I am a PhD student in Economics at the University of Zurich.
I work at the intersection of development and behavioral economics. I am interested in how the social environment affects economic and health outcomes, with a focus on developing countries. My current field work is based in Uganda.
In my job-market paper, I explore the economic benefits of obesity in developing countries. In settings where information is scarce, wealth signals can play an important role. Here, I focus on obesity as a sign of wealth. Using experimental evidence from Kampala (Uganda), I demonstrate that obese people are perceived as rich and that being obese facilitates access to credit. By exploiting random variation in asymmetric information between borrowers and lenders, I conclude that – in the absence of verifiable data on wealth and earnings – body mass matters because it conveys information about a borrower’s quality.
You can contact me at:
This paper studies the wealth-signaling value and the economic benefits of obesity, a seemingly irrelevant but harmful status symbol, in low-resource settings. My empirical strategy leverages a set of experiments in which I randomly assign body mass by varying if a decision maker sees an obese or a not-obese weight-manipulated portrait. I provide three main results. First, residents of Kampala (Uganda) perceive obesity as a strong signal of wealth, but not of other traits like beauty or health. Second, being obese facilitates access to credit. In a real-stake field experiment in cooperation with 124 Kampala credit institutions, professional loan officers screen borrowers based on body mass. In an access-to-credit index of loan officers’ evaluations, going from normal weight to obese is equivalent to increasing a borrower’s earnings by 60%. Third, the obesity premium is mainly a response to asymmetric information, thus body mass matters because it signals wealth. To test for the wealth-signaling hypothesis, I vary the degree of asymmetric information over wealth: increasing the amount of borrowers’ financial information available reduces the obesity premium by two-thirds. Since obesity and earnings are positively correlated in Kampala, the results may be consistent with profit-maximizing behaviors. Yet, I find evidence of large misperceptions. Obesity benefits in accessing credit are significantly overestimated —thus inefficiently raising the perceived cost of healthy behaviors, and both loan officers and borrowers appear to place too much weight on obesity as a wealth signal —likely distorting supply and demand of credit.
The future of an institution, such as the European Union, ultimately depends on people’s support. This paper investigates whether EU redistributive policies have improved public attitudes towards European integration, both in terms of public opinion and political preferences. We focus on Cohesion Policy funds, whose allocation allows us to single out these effects by means of a regression discontinuity approach. The results show that EU transfers have mitigated the rise of Eurosceptical attitudes and reduced political consensus for anti-EU parties. The effects are homogeneous across different socio-economic groups, including the most disadvantaged ones. The improvement in public support for the EU does not appear to be exclusively a spillover of the positive economic effect of funding; we show evidence suggesting the existence of a ‘reciprocity-effect’ channel, i.e. citizens in recipient regions recognize the beneficial role of the EU as the source of funding.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that, in low-resource settings, providing employment is a common way to redistribute wealth and share earnings. In this paper, we explore the existence and the determinants of social pressure to provide employment in rural Uganda. Using an experimental approach, we investigate and discuss consequences for profits, agricultural productivity, and technology adoption.
Nakasero Market, Kampala
IPA Uganda team preparing for loan officers interviews.
Models preparing for shooting
Traditional Ugandan Food
KFC at Acacia Mall, Kampala (one of the fanciest places in town)