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Study Overview

Am I discriminated against because of where I live? Methods and concepts to assess the impact of neighborhood improvement programs on labor markets in Latin America
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While cities in Latin America continue to grow, so does the threat that a portion of the population reamains at the margins of urban integration due to poor access to markets and public services. Governments and multilateral organizations have dedicated increasing efforts to address these issues, but there is little empirical evidence to their effectiveness. Here we look specifically at the case of labor market discrimination based place of residency (urban discrimination) using the audit study methodology in the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina. First, we examine the existence of urban discrimination by measureing pairwise differences in call-back rates to fictitious job applications from residents of  local slums (known as villas)  and residents of formal settlements (known as barrios) holding everything else equal. Then, we evaluate whether Slum Upgrading Programs (SUPs) can help mitigate urban discrimination by looking at the difference in call back rates from villas that have been subject to interventions by SUPs (treated villas) compared to those not subject to SUPs (untreated). We expect to send duplets of applications to approximately 5,000 job postings in the most popular outlets in the city which translates into close to 10,000 ficticious applications.

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Additional Keywords:
Labor market discrimination, urban integration
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Principal Investigator(s)

Name of First PI:
Wladimir Zanoni
InterAmerican Development Bank
Name of Second PI:
Paloma Acevedo
Inter American Development Bank

Study Sponsor

Inter American Development Bank
Study Sponsor Location:
United States

Research Partner

Name of Partner Institution:
Anova, Evidence Based Thinking
Type of Organization:
Private firm

Intervention Overview


In this work we evaluate the impact of Slum Upgrading Programs in the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina. In 1996, the government started the first national Urban Upgrading Program (PROMEBA for its acronym in Spanish) funded by the IADB, and in 2007, the government established a Conditional Credit Line for Investment Projects (CCLIP) with the objective of improving the quality of life and of contributing to the urban and social inclusion of Argentine households in the poorest segments of the population. As of today, the CCLIP has financed three operations inside the Barrio Improvement Program (PROMEBA) framework and aimed at improving the habitability of households living in informal neighborhoods, with a target of approximately 250,000 households in shantytowns and unregulated settlements. 

After PROMEBA, more SUPs have followed, which are financed by different sources, such as the World Bank or the Argentinian Government. For instance, in 2019, two more SUPs financed by the IADB were approved. The Social and Urban Integration Program targets 5,000 households in about 14 informal neighborhoods included in the National Registry of Informal Neighborhoods (RENABAP), and the program will also include expansion of community participation in social programs and integration into the productive fabric of the formal city. The Social and Urban Integration Program in the Province of Buenos Aires represents the first operation within a second CCLIP to support the Province of Buenos Aires government. It aims to help 23,600 people living in informal neighborhoods in the province and includes integrating them into the municipal urban fabric and increasing opportunities for social, labor, and productive community.

Theory of Change:

1) when SUPs include programs that provide effective job and skills training and help facilitate job searches (for instance, by enhancing social capital networks and facilitating links between enterprises and workers), the productivity of individuals who reside in slums is expected to increase. Productivity could also increase as people residing in urban slums who are subject to interventions by SUPs are safer in their own neighborhoods, have cheaper access to transportation networks and public services (including sanitation, education, and health), and face lower risks of homelessness because of strengthened property rights. This is a straightforward effect from the prototypical investments represented in SUPs that would improve job market prospects of slum dwellers irrespective of the type of discrimination exercised by prejudiced employers. 2) a SUP intervention would not only positively affect individual productivity but could also do the same to the average productivity level of workers in villas. If SUPs reduce job market barriers for certain workers and reduce their transaction costs, while also improving their skills, then we could expect average productivity to increase. If information is imperfect, then improvements in the true distribution of skills could make slum dwellers more employable. 3) if the information about the skills of a worker who lives in a slum gives a noisy signal of his/her productivity (which is a plausible assumption to make in LAC), SUP interventions could also help reduce the noise in that signal when they submit job applications. SUPs can be loaded with informational content to teach employers about the true distribution of the skills of workers in villas, including not only references to the mean levels of productivity and education across occupations but also about how dispersed and skewed those distributions are.

Multiple Treatment Arms Evaluated?

Implementing Agency

Name of Organization:
Inter American Development
Type of Organization:
Foreign or Multilateral Aid Agency

Program Funder

Name of Organization:
Inter American Development Bank
Type of Organization:
Foreign or Multilateral Aid Agency

Intervention Timing

Intervention or Program Started at time of Registration?
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Evaluation Method

Evaluation Method Overview

Primary (or First) Evaluation Method:
Regression with controls
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Additional Evaluation Method (If Any):
Difference in difference/fixed effects
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Method Details

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Outcomes (Endpoints):

The outcome of interest is the response rate. For every ficticious application, we record the response type received. Callbacks for a personal interview or for additional informatios are considered positive, while rejections or no callback at all are considered negative collbacks. Thus, the difference between the positive callback rate between residents of villas and barrios will determine discrimination levels 

Unit of Analysis:
The job application

1) There is a difference in call back rates among residents of barrios compared to residents of villas

2) There is a difference in call back rates among residents of trested villas and untreated villas

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treatment1: 5000; treatment2: 2500

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Outcomes Data

The data set consists of 10,000 observations which each representing one ficticious application. For each application additional information regarding the application typesuch as economic area and whether the job is remote, presencial or not specified. Additionally, there are characteristics associated to day of the week and month of the job posting as well as a dichotomous variable signalling whether the application was posted before or after the beggining of the Covid19 quarantine period.
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Treatment Assignment Data

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Data Analysis

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Study Materials

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Registration Category

Registration Category:
Prospective, Category 1: Data for measuring impacts have not been collected

Completion Overview

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Data Availability

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Other Materials

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Study Stopped