(2024) Misallocation of the immigrant workforce: Aggregate productivity effects for the host country
in Economic Modelling, vol. 130, 106475 (with A. Varón)
Immigrants often face more obstacles in finding employment in their desired occupations compared to native workers. These barriers can result in misallocation of the immigrant workforce, which, in the case of large-scale migrations, can decrease aggregate labor productivity in the host country. We examine this phenomenon in the context of Colombia between 2015 and 2019, a period of mass migration from Venezuela. Using a model of occupational choice that accounts for discrimination and additional barriers preventing workers from selecting their preferred occupations, we quantify the extent of immigrants’ misallocation and its impact on Colombian aggregate labor productivity. Our findings indicate that both frictions significantly misallocate Venezuelan immigrants. Removing them could increase Colombian productivity by 0.9%, making the contribution of immigration to Colombian economic growth up to 29% larger. Our study thus highlights the importance of reducing barriers for immigrants in the labor market, to promote productivity and growth in the host country.
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(2023) Is the pandemic fast-tracking automation in developing countries? Preliminary evidence from Colombia
in Journal of Human Capital, vol. 17(4) (with L. Bonilla, D. Hermida, L. Flórez, L. Morales, F. Lasso and J. Ospina)
This paper assesses whether the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated automation in developing countries. We studied the case of Colombia, a country with low R&D and productivity and with high labor informality and unemployment. We estimated event-study models to assess the differential effect of the pandemic on job openings and salaried employment by the potential degree of automation of each occupation. Our results suggest that both vacancies and salaried employment fell more in highly automatable occupations during the pandemic and have since experienced a slower recovery. The effect of the pandemic on automation is mostly driven by sectors that were affected by mobility restrictions. We also found heterogeneous effects by age and gender. The acceleration of automation is mainly affecting the labor market for females and individuals over the age of 40. Finally, we explored the differential effect on occupations with wages around the minimum wage. We found that occupations with wages close to the minimum wage exhibit the highest effect, especially at the onset of the pandemic.
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(2022) Effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the Colombian labor market: Disentangling the effect of sector-specific mobility restrictions
in Canadian Journal of Economics, Vol 55, Special issue: the Covid pandemic (with L. Morales, L. Bonilla, L. Flórez, D. Hermida, K. Pulido and F. Lasso)
We assess the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and particularly the sector-specific mobility restrictions on the Colombian labour market. We exploit the sectoral and temporal variation of the restriction policies to identify their effect. Mobility restrictions significantly reduced employment, accounting for approximately a quarter of the total job loss between February and April of 2020. The remaining three quarters of the job losses could be attributed to the disease’s regional patterns and other epidemiological and economic factors affecting the whole country. Therefore, we should expect important employment losses even in the absence of such restrictions. We also assess the effect of restrictions on the intensive margin, finding negative, although smaller effects on the number of hours worked and wages. Most of the employment effect is driven by salaried workers, while self-employment was more responsive to the disease spread. Finally, we find that women are disproportionally affected: mobility restrictions account for a third of the recent increase of the gender gap in salaried employment.
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Work in progress
Barriers to mobility or sorting? Sources and aggregate implications of income gaps across sectors in Indonesia
with T. Święcki. Revision requested at American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics
The existence of large income gaps between agricultural and non-agricultural workers in developing countries is well known. However, the source of these gaps is still being debated and the two main hypotheses – barriers to labor mobility and sorting of workers based on unobserved productivity – have opposing implications for aggregate efficiency. We use a panel of Indonesian workers to move beyond the cross-sectional gaps and document that workers moving out of agriculture see income gains of over 20% while those moving into agriculture see similar income losses, with large flows of workers in both directions. To interpret these findings, we structurally estimate a model featuring both sorting and barriers to sectoral mobility. Our estimates indicate that while self-selection is important, there is more misallocation than is suggested in the recent literature. Removing mobility barriers would lead one third of workers to reallocate and would increase aggregate output by as much as 21%.
Intra- and inter-industry misallocation and comparative advantage
Micro-level resource misallocation, both within and across industries, can affect the relative unit costs of production across sectors, distorting comparative advantage. After presenting evidence on how changes in factor misallocation of a particular country (Colombia) relate to the dynamics of its revealed comparative advantage, I use a mis-allocation model with international trade to evaluate how its specialization patterns would change if resources were used efficiently. The new specialization would allow Colombia to raise its ratio of exports to manufacturing GDP by 18 pp. This industrial composition effect is absent in the workhorse models of misallocation under closed economies.
