This seminar series extends our department's curriculum by welcoming renowned scholars and experts to engage with our faculty and students on cutting-edge research across a wide array of topics related to economics. Through conversations and stimulating presentations, our seminar series exposes students to the advanced knowledge and insights needed to navigate the complexities of today's economic landscape, and reflects and supports Villanova’s teacher-scholar model.



Seminars are held on Fridays at 11am in Bartley (room TBD) unless otherwise noted.

September 1, 2023 Virtual (contact for zoom)
Minjie Deng
Simon Fraser University
September 15, 2023
PwC Auditorium
Tariq Thachil
University of Pennsylvania       
September 29, 2023
Driscoll Hall 246
Cleo O'Brien-Udry
University of Pennsylvania
October 20, 2023
PwC Auditorium
Mary Eschelbach Hansen
American University
October 27, 2023
PwC Auditorium
Juan Carlos Angulo
University of Maryland
November 10, 2023
Virtual (contact for zoom) Alexander Zentefis
Yale University
December 8, 2023
Virtual (contact for zoom) Barbara Biasi
Yale University



Minjie Deng presents Sovereign Risk and Intangible Investment.

Authors: Minjie Deng and Chang Liu (University of Rochester)

This paper measures the output and TFP losses from sovereign risk, considering firm-level intangible investment. Using Italian firm-level data, we show that firms reallocated from intangible assets to tangible assets during the recent sovereign debt crisis. This asset reallocation is more pronounced among small firms and high-leverage firms. This reallocation affects aggregate output and TFP. To explain the reallocation pattern and quantify the output and TFP looses of sovereign debt crises, we build a sovereign default model incorporating firm intangible investment. In our model, sovereign risk deteriorates bank balance sheets, disrupting banks' ability to finance firms. Firms with greater external financing needs are more exposed to sovereign risk. Facing tightening financial constraints, firms shift their resources towards tangibles because they can be used as collateral. Using the estimated model, we find that elevated sovereign risk explains 40% of the observed output losses and 22% of TFP losses during the Italian sovereign debt crisis.

Tariq Thachil presents Why Citizens Don’t Hold Politicians Accountable For Air Pollution.

Authors: Shikhar Singh (University of Pennsylvania) and Tariq Thachil (University of Pennsylvania)

Cities across low-income democracies suffer alarmingly elevated air pollution levels, yet rarely hold elected officials accountable for toxic air. To understand why, we conduct a citizen survey in the highly polluted megacity of Delhi, including survey-based experiments and a randomized intervention. Against conventional expectation, we find residents are aware of the adverse impact of air pollution, do not privilege growth over curbing emissions, and view elected officials as responsible for fixing this problem. However, partisanship and sensitivity to personal costs of mitigation policies reduce political accountability pressures. Conversely, a randomized intervention personalizing the costs of air pollution (sharing indoor air quality information) increases its electoral salience. Our findings reveal key opportunities and constraints for mobilizing public opinion to reduce air pollution in developing democracies.

Cleo O'Brien-Udry presents The political economy of greening foreign aid.

Greening foreign aid is a vital step in the fight against climate change. Policymakers and scholars highlight the importance of international investments in environmentally friendly projects; however, much less is known about the fate of “brown,” environmentally costly aid projects. Withdrawing support for these projects is one attractive strategy for international donors to align their funding with their international priorities. However, I argue that greening foreign aid through withdrawal can create both domestic backslash and support for environmental policies. Removing international funding invites distributional conflicts that can alter domestic political economies in recipient states. I use a spatial difference-in-differences design to show that the withdrawal of international support for a coal plant altered voting patterns for pro-environmental parties; coal-producing areas vote disproportionately against this party in the wake of withdrawal while places with potential for investment in renewables vote for the party. In developing contexts, the internationally led move to address climate change appears as a growth-mitigation tradeoff. While international organizations can incentivize climate-friendly policies in developing nations, these interventions reshape the distribution of economic benefits with consequences for future international influence.

