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2022/04: Low emission zones and traffic congestion: Evidence from Madrid Central

The aim of this paper is to shed light on the effect of Low Emission Zones (LEZs) on traffic. LEZs are areas in which access is restricted for the most polluting vehicles. They have been found to be effective in reducing pollution, while the expected effect on traffic is not clear. Using high-frequency granular data on traffic for the city of Madrid, I analyse whether LEZ schemes are effective in reducing traffic within the area of implementation and whether they generate a displacement effect. Taking advantage of the exogeneity of the implementation timing, I develop a pre/post analysis based on time. Results suggest a reduction in traffic inside the restricted area and a displacement to all the other areas of the city. I find a switch to public transport for commutes directed towards the restricted area and rerouting of trips for destinations outside Madrid Central to be two of the possible mechanisms explaining these results. The reduction in transit inside the restricted area gradually decreases over time and disappears after 7 months. This is consistent with the renewal of the vehicles’ fleet with unrestricted and cleaner vehicles generated by the policy.

2022/03: Learning loss one year after school closures: Evidence from the Basque Country

We use census data on external assessments in primary and secondary school in the Basque Country (Spain) to estimate learning losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2021, one year after school closures, which lasted from March to June 2020. Differences-in-differences with student and school-by-grade fixed effects show an average learning loss of 0.045 standard deviations, an effect which is smaller than short-run effects estimated by previous papers, and estimated after 6 months of one of the most successful school reopening campaigns among OECD countries. The effect is larger in Mathematics, moderate in Basque language, and none in Spanish language. Controlling for socioeconomic differences, learning losses are especially large in public schools, and also in private schools with a high percentage of low-performing students. On the other hand, we find a regression to the mean within schools, possibly due to a compressed curriculum during the whole period. Finally, we show that students’ with higher learning losses self-report significantly worse levels of socio-emotional well- being due to the pandemic.

2022/02: Effectiveness and supply effects of high-coverage rent control policies

Concerns related to housing affordability are widespread in cities worldwide, and discussions about adopting rent control policies abound. This paper studies the effects of a rent control policy adopted in Catalonia in September 2020 that applies to some but not all municipalities. The policy virtually covers all the rental market and forces ads and tenancy agreements to specify the applicable rent cap to ensure enforcement. In order to identify the causal effect of the rent control regulation, we implement difference-in-differences regressions and event-study designs and analyze average rents and the number of tenancy agreements signed. Our results indicate that the regulation reduced average rents paid by about 6%. However, this price drop did not lead to a reduction in the supply of housing units in the rental market. We implement several robustness tests to address several identification concerns related to Covid-19. Our results suggest that rent control policies can be effective in reducing rental prices and do not necessarily shrink the rental market.

2022/01: Financing public education when altruistic agents have retirement concerns

We study, theoretically and empirically, the link between voters’ support for public education and pensions when agents are free to choose between public and private education. We show that the (inter-generational) redistributive component in the retirement system creates a link between pensions and education. Specifically, the current investment in education increases future productivity and, hence, future tax proceeds. This channel applies for households that chose private education too. Consequently, the support for publicly financed education grows together with the generosity and degree of redistribution of the retirement system. The empirical analysis uses repeated cross-country surveys to confirm the model predictions.

2021/07: Ignorance is bliss: voter education and alignment in distributive politics

Central politicians channel resources to sub-national entities for political gains. We show formally that the central politicians’ allocation decision has two drivers: political alignment (between central and local politicians) and the level of local political accountability. However, drivers count one at a time: alignment matters before local elections, while local political accountability matters before central elections. We then perform a test of our model using Brazilian data, which corroborates our results. Furthermore, we show and explain why political accountability becomes a curse: better educated districts receive fewer transfers in equilibrium.

2021/06: The impact of ‘competition for the market’ regulatory designs on intercity bus prices

Spain regulates its intercity bus market by means of a ‘competition for the market’ mechanism, whose design has been modified several times in the last years. This implies that current services are operated under contracts whose conditions are heterogeneous. We take advantage of such fact to empirically measure the impact that regulatory designs may have on fares paid by the users. The results show very large differences between routes whose contracts were awarded under relatively open conditions compared to regionally regulated routes or very old contracts whose concessions were extended and have not been retendered.

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