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The labor market in Colombia: Structural features and the role of wages in the post-pandemic inflationary surge
with H. Vargas and J. Ospina. Submitted
We provide an overview of the primary structural features of the labor market in Colombia and survey the margins of adjustment of the market during the pandemic. Given the decline of real wages amid the post-pandemic inflationary surge, mainly due to the formal wage rigidity in the short run, we investigate whether the dynamics of nominal wages and their expected adjustments to catch up with prices could fuel the post-pandemic inflationary escalation. For this, we estimate the long-term relationship between wages, prices, and labor productivity using a small open economy framework. We find that up until the third quarter of 2022, wages were not among the primary drivers of the observed inflation escalation. However, wages have typically contributed to restoring long-run equilibrium. Thus, their adjustment towards equilibrium, which can occur through indexation, could imply risks for the convergence of inflation to the target. These risks are significant if the observed sources of the inflationary surge persist.
Pandemic-induced increases in container freight rates: Assessing their domestic effects in a globalized world
Work in progress
The Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the international transportation industry, causing container freight rates to reach record highs from late 2020 and into 2021. I evaluate the dynamic effects of the observed increases in container freight rates all around the world on the domestic inflation, real consumption and the allocation of labor of a particular country (Colombia). For this, I use a quantitative model of international trade with out-of-steady-state transitional dynamics, input and output linkages and frictions in the labor markets. The framework allows for a quantification not only of the direct impact of the freights for the goods shipped in and out of Colombia, but also of the indirect impact of the increases in freights in the rest of the world. To identify the transportation costs shocks in the model, I estimate trade elasticities to freight rates, using an IV estimator that takes advantage of the heterogeneous timing of the lockdowns. Results indicate that worldwide increases in container freight rates caused a sizable impact on Colombian domestic inflation (2.9%), a welfare loss of 1.5%, and moderate effects on labor reallocations.
Subsidies in tough times: The effects of a formal employment protection program for micro and small entrepreneurs
with L. Bonilla, D. Hermida, L. Flórez, L. Morales and F. Lasso. Work in progress
In times of economic crisis, governments implement policies to protect formal employment, as tax breaks, subsidized credit, or payroll subsidies. In this study, we present an evaluation of the jobs protection program, implemented during the Covid-19 crisis, which subsidize up to 50% of the payroll in micro and small firms, with less of 50 workers. Our findings indicate that the subsidy had a positive impact on employment of those intended-to-treat firms. The subsidy has a differentiated focus by gender and sectors, which were more affected by the pandemic. We find that this design does not generated a differential impact by gender; nevertheless, regarding to sectorial heterogeneous effects, the impact of the policy was larger in the industries that received a greater subsidy.
Welfare effects from financial innovations: The case of banking through networks of retail agents
with F. Arias. Work in progress
Financial innovations in developing countries are increasingly reducing the cost of serving customers in remote locations where they otherwise would be financially excluded. We study the welfare implications of the business correspondent model in Colombia, a system in which financial intermediaries provide banking services through third-party non-financial commercial establishments. To characterize the system we use a model of multi-product heterogeneous banks with binary technologies that serve multiple locations with different demand attributes. We structurally estimate the model using a unique dataset that records monthly transactions by financial product at the bank-municipality level over 8 years. A counterfactual exercise in which the low-cost technology is suppressed allow us to quantify the welfare impact of the presence of banking correspondents. Our findings suggest that networks of correspondents deepens bank penetration and financial inclusion, reduces the cost of financial services, boosts banks revenues and increases total welfare by 4%.
Other publications (in Spanish)
Policy research reports
(2022) Macroeconomic impact of climate change on Colombia
in Ensayos sobre Política Económica, No. 102, pp. 1-62, Banco de la República (with J. Bernal and J. Ojeda (eds.) et al.)
This document reviews the literature on the expected macroeconomic effects of climate related physical and transition risks (CRR), identifying the main strengths, weaknesses and gaps in said literature. This review seeks to contextualize its potential impact on Colombia in the coming decades and reflect on the challenges it poses for the management of various areas of economic policy. First, the expected effects on economic activity are examined. Then, the possible effects of the CRR on the external sector are reviewed and current account balance projections are made under different climate scenarios. Next, the impact on public finances is examined and the results of exercises to evaluate various policy alternatives on the evolution of the national government’s deficit and debt are presented. The challenges faced by financial institutions and authorities are discussed, as well as the results of a sensitivity exercise on banks and credit institutions in Colombia. Finally, the way in which the primary objectives of central banks, the formulation of their policies and their transmission mechanisms will be affected is reviewed.
(2020) Immigration from Venezuela to Colombia: Characterization and analysis of its macroeconomic effects
in Ensayos sobre Política Económica, No. 97, pp. 1-74, Banco de la República (with A.M. Tribín (ed.) et al.)
