization led to significant declines in cannabis arrests for White and Black populations, but did not eliminate racial disparities. Total arrests were unchanged due to offsetting increases in arrests for less serious quality-of-life offenses, particularly among Black populations. Incarceration rates for drug offenses only declined for White populations. Lastly, we do not find evidence of increased criminal activity among Black populations, suggesting this mechanism cannot explain arrest increases.

Promotions Measured with Error: Implications for Health Policy and Firm Behavior 

(joint with Emilio Gutierrez and José Tudón)

The estimation of promotional effects often relies on inferring discounts from price dips. This paper leverages data with observable promotional discounts from purchase receipts to estimate price and promotion elasticities, contrasting estimates between directly recorded promotions and the traditional inferred promotions approach. Utilizing nationwide retail data for Mexico and allowing for flexible demand curves, we estimate these elasticities across many consumer goods. First, we estimate that promotions, as recorded in the data, increase demand by 20-33%, even after accounting for price effects. This points to non-price attributes of promotions, such as salience. Second, we find that an established algorithm for inferring promotions tends to over-predict price discounts relative to direct measures; estimations based on algorithm-defined promotions underestimate discount effects and overestimate price elasticities, highlighting the drawbacks of this common methodology. Finally, we relate our findings to managerial implications by focusing on product healthiness. Our results show that healthy and unhealthy products have similar promotion effects. Linking this to public health policy, we demonstrate that, after a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, firms use fewer promotions on affected products. Overall, we emphasize the importance of directly observing promotional information.

Eye-opening Products: Uncertainty and Surprise in Cataract Surgery Outcomes 

(joint with Emilio Gutierrez and José Tudón)

For experience goods, benefits from consumption are ex-ante unknown, but revealed after repeated interactions. This uncertainty might lead to under-consumption. We develop a demand model with uncertainty in outcomes, for forward-looking consumers, and information revealed after the first interaction. We use data from a large cataract surgery provider in Mexico to estimate demand, and we exploit data from sales agents to identify structural demand parameters; namely, price elasticities and the value of the uncertain shock. We simulate counterfactual policies, showing that budget-neutral price changes are more efficient at increasing welfare and surgeries than persuasive advertising.

Referral Reward Programs and Customer Acquisition

(joint with José Tudón)

Referral reward programs are widely recognized as a cost-effective strategy for customer acquisition, leveraging the power of word-of-mouth and user incentives. However, key elements such as incentive size, recipient identity, and their influence on the composition of new customers are crucial for understanding the effectiveness of these programs and remain largely unexplored in empirical research. We evaluate the impact of a referral reward program on customer acquisition for a fintech banking platform in Mexico. Through a series of consecutive experimental interventions, we find that referral incentives significantly boost referral likelihood by a factor of 2, with users responding twice as strongly to rewards for themselves than their referred peers. However, previously incentivized users demonstrate a third of the propensity to make further referrals, although previous referrers (i.e., compliers) have a higher likelihood to further refer and should then be targeted by the firm. Additionally, referred users from incentivized customers show lower app engagement during their first year. These findings indicate diminishing returns for referral marketing, how incentive design and targeting matter, and suggest a potential trade-off between customer acquisition and user quality.

The Market Effects of Mergers on Incumbent Behavior and Entry: Evidence from Dialysis

(joint with Francisco Garrido and Anwita Mahajan)

We study the effects of mergers on incumbent behavior and firm entry in the U.S. dialysis industry. Using an event-study approach, we find that facilities and dialysis stations decrease in markets exposed to mergers, relative to markets without any merger activity. This is driven by a sharp reduction by the merged entity, which is only partially offset by an increase by non-merging incumbents. We do not find evidence for novel entry. Additionally, we find reallocation of patients and inputs (nurses and technicians) away from merging firms to non-merging firms, although inputs per patient are unchanged throughout. We do not find evidence of changes in patient recovery. We rationalize our results with a simple model and suggest that heterogeneous firm responses after a merger have important implications for merger review practices and patient welfare.

LGBTQ+ Individuals in the Mexican Labor Market: Queerphobia, Sorting, and Observable Outcomes

(joint with Emilio Gutierrez)

Understanding the relationship between LGBTQ+ identities and labor market outcomes is crucial for designing effective policies. We explore this understudied topic using rich data from the first national survey on sexual orientation and gender identity in Mexico. We find that employment rates among LGBTQ+ minorities are generally lower than those of heterosexual cis men. We link labor market outcomes to prejudice by documenting occupational sorting: minorities are over-represented in sectors with lower stigma. Additionally, while most LGBTQ+ identities are more likely to hold leadership positions than heterosexual cis men, they are also more likely to report workplace victimization and exclusion. We exercise caution in interpreting these gaps due to evidence of endogenous selection into occupations.

Going Big in Health: Effect of a Large-Scale Preventive Health Policy 

(joint with Arturo Aguilar and Ricardo Gómez-Carrera)

Despite the benefits of preventive healthcare, uptake is typically low. This paper studies how embedding healthcare in a conditional cash transfer program affects utilization by exploiting the roll-out of Progresa in Mexico. We estimate a sizable 12% increase in outpatient visits at public clinics, driven by children and women aged 20-49. This translates into improvements in reproductive healthcare and screenings for chronic diseases. However, these effects are also accompanied by increased congestion, measured with waiting times, and reductions in quality of care. Overall, this suggests that the benefits of this policy lever may carry unintended displacement effects.


[9]  LGBT+ Persons and Homophobia Prevalence Across Job Sectors: Survey Evidence from Mexico. Labour Economics, 2024. (joint with Emilio Gutierrez) 

[published] [ungated]​

[8]  Trade-Offs Between Access and Quality in Healthcare: Evidence from Retail Clinics in Mexico. Journal of Public Economics, 2023.

[published] [ungated]

[7]  Increasing Retirement Savings through Access Points and Persuasive Messages: Evidence from Mexico. Journal of Human Resources, 2023. (joint with Mariano Bosch) 

[published] [ungated]

[6]  Electoral Repercussions of a Pandemic: Evidence from the 2009 H1N1 Outbreak. Journal of Politics, 2022. (joint with Emilio Gutierrez and Jaakko Meriläinen)

[published] [ungated]

[5]  Local Water Quality, Diarrheal Disease, and the Unintended Consequences of Soda Taxes. World Bank Economic Review, 2022. (joint with Emilio Gutierrez)

[published] [ungated]

[4]  Information and Behavioral Responses during a Pandemic: Evidence from Delays in Covid-19 Death Reports. Journal of Development Economics, 2022. (joint with Emilio Gutierrez and Tiago Tavares) 

[published] [ungated]

[3]  Shocks to Hospital Occupancy and Mortality: Evidence from the 2009 H1N1 Pandemic. Management Science, 2021. (joint with Emilio Gutierrez)

[published] [ungated]

[2]  Illegal Drug Market Responses to State Recreational Cannabis Laws. Addiction, 2021. (joint with Angélica Meinhofer)

[published] [ungated]

[1]  The Effect of a Cash Transfer Program for the Elderly in Mexico City on Co-Residing Children’s School Enrollment. World Bank Economic Review, 2017. (joint with Emilio Gutierrez and Laura Juarez)

[published] [ungated]

Previous working papers

Delays in Death Reports and their Implications for Tracking the Evolution of COVID-19 

(joint with Emilio Gutierrez and Tiago Tavares; Covid Economics Working Paper)  

Over-the-Counter Access Regulations: Evidence from an Antibiotics Law in Mexico


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