Job market paper

Coordination as Unintended Benefit: Lab-in-the-Field Evidence from a Conditional Cash Transfer Program Supplementary Online Material

This study tests an unintended benefit of a Conditional cash transfer program in Colombia: an improvement in coordination among its beneficiaries. A sample of 714 beneficiaries participate in a minimum effort coordination game. Those enrolled in the program for over a year are not just coordinating; they are more likely to exert the highest level of effort and reach higher earnings. Collected data is sufficiently rich to establish that improvement in coordination is not due to potential confounders such as willingness to cooperate, connectivity or socio-economic characteristics. A structural choice model of the individual decision to coordinate sheds light on the role of beliefs about others’ behavior and suggests the presence of a coordination device to avoid the risk dominant equilibrium: the certainty in assessing what others do. Participants are required to interact with local program officials, community leaders and fellow beneficiaries. We argue that this social component of the CCT, changed beliefs about others' behavior and established a social norm, which allowed beneficiaries to overcome coordination failures. The findings support nascent initiatives to influence beliefs through policy interventions.


Building social capital: Conditional cash transfers and cooperation With Orazio Attanasio and Luca Pellerano, Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 118 (2015), October, pages 22–39.

Economic incentives and social preferences: substitutes or complements With Sam Bowles, Journal of Economic Literature. 50 (2012), June, pages 368-425.

Building trust: Conditional cash transfers and social capital With Orazio Attanasio and Luca Pellerano, Fiscal Studies, 30 (2009), pages 139-177.

Social Capital and Household Income in Urban Colombia Revista Desarrollo y Sociedad. University of Los Andes. 56 (2005), September, pages 221-284.

Working papers

Work pays: different benefits of a workfare program in Colombia. With Arthur Alik-Lagrange (World Bank), Orazio Attanasio and Marcos Vera-Hernández (University College London and Institute for Fiscal Studies) and Costas Meghir (Yale University)

This article analyzes the impact of a Colombian workfare program Empleo en Acción. Workfare programs provide a low paid employment guarantee to individuals in selected public works. They are designed to self-select the poor and provide insurance against job losses by informal sector workers at the possible cost of crowding out private labor effort. We find that the program increased individual labor income and labor supply. It also had a positive and significant impact on consumption and particularly for food in small municipalities. The program did not crowd out labor supply by members of the household different from the participant. The effect of the program persisted beyond its operation in rural areas.

Identification of Other-Regarding Preferences: Evidence from a Common Pool Resource Game in Colombia. With David Echeverry (UCBerkeley).

Social preferences have been important to the explanation of deviations from Nash equilibrium in game outcomes. An enduring challenge in any model of other-regarding preferences is to identify heterogeneity within the population. This article uses a unique experimental data set of a CPR game with 925 individuals who are closely related to a real resource. A structural model including preferences for altruism, reciprocity, and equity allows identifying behavioral types using a latent class logit model. Exogenous determinants of type are examined such as socio-economic characteristics, perceptions on the CPR, perceived interest in cooperation among the community, whether the participant does volunteer work and whether the CPR is the household main economic activity of the household. A competing explanation of deviations from Nash equilibrium is the existence of a cognitive factor: the construction of the best reply might make rational expectations about other players’ mistakes (e.g. quantal response equilibrium). While a cognitive aspect would help the model better fit the data, we do not find much evidence for cognitive heterogeneity, and a great deal of behavioral heterogeneity instead. Choice prediction based on types is robust out of sample.

Papers (in progress)

Motivating Teamwork in Organizations: Lab-in-the-Field Evidence on Cooperation and Social Recognition

This economic field experiment tests the effects of acknowledgment on voluntary contributions to a public good. The experiment is conducted at a private organization whose executive board is concerned with motivating cooperation among its employees. Public recognition (made the recognition known to the team) and private recognition (only to the high contributor employee) may have different effects on cooperation. Using a within-subjects design, 410 Colombian employees participated in an online public goods game. The analysis reveals that public recognition has a sizeable effect on contributions, while private recognition has a small effect. Recognition, as a symbolic (public) award for cooperation in teams within organizations, can be effective even if they have no impact on the contributors’ future career opportunities or income. The awards are purely symbolic, and the status increment they produce is limited to the recipients’ anonymous online identities in a randomly formed team within their organization. Enhanced self-identification with the community can explain these results, but they are also in line with recent findings on the role of status and reputation and recognition within organizations.

