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Research

Rescue on Stage: Border Enforcement and Public Attention in the Mediterranean [draft] [WB Development Impact blog post]

Irregular migrants take risks crossing borders. Border control has to balance deterrence and humanitarian motives. Exploiting georeferenced data on sea rescues for migrants crossing the Mediterranean between 2014 and 2017, this paper shows that more humanitarian rescue policy (i) increases future crossing attempts and (ii) reduces migrants’ death risk. Further, (iii) it estimates a dynamic model of border enforcement with endogenous public attention, delivering attention and policy counterfactuals. In the estimated model, temporary attention increases intensify rescue incentives. Leveraging policy outsourcing enforcement to Libyan authorities, I show policymakers’ evaluation of irregular migrants’ lives is lower than comparable estimates for citizens.

Third-Party Interest, Resource Value, and the Likelihood of Conflict [CSEF WP]

Joint with Matteo Bizzarri and Riccardo Franceschin

Resource wealth induces predation incentives but also conflict-deterring third-party involvement. This makes the relation between resource value and conflict probability a priori unclear. This paper studies such relation with a flexible theoretical framework involving a resource holder, a predator, and a powerful third party. First, we show that under general assumptions the theoretical relation between conflict probability is hump-shaped as a function of resource value. Second, we theoretically establish that resource value increases the third party's incentive to side with the resource-rich defendant in case of intervention, reinforcing its stabilizing role. Third, exploiting widely-used measures of resource value and geologic predictors of oil presence, we provide evidence for our theoretical results. Using data on military bases and arms' trade, we show suggestive evidence such non-monotonicity is driven by areas exposed to US influence.

Fueling Organized Crime: Oil Thefts and the Mexican Drug War [SSRN WP]

Joint with Gianmarco Daniele, Marco Le Moglie, and Paolo Pinotti

We show that the War on Drugs launched by the Mexican President Felipe Calderón in 2007 pushed drug cartels into large-scale oil thefts. Municipalities that the presidential candidate’s party barely won at the local elections in 2007-2009 exhibit a larger increase in illegal oil taps over the following years, compared to municipalities in which the presidential candidate’s party barely lost the elections. Challenger cartels in the drug market leapfrog incumbent drug cartels when entering the new illegal activity, analogous to what is typically observed in legal markets. Since challengers and incumbents specialize in different criminal sectors, the expansion of challengers does not increase violence in municipalities traversed by oil pipelines. At the same time, the municipalities traversed by a pipeline witness a decrease in schooling rates.

Informing Risky Migration: Evidence from a Randomized Control Trial in the Republic of Guinea

Joint with Lucia Corno and Eliana La Ferrara

Can information provision reduce the risks associated with irregular migration? We address this question conducting a large-scale experiment with about 7,000 secondary school students in Guinea. Combining aggregate statistics and video-testimonies by migrants who settled in Europe, we study the effect of three information treatments: (i) about risks and costs of the journey; (ii) about economic outcomes in the destination country; and (iii) a treatment pooling (i) and (ii). We find that one month after the intervention, all three treatments affect beliefs about the risks and the economic outcomes of migration. However, 1.5 years after the intervention, only the first has a significant effect on migration outcomes: providing information about the risks and costs of the journey reduces international migration by 51%. The effect is driven by a decrease in migration without a visa (i.e., potentially risky and irregular). Furthermore, the reduction is larger for students who, at baseline, underestimated the risks connected to international migration.

The Mediterranean Media Diet: News Events, Political Messages, and Intentions to Vote in Italy

Joint with Federico Boffa, Eugenio Levi, and Steven Stillman

Abstract coming soon.