1. Is deforestation spreading COVID-19 to the indigenous peoples?

This paper examines deforestation’s effect on the COVID-19 transmission to indigenous peoples and its transmission mechanisms. To that end, I analyze the Brazilian case and use new datasets that cover all the country’s municipalities daily. Relying on a fixed-effects model, I find that deforestation is a powerful and consistent variable to explain the transmission of COVID-19 to indigenous populations. The estimates show that one unit increase in deforestation per 100 Km2 is associated, on average, with the confirmation of 2.4 to 5.5 new daily cases of COVID-19 in indigenous people 14 days after the deforestation warnings. One Km2 deforested today results in 9.5% more new COVID-19 cases in two weeks. In accumulated terms, deforestation explains at least 22% of all COVID-19 cases confirmed in indigenous people until 31 August 2020. The evidence suggests that the main mechanisms through which deforestation intensifies human contact between indigenous and infected people are illegal mining and conflicts.

Published at CEPR’s COVID Economics.

Short version:; VideoVox

Media coverage: Folha de S. Paulo, 27/10/20, ClimaInfo, Weekendavisen (Denmark), Uol (15/11/2021)

2. Tordesillas, Slavery and the Origins of Brazilian Inequality, co-authored with Felipe Valencia

This article documents the long-term impact of slavery on inequality at the receiving end. We focus on Brazil, the largest receiver of African slaves and the last country to abolish this institution in the Western Hemisphere, in 1888. To deal with the endogeneity of slavery placement, we use a spatial Regression Discontinuity Design (RDD), exploiting the Tordesillas Treaty, which established the colonial boundaries between the Portuguese and Spanish empires within Brazil. We find that the number of slaves in 1872 is discontinuously higher on the Portuguese side of the border, consistent with this power’s comparative advantage in transatlantic slavery. We then show how this differential slave rate led to higher modern income inequality of 0.04 points (of the Gini Index), close to 10% of the average income inequality in the country. In terms of mechanisms, we find a wider income gap, and important differences in education, employment and prejudice for blacks in modern times. We rule out the role of colonizer identity and other mechanisms proposed in the historical literature.

Media coverage: El Pais, 20/11/17,  Il sole 24 ore, Estado de S. Paulo, Nexo

3. From Telegraphs to Space: Transport Infrastructure, Development and Deforestation in the Amazon

In this article, I exploit a source of quasi-random variation in observed infrastructure and develop a historical route opened by the Rondon Commission (1915-1917) as an instrumental variable strategy to investigate the impact of a national highway on the development of the Amazon region. Furthermore, I also explore potential transmission mechanisms, such as deforestation. My empirical tests rely on three data sources: night-time satellite data, census micro-data and deforestation satellite data. Using night-time satellite data, I find that for each kilometer’s distance away from highway, the income of a pixel (0.86 km2) captured by the intensity of night-time light decreases by 0.10%. Transport infrastructure has also affected deforestation in the Amazon, open new frontiers for cattle farming and soybean agriculture. For each kilometer’s distance away from highway BR-364, the average percentage of trees per pixel increases from 5% to 9%, while this coefficient for census group data varies from 2% to 9%. I also observe that in indigenous areas the forest coverage by pixel is 24% larger in relation to other areas.

4. Ready to Tax: What Happens When Brazilian Municipalities Invest in Fiscal Capacity?

While the theme of fiscal capacity has gained increased attention in academia, there is little empirical evidence of its impact on development outcomes. This paper contributes to the existing literature by measuring the causality of investments in fiscal capacity of urban property taxes on development and political outcomes. The results show that investing in fiscal capacity increases property tax revenues per capita and property tax revenues over total revenue, as well as increases the provision of public goods that improve welfare, while it has no impact on the re-election of the municipalities’ mayors. I use a combination of the propensity score matching and difference-in-differences (DD) methodologies and find that investments in tax maps, for instance, increase property tax revenues by US$ 1.3 to US$ 1.6 per capita annually, given that the average property tax revenue per capita of the full sample is US$ 9.34. The results also show that the number of households where waste is collected increases 2,210 when a municipality invests in digital tax map in comparison to those that do not. Municipalities that invested in digital real estate database and digital tax map increases the vaccination coverage by 3.3 to 10.8% in comparison to those that did not. For political outcomes, I do not find evidence that investments in fiscal capacity affects re-election. Therefore, the political costs of investing in fiscal capacity might be counter-balanced by the benefits of the higher delivery of public goods.