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Rescue on Stage: Border Enforcement and Public Attention in the Mediterranean

Irregular migrants attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe. European border enforcement has the conflicting objectives of preventing irregular migration and granting humane treatment to migrants. The former would lead policy to deter border crossings, at the cost of increasing risk for migrants; the latter would require reducing this risk. Exploiting geo-located data on the universe of rescue operations for migrants leaving from Libya to Europe from 2014 to 2017, I show that rescue policy influences departures. Using exogenous variation coming from commercial sea traffic, I also show that policy impacts death risk for migrants. The implied trade-off is dynamic, as present policy influences future policy expectations by migrants. In addition, if the policy maker is more concerned with outcomes when they get more visibility, this trade-off interacts with public attention. Using shocks to attention uncorrelated with policy and migration, I empirically find that this is the case. Then, I propose and estimate a dynamic model of policy choice and public attention. Using my results, I show that past rescue policy was suboptimal in minimizing deaths of migrants. I also use the estimated preferences to assess the policy makers’ willingness to accepts migrants’ deaths in exchange for reducing migrants’ arrivals.

Draft available upon request at: giacomo.battiston [at] unibocconi.it

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

Joint with Lucia Corno and Eliana La Ferrara

We conduct a large-scale randomized experiment in 160 secondary schools in the Republic of Guinea to study whether risky and irregular migration towards Europe can be reduced by providing information on the risks and costs of the journey and on the economic situation in destination countries. Combining hard data and video-testimonies by migrants who settled in Europe, we study the effect of three treatments: one in which we deliver information about risks and costs of the journey, one in which we give information about migrants economic outcomes, and a treatment pooling the two previous types of information. Preliminary results show that information affects perceptions about risks and economic outcomes, as well as migration intentions.

Third Party Interest, Resource Value, and the Likelihood of Conflict

Joint with Matteo Bizzarri and Riccardo Franceschin

We build a model of resource war to investigate the impact of a change in the resource value on the likelihood of a conflict. A predator decides whether to wage war against a resource holder and seize its resource. A powerful third party, who does not act as a social planner but maximizes its own profits, can intervene to back the defendant. The effect of a change in resource value is a priori unclear. On the one hand, increased resource value results in higher incentives to predate. On the other hand, it produces a higher incentive for the third party to intervene, therefore increasing deterrence. Under general assumptions, we find that the probability of a conflict as a function of resource value is hump-shaped. We test our prediction using data on interstate and civil war, a comprehensive measure of natural resource ownership, and a measure relying on geographical determinants of oil presence. We find support for our theory.

Political Statements and Sentiments on Migration

Joint with Federico Boffa, Eugenio Levi, and Steven Stillman

Abstract coming soon.

Fueling Organized Crime: Oil Thefts and the Mexican Drug War

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

Abstract coming soon.