Working Papers

Corruption and Firms (with Mounu Prem) [pdf]
[This paper subsumes and extends the local economy analysis of the earlier paper “Corruption and Firms: Evidence from Randomized Audits in Brazil” (pdf).]
Abstract: We estimate the causal real economic effects of a randomized anti-corruption crackdown on local governments in Brazil over the period 2003-2014. After anti-corruption audits, municipalities experience an increase in economic activity concentrated in sectors most dependent on government relationships. These effects spill over to nearby municipalities and are larger when the audits are covered by the media. Back-of-the-envelope estimates suggest that $1 away from corruption generates more than $3 in local value added. Using administrative matched employer-employee and firm-level datasets and novel face-to-face firm surveys we argue that corruption mostly acts as a barrier to entry, and by introducing costs and distortions on local government-dependent firms. The political misallocation of resources across firms plays a seemingly secondary role, indicating that at the local level most rents are captured by politicians and public officials rather than firms.  

Patronage and Selection in Public Sector Organizations (with Edoardo Teso and Mounu Prem) [pdf] [Revise and Resubmit at the American Economic Review]
Abstract: In all modern bureaucracies, politicians retain some discretion in public employment decisions, which may lead to frictions in the selection process if political connections substitute for individual competence. Relying on detailed matched employer-employee data on the universe of public employees in Brazil over 1997–2014, and on a regression discontinuity design in close electoral races, we establish three main findings. First, political connections are a key and quantitatively large determinant of employment in public organizations, for both bureaucrats and frontline providers. Second, patronage is an important mechanism behind this result. Third, political considerations lead to the selection of less competent individuals.

Who Creates New Firms When Local Opportunities Arise? (with Shai Bernstein, Davide Malacrino, and Tim McQuade) [pdf] [Revise and Resubmit at the Journal of Financial Economics]
Abstract: We examine the characteristics of the individuals who become entrepreneurs when local opportunities arise. We identify local demand shocks by linking fluctuations in global commodity prices to municipality level agricultural endowments in Brazil. We find that the firm creation response is almost entirely driven by young and skilled individuals. Their response is larger in municipalities with better access to finance and more skilled human capital, and is driven entirely by the formal market. These results highlight how the composition of the local population can have a significant impact on the entrepreneurial responsiveness of the economy.   

Publications

Bankruptcy Spillovers (with Shai Bernstein, Xavier Giroud, and Benjamin Iverson) [pdf] [Journal of Financial Economics, 133, No. 3, September 2019: 608-633]
Abstract: How do different bankruptcy approaches affect the local economy? Using US Census microdata, we explore the spillover effects of reorganization and liquidation on geographically proximate firms. We exploit the random assignment of bankruptcy judges as a source of exogenous variation in the probability of liquidation. We find that employment declines substantially in the immediate neighborhood of the liquidated establishments, relative to reorganized establishments. The spillover effects are highly localized and concentrate in nontradable and service sectors, consistent with a reduction in local consumer traffic and a decline in knowledge spillovers between firms. The evidence highlights the externalities that bankruptcy design can impose on nonbankrupt firms.

Asset Allocation in Bankruptcy (with Shai Bernstein and Benjamin Iverson) [pdf] [Journal of Finance, Lead Article, 74, No. 1, February 2019: 5-53] 
Abstract: This paper investigates the consequences of liquidation and reorganization on the allocation and subsequent utilization of assets in bankruptcy. We identify 129,000 bankrupt establishments and construct a novel dataset that tracks the occupancy and employment at real estate assets over time. Using the random assignment of judges to bankruptcy cases as a natural experiment that forces some firms into liquidation, we find that even after accounting for reallocation, the long-run utilization of assets of liquidated firms is lower relative to assets of reorganized firms. These effects are concentrated in thin markets with few potential users and in areas with low access to finance. These findings suggest that when search frictions are large, liquidation can lead to an inefficient allocation of assets in bankruptcy. 

A Cross-Country Comparison of Dynamics in the Large Firm Wage Premium (with Joacim Tag, Michael Webb, and Stefanie Wolter) [pdf] [AEA: Papers and Proceedings, May 2018: 108: 323–27]
Abstract: We provide stylized facts on the existence and dynamics over time of the large firm wage premium for four countries. We examine matched employer-employee micro-data from Brazil, Germany, Sweden, and the UK, and find that the large firm premium exists in all these countries. However, we uncover substantial differences among them in the evolution of the wage premium over the past several decades. Moreover, we find no clear evidence of common cross-country industry trends. We conclude by discussing potential explanations for this heterogeneity, and proposing some questions for future work in the area.