Theses Doctoral

Essays in Development Economics and Political Economy

Romero Fonseca, Dario Alberto

This dissertation consists of three essays. Each one seeks to add in the understanding, in a small way, of the factors that contribute to the development of societies. The first chapter explores the decisive facts of technological advancements and the ability of trade to shape incentives to create new techniques destined for the open markets. The second chapter examines the electoral consequence of having a conservative biased source of information and its effects on the desired ideology of representatives. The third explores how using violence, illegal groups can reach their population control goals in their territories. These three chapters seek to answer history, and power relations between different groups determine societies' paths.

In the first chapter, I study how access to international markets affects the direction of technical change. I use a historical trade shock that transformed the Spanish textile industry at the end of the 19th century. After Spain effectively forced its colonies to buy manufactured cotton goods in 1891, I document an increase in cotton textile innovation relative to other fabrics. After the colonies' independence in 1898, the difference in textile innovation between cotton and different fabric remained significant. This shows that innovation exhibits a path dependence even without the initial conditions that motivated the increase. I provide price evidence of the strength of the technical change indicating that the rise in relative prices of cotton fabrics boosted the rise in cotton innovation. Together, these results provide some of the first causal evidence on how international trade and foreign markets shape the direction of the technical change. Even more, I show that innovation is possible in peripherical countries. Conditions outside the technological leaders determined the incentives of local innovators to develop technologies needed for those local conditions.

In chapter 2, written with Haaris Mateen, we study how the introduction of a biased local TV operator affects electoral results. We use Sinclair Broadcasting Group's (SBG) staggered expansion over 2012 and 2017. This is the largest TV operator in the United States and is known for its conservative slant. We find that in areas exposed to SBG biased news coverage in local TV stations the electoral results experienced changes compared to places where the company did not penetrate. First, we find that penetration of SBG decreased the likelihood of a third-party candidate in the House of Representatives elections yet increased the probability of having a republican candidate as the winner of the seat. On the other hand, in the presidential elections after SBG penetration, the republican party was harmed, and its candidate received fewer votes, thanks to an increase in the voting of third parties. Second, when analyzing the ideology of the winner of the local election, we document a movement to the right, partially motivated by an increase in the probability of electing a conservative republican as representative. Finally, when looking at the mechanism that explains these effects, we find no movements on the democrat candidates but changes towards the right on republican candidates. In those areas affected by SBG, the republican candidate had a more significant likelihood to be conservative and not moderate. Evermore, those republican candidates had an increase in the donations coming from PACs. Together, these results prove that media have differential impacts on the election. It can affect beyond the voters' preferences, and it also affects the decision of which type of candidates run on local electoral races.

In chapter 3, together with Diego Martin, we study how non-state actors enforce stay-at-home orders to reduce COVID-19 cases. We argue that Colombian-illegal groups used massacres to enforce social distance rules. Massacres are attacks killing at least three defenseless civilians in one operation. We estimate the effect of those violent events using a synthetic control method. To rule out the channel of massacres for other reasons such as coca production, we compare sub-regions with low conflict before the pandemic and where coca is not suitable for growth. We find that places with massacres reduced the pandemic outbreak by 70 cases per 100.000 inhabitants per week after the second month. We show that the principal channel that explains our results is a reduction on mobility indexes. The first massacre decreased infection levels by reducing individuals' mobility at workplaces. Finally, we show that young population groups experienced the earliest reduction in infection rates, while the old group has the highest decline in infection rates after massacres.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Naidu, Suresh
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 20, 2022