Matteo Bobba's HDR November 6th,2023

November 06, 2023 Research

Professor Matteo BOBBA will defend his HDR on Monday 6 November at 16:30, by ZOOM

"Essays in Development and Labor Economics"

To attend the conference, please contact the secretariat Louise Strachan.

Memberships are:

  • Emmanuelle Auriol : Professor of Economics, University Toulouse Capitole - TSE
  • Thierry Magnac : Professor of Economics,, University Toulouse Capitole - TSE
  • Petra Todd : Professor of Economics, University of Pennsylvania
  • Costas Meghir : Professor of Economics,, Yale University
  • Orazio Attanasio : Professor of Economics, Yale University


This thesis encompasses six research papers that I have completed over the last seven years during my tenure-track at TSE. The topics of this body work can be broadly categorized into three groups. A first strand is aimed at understanding factors that influence the allocative efficiency of labour markets in developing countries. These markets are often characterized by substantial frictions such as rigid formal labor contracts, and diffuse subsistence-level self-employment. In joint work with Flabbi and Levy (JoE, 2021;IER, 2022) we explicitly formalize those distortions in the context of a search-theoretic framework of the labour market coupled with a bargaining structure to determine wages. We use this framework to study how the labor market institutions that give raise to informal jobs affect individuals’ incentives to acquire schooling before entering the labor market as well as during the life cycle through on-the-job human capital accumulation. Structural estimation of the model using individual-level labor market data from urban Mexico and the resulting counterfactual simulations allow assessing the extent to which key labor market parameters, such as payroll contributions and non-contributory benefits, affect the returns to schooling and human capital investments.

A second strand is devoted to a better understanding of the sources of spatial inequalities in schooling achievement and attainment within countries. The level and structure of public sector compensation both play a key role in the ability of governments to attract, retain and motivate talented teachers. However contracts in the public sector typically offer rigid wage profiles, flat pay scales, which are mostly tied to seniority rather than merit, ability, or job amenities. In recent work with a team of co-authors (Bobba et al, Rej&R JPE) we study the recruitment, retention, and productivity effects of a policy that raised public sector teacher salaries by 20%-30% at designated schools in rural Peru. Our findings document that an alternative policy that sets compensation at each job posting taking into account teacher preferences is more cost-effective than the actual policy in terms of reducing structural inequality in access to learning opportunities, and it possibly enhances the efficiency of the education system. In Bobba and Frisancho (JoE 2022), we design and implement a field experiment within a centralized school assignment system in Mexico City in order to study whether and how youths' inaccurate perceptions about their own academic skills generate misallocations through inadequate school choices. On average, the performance feedback reduces the relative role of priors on posteriors and shifts substantial probability mass toward the signal. Further evidence reveals that males and high-socioeconomic status students tend to process new information on their own ability more effectively.

Finally, the last strand of my research agenda is devoted to a better understanding of the “scale-up problem”. This is the tendency for the size effect of an intervention to diminish, if not vanish, when that intervention is scaled up to reach a larger (and more diverse) population of recipients. In our recent study (Agostinelli, Avitabile, and Bobba, R&R JPE), we contribute to the debate about the challenges of scaling up education interventions. We use a case study involving a mentoring program that was evaluated at scale in Chiapas, the poorest state in Mexico. The analysis encompasses two independent field experiments and seizes a unique opportunity to learn from the government’s implementation of the same intervention. Our findings offer compelling evidence on the socially determined drivers of education interventions at scale. Following up on previous work on the centralized school assignment mechanism in Mexico City, Bobba et al (2023) quantify the effect of a counterfactual and yet feasible implementation of the information intervention at a much larger scale. Simulation results demonstrate substantial heterogeneity in the demand-side responses, which trigger sorting and displacement patterns within the assignment mechanism. The equilibrium effects of the intervention may possibly hinder the subsequent academic trajectories of high-achieving and socio-economically disadvantaged students.