"Are city centers losing their appeal? Commercial real estate, urban spatial structure, and COVID-19" with Stuart S. Rosenthal and William C. Strange. Journal of Urban Economics (2022).


This paper estimates the value firms place on access to city centers and how this has changed with COVID-19. Pre-COVID, across 89 U.S. urban areas, commercial rent on newly executed long-term leases declines 2.3% per mile from the city center and increases 8.4% with a doubling of zipcode employment density. These relationships are stronger for large, dense “transit cities” that rely heavily on subway and light rail. Post-COVID, the commercial rent gradient falls by roughly 15% in transit cities, and the premium for proximity to transit stops also falls. We do not see a corresponding decline in the commercial rent gradient in more car-oriented cities, but for all cities the rent premium associated with employment density declines sharply following the COVID-19 shock.

"Civil Conflict and Conditional Cash Transfers: Effects on demobilization" with Paola Peña and Juan M. Villa. World Development (2017).

Research Papers

"The Evolution of Slums in Chile, 2000-2021" with Paul Gertler, Marco Gonzales-Navarro and Raimundo Undurraga (draft coming soon).


We study the location and evolution of slums' physical characteristics and socio-economic status in Chile for the universe of slums using rich data from administrative records, household surveys and satellite images. We obtained satellite images for all areas ever covered by a slum between 2000 and 2021 to build a panel data on the universe of informal settlements before and after the government characterized them as slums. We conduct three sets of analyses: (1) where slums are located and how their physical and socio-economic characteristics changed over time, (2) how changes in local economic conditions in the municipalities in which the slums are located are associated with slum population growth and development; and (3) the impact of government population relocation and in-situ upgrading programs on the evolution of slum physical and socio-economic characteristics. Descriptively, slums developed in the periphery of the cities, are dynamic, expanding rapidly both physically and demographically, experiencing large shifts in family structures. Slum growth is linked to higher rental prices and better labor market outcomes for low-skilled workers. Finally, government programs decrease slums’ building area and residential land. However, only in-situ upgrading programs seem to have lasting positive effects on housing quality.

"Eyes on the Street, Spatial Concentration of Retail Activity and Crime" with Stuart S. Rosenthal.


If spatial concentration of retail establishments amplifies the effect of “eyes on the street”, that should lower neighborhood crime rates and reduce investment in anti-crime measures, with benefits capitalized into higher retail rent. Data for New York City supports these predictions. In addition, comparisons between nighttime versus daytime crime, pre-pandemic versus COVID-19 lockdown, and different measures of spatial concentration shed light on mechanisms. Under plausible identifying conditions, increasing neighborhood concentration of retail outlets by one standard deviation reduces property crime and police stops by at least 8.5% and 11%, respectively, and causes retail rent to increase by at least 7.8%. 

"Perceptions of Police Bias and the Location of Minority-Owned Establishment"


This paper considers whether perceptions of police bias can have lasting adverse effects on minority-owned businesses even after evidence of police misconduct has diminished. Customers and workers are discouraged from conducting business in areas where they might feel unsafe. That in turn may hurt the profitability of minority-owned businesses in neighborhoods where concerns about police behavior are prevalent, reducing the presence of minority-owned establishments and their potential to thrive in such locations. Using data on police stops from the Stop-Question-Frisk policy in New York City, I find that minority-owned businesses are less present and exhibit higher failure rates in neighborhoods where perceptions of police bias are likely to be more pronounced. Differences in patterns by industry provide suggestive evidence that minority customers and workers are discouraged from locations where police behavior against minorities can be perceived as biased.

"Moving Citizens and Deterring Criminals: Innovation in Public Transport  Facilities" with Gustavo Canavire-Bacarreza and Juan Carlos Duque.


In 2004, Medellin opened the first public transportation system based on cable cars (Metrocable) that reached isolated, dense neighborhoods. Using spatial difference-in-differences, causal mediation, and spatially disaggregated datasets, we estimate the effects of the Metrocable on crime and its mechanisms. Homicide decreased by 40% more in treated and adjacent neighborhoods between 2004 and 2006, while the reduction was 51% between 2004 and 2012. A third of the short-run effect and a quarter of the medium-run effect can be explained by improvements in the formal labor market and police efficiency.

"Offside Urban Echoes: Exploring the Spatial Dynamics of Soccer and Crime in Medellin" with Gustavo Canavire-Bacarreza and Catalina Gomez-Toro

Work in Progress

"The Power of Bystanders"

"The Cost of Crime in Mexico" with Laura Chioda and Paul Gertler.

"Coastal Micro-migration and Urbanization under Climate Change Uncertainty" with Juan Jose Miranda.