My work examines how institutions, policies, and violence shape how resources are distributed across different sectors of the population, primarily based on their distinctive identities. I also work on questions that explore the political economy behind environmental degradation and natural resource management.

I focus on three broad research areas:

  • Land and natural resources as a source of economic, social, and political power
  • The causes and legacies of conflict
  • The political economy of public goods provision.

Ongoing Research

 In Tradition We Trust: The Political Economy of Property Rights

When do landholders decide to adopt formal land titles? Although economic theory has focused on the benefits of private land tenure systems, most landholders in the African continent rely on traditional tenure systems, which seem to offer the protection they need. As multiple programs in the continent have pushed for the adoption of formal tenure systems, transaction costs have been blamed Its slow or stagnant adoption. In this paper, I explore the role that identity plays at internalizing the costs and benefits of private land titling. Using data on smallholder farmers from five African countries, I examine whether autochthonous households are more or less likely to adopt formal systems. I then explore how this influences household income, borrowing and labor demand.

The Spillover Effects of Mining in the DRC

Mining in the DRC is usually linked to conflict. But, different scholars have conducted ethnographic research in the country and have found that artisanal mining provides a livelihood opportunity for a large sector of the population and that the effects go beyond economic gains. In this paper, I continue this line of research and quantitatively examine the how different types of mining impact the living standards of the population in the country. I find that finds that whereas industrial mining generates positive spillovers over the local population’s living standards, these effects are linked to productive mining activities and not to mining exploration. The effects of artisanal mining are less optimistic, particularly in areas where industrial and artisanal mining coincide. This is the most updated version of the paper.

Violence and State Capacity in Mexico

In this research explore the effects of persistent drug-related violence in Mexico on the state capacity of local governments in Mexico. The paper shows how the effects of persistent violence are heterogeneous and have reshaped local governments across the country.

Inequality and Education Performance

Does school attendance raises the prospects of a better future? In this paper, I look at how access to educational resources (access to a desk, space to study, computer and internet) correlates with a lower performance at school, using the 2018 OECD’s PISA results for Mexico. The study finds that students that have access to a computer at home show an average score of around 0.35 standard deviations higher on the assessment in mathematics, reading, and science, whereas students at schools where computers have internet access report an improved performance of about 0.5 standard deviations. This is the most updated version of the paper.

Deindustrialization, Productivity and Inequality

Is deindustrialization linked to low productivity levels? In this paper, I use the case of nine Latin American countries that have shown premature deindustrialization to explore this issue. Using cointegration analysis, I do not find that TFP is cointegrated with the share of employment in the manufacturing sector. Furthermore, I explore if a shift to the services sector is linked to high levels of income inequality. Although I notice that changes in the economic structure are linked to changes in the Gini coefficient, these results are time-sensitive, and depend on the economic conditions of the countries at the beginning of the study.

Decentralization and Découpage in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Two-year grant from ODI/ SLRC in the U.K. that started in 2017 and that is led by Pierre Englebert. This research project looks that at the effects that a shock, such as découpage, has on the development of state capacity and the improvement of livelihoods in the DRC.

Book chapters:

  • Tribalisation provinciale :  Le principe de représentativité collective en politique congolaise mis à mal par le découpage (With Pierre Englebert and Lisa Jené) –In Congo: L’État en Morceaux
  • Discontinuité de l’État Congolais : comprendre les variations de capacités entre provinces issues du découpage (With Pierre Englebert)- In Congo: L’État en Morceaux 


Working papers:

Other Publications

  • A. Bezares, Yi Feng, Z. Gao (2016), ”A Comparative Study of U.S. and China’s Trade in Latin America”, The Quarterly of Latin American Economy and Trade , Vol. 27, pp.4-18.

Other Working Papers

  • “NAFTA’s Opportunities: Economic Openness, Political Competition, and the Development of Bureaucratic Capacity in Mexico’s States”; (with Melissa Rogers); 2016.
  • “Volatility in Commodity Prices and its Effects on Poverty and Inequality in Latin America,”; presented in the International Seminar Challenges to the State: New Political and Economic Actors in Latin America , Santiago, Chile, Mar 2015.

Policy Briefings