Job Market Paper

African Slavery and the Reckoning of Brazil. (with Nuno Palma). [Latest version: 15 December 2023]

More enslaved Africans were disembarked in Brazil than in any other country in the New World. Using new archival data (over 12,000 observations), we analyze the consequences of the slave trade. We establish the first real wages and inequality series for more than three centuries (1574 to 1920) in Brazil, and find that these were initially on a similar level to Europe, but as the slave trade increased, wages decreased and inequality increased. Real wages for unskilled workers became among the lowest in the world, and only recovered with the end of the slave trade. We use slave trade prohibition shocks (1808, 1831, and 1850) to estimate the causal effect of ending slave imports on wages and inequality. The first prohibition led to an average increase of 24% in unskilled wages and a decrease of 25% in wage inequality, while later prohibitions led to even larger wage increases. We propose a mechanism suggesting that the slave trade affected long-run development through a labor market supply channel.


Judicial subversion: The effects of political power on court outcomes. Journal of Public Economics, 217 (2023). (with Henrik Sigstad).

Are politicians in power treated more leniently in court? We show that Brazilian mayoral candidates charged with misconduct are 65 percent less likely to be convicted if they narrowly win the election. Politicians play no direct role in the judges’ careers, suggesting that formal independence does not completely insulate the judiciary from political influence. The effect is driven by districts with few judges and by judges with higher career instability.

Education for Control and Liberation in Africa and among the Black Diaspora. Comparative Education Review, vol. 67, n. 4 (2023). (with Dozie Okoye, Shourya Sen, and Leonard Wantchekon). Accepted version.

We review research on the history of education policy in colonial sub-Saharan Africa and among the African Diaspora in the United States and Brazil through a political economy lens. While the supply of education was severely constricted in all of these cases, demand for education remained strong. Thus, even as authoritarian states have attempted to restrict educational supply for social control, the strength of the demand—and the accompanying pedagogical, organizational, and political innovations—illustrates the power of education to empower marginalized communities. Through reviewing work in economics, history, and political science, we highlight the transformative effects of formal education in Black communities as well as the centrality of Black people in demanding access to higher education and innovating new political ideas and pedagogies that saw education as a force for liberation. Governments and citizens must continue to work to correct the inherited distortions in the supply of education in Black communities in Africa as well as in the diaspora.

Working papers

Old But Gold: Historical Pathways and Path Dependence (with Diogo Baerlocher, Diego Firmino, Eustáquio Reis, and Henrique Veras). [Latest version: April 2024]

We show that historical pathways from Brazil’s gold rush era still impact today’s population distribution. Furthermore, we find that these pathways shaped the initial urban configuration and population settlement, contributing to the heterogeneous evolution of impacted locations. We identify a causal relationship between the pathways and various demographic indicators, including population density, population growth via in-migration, urbanization, and structural change over time. The findings reveal patterns more consistent with path dependence rather than historical persistence. The empirical quantification of an economic geography model using our estimated agglomeration spillovers implies that the forces driving population dynamics lie in the path-dependence region.

Slave resistance, cultural transmission, and Brazil’s long-run economic development. [New version coming soon]

I show that ethnic territories connected to slave resistance, called quilombos, have a robust positive relationship with local economic development in Brazil. Based on the history of the quilombos, I propose a mechanism where initial religious beliefs and African iron-working and other high-valued skills are perpetuated in the long run through cultural-religious intergenerational transmission. First, I divide the Brazilian territory in virtual municipality cells of approximately 11 x 11 kilometers, which makes possible an extensive use of fixed effects, and show that cells with more quilombos have more economic activity proxied by nightlights. Second, I employ a randomization inference approach with alternative spatial configurations of counterfactual quilombos. I then show that proximity to quilombos is related to more high-skilled and metal-related occupations and a wide array of cultural-religious outcomes, such as higher cultural activities, community trust, and collective action.

Estimating a Behavioral New Keynesian Model. (with Joaquim Andrade and Pedro Cordeiro). [Latest version: December 2019]

This paper analyzes identification issues of a behavorial New Keynesian model and estimates it using likelihood-based and limited-information methods with identification-robust confidence sets. The model presents some of the same difficulties that exist in simple benchmark DSGE models, but the analytical solution is able to indicate in what conditions the cognitive discounting parameter (attention to the future) can be identified and the robust estimation methods is able to confirm its importance for explaining the proposed behavioral model.

Work in progress

The economic contribution of freed slave returnees: Evidence from the godfathering networks of the Agudas in 19th century Benin. (with Leonard Wantchekon).

The legal consequences of government audits. (with Ricardo Prioste and Henrik Sigstad).

Judicialization of Politics: Evidence from Brazilian local elections. (with Moya Chin and Henrik Sigstad).

How a Nation is Born: Reconstructing Four Centuries of Brazilian Economic Growth. (with Nuno Palma).

Geography, slavery, and income: A spatial equilibrium approach. (with Eustáquio Reis). Version presented at the RIDGE Economic History Workshop, Montevideo 2019.

Book chapters

Acesso à terra, escolha ocupacional e o diferencial de produtividade agrícola entre pequenos produtores. 2016. In: J.E.R. Vieira Filho and J.G. Gasques, ed., Agricultura, transformação produtiva e sustentabilidade. Brasília: IPEA.

Policy work

Development without Deforestation. 2014. Policy in Focus. UNDP/International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth. (Specialist Guest Editor with Carlos Castro). Also in Portuguese.