Lab in the Field Experimental Evidence of Diversity and Cognition on Sustainable Development. With Juan Camilo Cardenas (University of Los Andes) and Luz Rodriguez (Duke University)

This article uses experimental and survey data to test the causes and solutions of mismanagement of common renewable resources. The experimental data consist of laboratory experiments conducted in the field to study renewable resource management. The experimental games are complex: not only participants face a social dilemma in extracting from a renewable stock, but the problem is also dynamic. Thus individuals face a twofold problem: the dynamic effect -the lower the stock, the lower the capacity for renewal- and the social dilemma effect -group level extraction affects individual payoffs and the resource stock. There is a cognitive mechanism as users may not anticipate the dynamic consequences of depleting the resource stock. The contribution of the study is twofold: First, it examines the value of diversity and its role in individual decision making which is key for environmental and resources economic policy design. Second, it uses data from real common pool resource users to analyze the role of cognition and individual attitudes towards a sustainable use of natural resources.

Leading by non-example: do leader’s social preferences matter for cooperation? Experimental evidence from Colombia

In 2014, I conducted an artefactual field experiment with 500 beneficiaries of a CCT in Colombia and examine whether how powerful leaders are determines their decision to free ride and the relationship between individual willingness to cooperate and the presence of an empowered leader in the group.

Darwin in the experimental lab: between and within group competition effects on human behavior.

I examine the effect of between group and within group competition by using a Public Goods game we conducted in 2007 with the sample of Cardenas, et al. 2008 (below)

Parental generosity and early child development: an experimental approach.

I designed an economic experiment to measure parents’ willingness to invest in their children’s human capital.

Are Public Officials Less Pro-Social? An Artefactual Field Experiment in Colombia. With Natalia Candelo (Cunny Queens College), JC Cardenas and Alejandro Gaviria

Book Chapters

Discrimination in the Provision of Social Services to the Poor: A Field Experimental Study. With Cárdenas, JC, Natalia Candelo, Alejandro Gaviria and Rajiv Sethi (Columbia University). 2009. Book Chapter 3. In: Discrimination in Latin America: an Economic perspective. Edited by Hugo Ñopo, Alberto Chong, Andrea Moro. LADF Series – World Bank.

What Extent Do Latin Americans Trust and Cooperate? Field Experiments on Social Exclusion in Six Latin American Countries. With Cardenas JC, Calónico, Sebastian, N. Candelo, Alberto Chong and Hugo Ñopo (2008) In: IADB IPES 2008 Report: Outsiders? The Changing Patterns of Exclusion in Latin America and the Caribbean (David Rockefeller/Inter-American Development Bank). Chapter 7.

Other working papers

Prosocial behavior, Heterogeneity and Incentives: Experimental evidence from the local commons in Colombia.

Promotion of pro-social behavior in social dilemmas has been subject to an increased interest among social scientists and policy makers due to the relevance of Common Pool Resources (CPR) in long-run human wellbeing. First, this study accounts for unobserved heterogeneity of individuals' social preferences and group composition of types within each group. On the other hand, it explores the role of heterogeneity of pro-social preferences on achieving the most efficient economic incentive. We drop the assumption that all individuals are all self-regarding and develop several models of pure Nash strategies for our CPR game when individuals are motivated by a combination of self-interest and preferences for altruism, reciprocity or inequity aversion. Second, we estimate individual heterogeneity by using a random coefficients model approach and classify individual social preferences (according to their behavior in the baseline phase) by assigning a type to every participant. Third, we compare the role of heterogeneity of preferences in social efficiency across incentives and confirm the existence of different effects of incentives on each type; the subsidy is found to be the most socially efficient incentive. Finally, we obtain exogenous determinants of individual types: level of education, perceptions on the CPR, perceived interest in cooperation among the community, whether the participant does volunteer work and whether the CPR is the household main economic activity of the household. We also obtain endogenous determinants such as the composition of types in the group and their demographic characteristics.

Helping the Helpers: Altruism as A Rational Choice of Donors to A Students Voluntary Organization. With JC Cárdenas and Miguel Espinosa (2009). Working paper CEDE (30). University of Los Andes.

Methodological steps for an experimental design to measure social capital and collective action in six Latinamerican cities (in spanish) With Natalia Candelo (2008). Working paper CEDE (17) University of Los Andes.