Brazil in the ‘AEJ: Applied’

The October 2017 issue of the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics includes three articles with Brazilian data. Here are their abstracts.

“The Use of Violence in Illegal Markets: Evidence from Mahogany Trade in the Brazilian Amazon”
Ariaster B. Chimeli, Rodrigo R. Soares

We provide evidence on the effect of market illegality on violence. Brazil was historically the main exporter of mahogany. Starting in the 1990s, trade was restricted and eventually prohibited. We build on previous evidence that mahogany trade persisted after prohibition and document relative increases in violence in areas with natural occurrence of mahogany. We show that as illegal activity receded in the late 2000s so did the relative increase in violence. We describe an experience of increase in violence following the transition of a market from legal to illegal and contribute to the evaluation of prohibition policies under limited enforcement.

“Human Capital Persistence and Development”
Rudi Rocha, Claudio Ferraz, Rodrigo R. Soares

This paper documents the persistence of human capital over time and its association with long-term development. We exploit variation induced by a state-sponsored settlement policy that attracted immigrants with higher levels of schooling to particular regions of Brazil in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. We show that one century after the policy, municipalities that received settlements had higher levels of schooling and higher income per capita. We provide evidence that long-run effects worked through higher supply of educational inputs and shifts in the structure of occupations toward skill-intensive sectors.

“Persuasion: A Case Study of Papal Influences on Fertility-Related Beliefs and Behavior”
Vittorio Bassi, Imran Rasul

We study the persuasive impacts of non-informative communication on the short-run beliefs and long-run behavior of individuals. We do so in the context of the Papal visit to Brazil in October 1991, in which persuasive messages related to fertility were salient in Papal speeches during the visit. We use individual’s exposure to such messages to measure how persuasion shifts short-run beliefs such as intentions to contracept and long-term fertility outcomes such as the timing and total number of births. To measure the short-run causal impact of persuasion, we exploit the fact the Brazil 1991 DHS was fielded in the weeks before, during, and after the Papal visit. We use this fortuitous timing to identify that persuasion significantly reduced individual intentions to contracept by more than 40 percent relative to pre-visit levels, and increased the frequency of unprotected sex by 30 percent. We measure the long-run causal impacts of persuasion on fertility outcomes using later DHS surveys to conduct an event study analysis on births in a five-year window on either side of the 1991 Papal visit. Estimating a hazard model of fertility, we find a significant change in births 9 months post-visit, corresponding to a 1.6 percent increase in the aggregate birth cohort. Our final set of results examine the very long-run impact of persuasion and document the impacts to be on the timing of births rather than on total fertility.

(Via Claudio Ferraz.)

O debate sobre a reorganização das escolas em São Paulo

Guilherme Lichand, na Folha:

Quem está certo, afinal? Resposta curta: não sabemos. Esse é o chamado “problema fundamental da inferência”: não observamos o mundo contrafactual em que tudo é igual, exceto a política que queremos avaliar.

A maneira mais segura e controlada de aprender a resposta seria “pilotando” a iniciativa: algumas escolas seriam sorteadas para serem reorganizadas (“grupo de tratamento”), enquanto outras não (“grupo de controle”). Em seguida acompanharíamos ao longo do tempo variáveis como frequência escolar, notas e evasão de todos os alunos, comparando aqueles cujas escolas foram reorganizadas com os demais.

Também monitoraríamos o tempo de deslocamento de casa até a escola, e as despesas da família com transporte.

[Atualização – 15/12] A Economist desta semana tem matéria e editorial sobre estudos randomizados controlados (RCT, randomised controlled trial).

Da matéria:

RCTs are being used more often to assess social policy in America, France and Scandinavia. In Britain there has been a flurry evaluating educational innovations—including one called “Teensleep”, in which the treatment group starts school at 10am (the idea is that they will learn more after a lie-in). Often the results are underwhelming, though no less important for that. A randomised experiment in New York showed that paying all teachers in a school more if their pupils do better in tests does not raise attainment.

But the emerging world remains far ahead. In Britain and America RCTs are mostly used to test minor policy tweaks, not fundamental reforms. In poorer countries, by contrast, they are being used to design welfare systems and measure corruption.

Do editorial:

To live in a modern democracy is to be experimented on by policymakers from cradle to grave. Education is intended to mould an upstanding future citizen; a prison sentence, to reshape someone who has gone astray. But without evidence, those setting policy for schools and prisons are little better than a doctor relying on leeches and bloodletting. Citizens, as much as patients, deserve to know that the treatments they endure do actually work.