Diego Battiston

London School of Economics

I am an Assistant Professor in Economics at Stockholm University and an Associate in the Centre for Economic Performance's at LSE. I've recently completed my PhD in Economics at the London School of Economics.

My research interests lie in the areas of Labor Economics, Organisational Economics and Development Economics. I am also interested in Data Science and Machine Learning applications.

Department of Economics
Stockholm University
SE-106 91 Stockholm

Research Papers

    “The Persistent Effects of Brief Interactions: Evidence from Immigrant Ships” Job Market Paper , download

    This paper shows that brief social interactions can have a large impact on economic outcomes when they occur in high-stakes decision contexts. I study this question using a high frequency and detailed geolocalized dataset of matched immigrants-ships from the age of mass migration. Individuals exogenously travelling with (previously unrelated) higher quality shipmates end up being employed in higher quality jobs at destination. Several findings suggest that shipmates provide access and/or information about employment opportunities. Firstly, immigrants' sector of employment and place of residence are affected by those of their shipmates' contacts. Secondly, the baseline effects are stronger for individuals travelling alone and with fewer connections at destination. Thirdly, immigrants are affected more strongly by shipmates who share their language. These findings underline the sizeable effects of even brief social connections, provided that they occur during critical life junctures.

    Data Matching Appendix: Python example for Levenshtein Automata Search with Radix Tries.

    "Face-to-Face Communication in Organisations" (with J. Blanes i Vidal and T. Kirchmaier) - download
    Revision requested, Review of Economic Studies. Awarded the CEPR Prize for Outstanding Research in Organisation and Management.

    This paper studies how the ability to communicate in person affects productivity in organisations. Understanding this relation empirically has proven elusive due to measurement and endogeneity issues. We take advantage of a unique natural experiment in an organisation where workers must transmit complex electronic information to their teammates. For exogenous reasons, workers can sometimes also communicate face-to-face. We show that productivity is higher when face-to-face communication is possible, and that this effect is stronger for urgent and complex tasks, for homogeneous workers, and for high pressure conditions. We highlight the opportunity costs of face-to-face communication and their dependence on organisational slack.

    "The Local Effect of Executions" (with J. Blanes i Vidal) , download

    The death penalty is arguably the most controversial criminal justice policy in the US. Despite an extensive body of work, there is no credible causal evidence that it affects crime. In this paper, we show that executions cause a local reduction in serious violent crime (homicides, rapes and assaults with weapon). A simple behavioural model predicts that highly publicised executions reduce crime, albeit only temporarily and as long as capital punishment remains relatively rare. We test these predictions using a panel dataset disaggregated at the county-date level. Controlling for date and county-month fixed effects, we find that serious crime is lower in the days surrounding an execution, in the county where the capital offense was originally committed. An event study analysis and a set of robustness tests reinforce this conclusion. The effect is decreasing in the number of recent executions in the county, and it is higher for executions associated with a lot of media attention. Counties neighbouring the original-crime county also experience a significant, albeit smaller, decrease in crime.

Research in Progress

    "Productivity in the Open Plan Workplace" (with J. Blanes i Vidal, T. Kirchmaier and K. Szmeredi)

    Organisations can choose the physical environment where their workers operate. We study the effect of physical proximity among colleagues on productivity in the workplace. Specifically, we investigate whether and why the productivity of a worker depends on the occupation by other workers of the desks adjacent to her. Using high-frequency data from a large organisation, we find that the presence of nearby colleagues increases worker productivity. The effect is stronger when the nearby workers share the same supervisor but decreases with the number of coworkers' interactions.

    "Can Productivity Shocks Boost Chain Migration?"

    This paper studies to what extent local productivity shocks can trigger immigration of relatives and friends of settled immigrants. I first estimate the geographical distribution of surnames-nationalities in the US in the beginning of 20th Century. Then, using data on local productivity shocks (oil discoveries and weather), I estimate the subsequent change in the inflow of passengers with surnames-nationalities more prevalent in the county which experienced the shock. The high frequency of data allows to observe the leads and lags responses for short intervals of time, which overcomes the difficulties of identifying the effects of local shocks with decennial census data.

    "Congestion in Labor Markets: An Empirical Investigation Based on Daily Arrivals During the Age of Mass Migration"

    Using daily variation in passenger arrivals to Ellis Island in the period 1900-1924, this paper shows that individuals arrived in days of high congestion, are employed in worse jobs. The identification strategy follows from the fact that conditional on a one-month time window, the total number of ships arrived (from any port) in a given day are exogenous to individual characteristics. I interpret the results using a search model with high entry costs and asymmetric information.

    "Trade Diversion Effects of the Panama Canal" (with F. Valencia and F. Rossi)

    Improvements in communication infrastructure and transportation technologies have been promoted as significant drivers of economic development. However, the negative externalities they create have received less empirical attention, partly because of the challenges involved in their identification. Following the opening of the Panama Canal, the number of ships stopping at intermediate South-American ports suddenly declined. We study how this even affected the decline and structural transformation of west-coastal cities in Chile. Our identification strategy exploits the interaction between the relative geographical position of cities and the post-opening period.

    "The Teacher Labor Market: Allocation Rules, Sorting and Incentives" (with S. Giardili)

    Many countries assign teachers to public schools using a centralized matching algorithm based on teachers’ preferences and schools’ priorities. In this paper, we study how the design of the teacher labor market affects teachers’ performance and student achievement. Making use of novel data from Argentina, we first perform a critical assessment of teachers’ preferences in relation to school characteristics and locations. Second, we exploit the discontinuities induced by the clearinghouse mechanism to assess the effect of contract/matching types on teachers’ performance.

Publications (Pre-PhD) [✚]

Policy and Discussion Papers [✚]