I am an applied economist with interest in political and public economics
I work as postdoctoral researcher at Bocconi University (Milan, Italy)
Google Scholar profile
How the mafia uses violence to control politics
Sindaco figlio d’arte, ma la città non ci guadagna
La mafia in comune: cosa dicono i numeri
Vinca il politico migliore. Ma come trovarlo?
My current research agenda can be organized along three main lines
I – Organized Crime and Politics
- A central topic of my research is organized crime, and specifically its effects on the political arena. In a first study, I show how political selection is affected by the mafia-murder of a politician in Italian municipalities. The level of schooling of the local politicians is substantially reduced after a political murder. This is in line with a drop in the expected payoffs from politics, which drives out the most educated candidates. In a reletead study, we show how law enforcement can fight back such detrimental effect of organized crime on political selection, testing the effects of local government dissolutions imposed by the national government for mafia infiltration.
- In a third paper, we test how - and why - criminal organizations attack politicians, exploiting a novel dataset of attacks and threats towards Italian local politicians allowing for causal inferences. This paper was presented in a dedicated session of the ASSA 2017 conference. My last current work on this topic investigates a screening mechanism to detect mafia-connected firms and exclude them from firms subsidies when they apply for more than 150,000 Euros. We exploit this discontinuity to test whether firms self-select below the threshold to avoid the screening. We find a large increase in subsidies just below the threshold, suggesting that about 3.8% of firms applying for subsidies reduce rent-seeking to avoid police screening.
- These studies have received Media attention inside and outside Italy, e.g. TheGuardian, ChicagoTribune, TheConversation. In Italy, I occasionally write for the blog LaVoce.info on these topics. I am also active on Twitter, on which I often discuss research related topics. I presented my papers to the Italian Parliamentary Commission, “Commissione sulle intimidazioni agli amministratori locali”, aimed at investigating the phenomenon of political violence undertaken by criminal organizations. In October 2018, I was invited at the first Harvard Workshop on “Violence against Politicians: Theories, Data, and Implications” to provide an overview of my research on this topic.
II – Corruption, Political Accountability and Political Preferences
- This second line of research includes four papers: i) a study on the role of political dynasties in modern democracies, in which we show how dynastic leaders rule differently from non-dynastic ones; ii) two papers on the effects of corruption scandals on political selection. A first shows how political parties change their political selection after different types of popularity shocks. A second studies how politicians reoptimize their strategies after a big corruption scandal in Italy; iii) a last paper focuses on the effects of fiscal rules on corruption, finding that fiscal rules might deter corruption, but only in context with high quality institutions.
- Finally, two survey based studies explore how attitudes (social trust) and shocks (economic recessions) affect political preferences in terms of redistribution and European integration.
III – Populism and Political Extremism
- My most recent line of research includes three papers on populism. In a first one, we provide a theoretical framework and empirical analysis rationalizing fiscal policies and extreme voting behaviors within federations. In a second paper, we causally show how a big corruption scandal can lead to persistent change in institutional trust and voting behaviour, partially explaining the current populist rise in Italy. In a third paper, we study how public finance mismanagement could be a determinant of the supply of extreme candidates among French municipalities. This paper was presented at the last NBER workshop in Political Economy (October, 2018).