This paper contributes to the study of the migratory phenomenon from Venezuela in Colombia by analyzing its effects and challenges in the adjustment of the economy. This article is divided into two modules. In the first one, we describe and characterize the migrant population in socio-economic and demographic terms and we explore their consumption and savings patterns. In the second module we study the implications of the migratory shock in three main spheres (i) the labor market, mainly we study the effects on the occupancy, participation, unemployment and formality rates (ii) the fiscal impact it represents to the nation and, lastly, (iii) its effect on the macroeconomic variables. In particular, we analyze the monetary policy response to the shock and the reaction of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) gap and the Phillips curve in light of scenarios of increasing migrant flows.
(2020) Credit and real effects in Colombia 2000-2017: Evidence from microdata
in Ensayos sobre Política Económica, No. 94, pp. 1-55, Banco de la República (with M. Lopez (ed.) et al.)
This paper studies the credit cycle in Colombia during the period 2000-2017 and the main shocks that affected its supply. We also study the real effects of the different shocks. We use microdata from the credit registry, supersociedades and balance of payments. Our main findings are that the liquidity shock caused by the change in the weights of the public debt of Colombia in two index of JP Morgan, in March of 2014, explained 30% of the increase in firms’ average credit The main real effect of this shock was that from the total increase in the firms’ average investment 10% was explained by the shock. Second, we found that the liquidity shock originated in the global financial crisis of October 2008, with the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, reduced the credit supply to firms that had more reliance on credit by banks more exposed to the shock. Besides, this shock caused a fall in exports but the impact on agricultural exports was less that the one on total exports. Part of the explanation for this performance of agricultural exports is the credit policy of the government during 2006 and 2007 that favored firms with exporting potential with some subsidies. Another explanation for this performance was the boom in commodities prices. Third, the macroprudential policy shocks used to rein in the credit boom of 2006 – 2008 were effective in this sense. Particularly the capital controls policy, introduced in May 2007, reduced in about 50% the total debt flows of firms most exposed to the capital controls compared to the less exposed. The capital controls also caused a fall in imports. Finally, monetary policy shocks worked through the credit channel and the risk-taking channel of the monetary policy transmission mechanism. The main policy implication is that in a world with a high level of capital movements, it is necessary the combination of monetary and macroprudential policy in order to stabilize the economy.
(2013) Business cycles in Colombia: 1975-2011
in Lecturas de Economía, No. 78, pp. 115-149, Universidad de Antioquia (with V. Alfonso., L. Arango, F. Arias and G. Cangrejo)
We propose a chronology for the business cycles in Colombia following the NBER classic notion; that is, dates of peaks and troughs of economic activity are estimated without decomposing the series used in their transitory and permanent components. The estimated chronology suggests that the four complete cycles that occurred between 1975 and 2011 are asymmetric and have an approximate duration of 6.8 years. Expansions lasted, on average, 5.4 years while contractions took about 1.3 years. These results are derived from the application of a cumulative diffusion index to 41 series of economic activity.
(2012) Nowcasting Colombian economic activity
in Borradores de Economía, No. 724, Banco de la República (with D. Cristiano and D. Hernández)
Policy makers usually require estimates of the performance of economic activity in real time. However, the information used is only available at the level of hard indicators and opinion polls, which usually have different frequencies and publication lags, in addition to idiosyncratic shocks. In this paper, we adapt Camacho and Perez-Quiros (2009-2010) forecasting schemes that produce estimates of GDP growth in real time for the Colombian economy. The adapted dynamic factors model involves economic series of different frequency, availability and origin, used with the information available at the time of each publication. The forecast evaluation suggests that the model presents a better performance against other reference schemes, and that the accuracy of the forecasts increases when we include the flow of information in real time of the activity indicators.
(2010) “IMACO”: a monthly leading indicator of economic activity in Colombia
in Monetaria, Vol. XXXIII, No. 4, pp. 495-598, CEMLA – Center for Latin American Monetary Studies (with H. Kamil and J. Torres).
This paper describes the construction of a new monthly leading indicator of economic activity in Colombia (IMACO). The procedure is based on a search algorithm that selects an optimal group of seven leading variables so that the composite indicator anticipates GDP movements five months in advance and with a 93 % correlation. Also, the IMACO has others desirables predictive properties: it anticipates the break points in the Colombian business cycle without giving any wrong signals, and minimizes the forecast errors on GDP growth. Due to its simplicity and low computational cost, the IMACO indicator offers a tool for the continuous monitoring of the economic activity and economic policy design, and can be replicated for other macroeconomic aggregates in Colombia and also applied in other Latin-American countries.
(2009) Alternative measures of real exchange rate for Colombia
in Borradores de Economía, No. 514, Banco de la República (with G. Alonso, N. Hernandez, and M. Villa)