Mary Eschelbach Hansen presents Care and Work for Persons with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities in the U.S.: Links between Past Policy and Current Outcomes.

For much of the twentieth century, U.S. states cared, to varying degrees, for persons with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD) in institutions. Today, federal law requires states to care for persons with IDD in the community, but outcomes vary widely by state. This paper is the first quantitative examination of the influence of historical policy on current state-to-state variation in labor market outcomes for persons with IDD. Preliminary results suggest that states with greater early reliance on institutionalizing persons with IDD are more successful in creating employment in the community for them today. The paper considers mechanisms of persistence, particularly state budgeting processes; seeks confirmation in the narrative history and gray literature on disability policy; and addresses the role of anti-persistence in the form of reliance on sheltered workshops in the 1970s.

Juan Carlos Angulo presents Green Gold: Avocado Production and Conflict in Mexico.

This paper uses the Mexican avocado industry as a laboratory to study the effects of increasing demand for agricultural products on conflict. Increasing demand for avocados worldwide---especially from the US, the largest import of Mexican avocado---has led to an increasing volume produced and higher revenues for producing municipalities. Using geographical variation in the suitability to grow avocados and temporal variation coming from the US demand for avocados, I show that there are no changes in the overall number of homicides in Mexico, but there is an increase in the number of homicides of agricultural workers. In addition, I show that cartels are attracted to the increasing revenues of avocado production as they look for alternative sources of income. I provide evidence in favor of competition among non-traditional cartels driving the change in the number of homicides. In municipalities with two or more non-traditional cartels present, the number of homicides increases as cartels fight over territorial control, increasing the homicide rate of individuals likely to be involved in cartel activities, while the homicides of agricultural workers do not change in those municipalities. I interpret these results as non-traditional cartels are fighting over territorial control where they can diversify their sources of income, being the avocado industry one of them, as they have less control over drug markets and routes.

Alexander Zentefis presents Bank Branch Access: Evidence from Geolocation Data.

Low-income and Black households are less likely to visit bank branches than high-income and White households, despite the former two groups appearing to rely more on branches as means of bank participation. We assess whether unequal branch access can explain that disparity. We propose a measure of bank branch access based on a gravity model of consumer trips to bank branches, estimated using mobile device geolocation data. Residents have better branch access if branches are closer or have superior qualities that attract more visitors. Because the geolocation data is distorted to protect user privacy, we estimate the gravity model with a new econometric method that adapts the Method of Simulated Moments to handle high-dimensional fixed effects. We find no evidence that low-income communities lack access to bank branches and instead find that lower demand for bank branch products or services explains their lower branch use. But in Black communities, worse access explains their entire drop-off in branch use. For residents of these areas, weaker access is not from having lower quality branches, but from branches being located farther away from them. The results highlight parts of the country that would benefit the most from policies that expand access to banking.

Barbara Biasi presents Effectiveness and Efficiency of School Capital Investments Across the U.S.

This paper studies the impact of capital projects on student learning and the real estate market, using nationwide data on U.S. school districts and focusing on what investments work and on whom. We use newly collected data on school capital bonds, test scores, and house prices for 28 U.S. states and a new research design that identifies the causal impact of bond authorizations in the presence of dynamic and heterogeneous treatment effects. On average, bond authorization significantly raises test scores and house prices. Yet, there are large differences across bonds and districts. Spending on infrastructure renovation and upgrades, such as HVAC or roofs, raises test scores but not house prices; conversely, spending on athletic facilities increases house prices but not test scores. Bond authorization is most beneficial in districts with more disadvantaged student populations, in part because these districts prioritize bonds that improve learning. We find suggestive evidence that capital funding rules drive differences in bond impacts.

The 2022-2023 seminar schedule is organized by Maira ReimaoXiaoxiao Li, and Laura Meinzen-Dick. Please contact either Maira, Xiaoxiao, or Laura for more information.