Journal Articles


Social and political trust diverge during a crisis
Published in “Scientific Reports – Nature” – 2024
Co-authored with A. Aassve, T. Capezzone, N. Cavalli & C. Peng
This study shows that social and political trust may diverge in the face of shared threats, and that this pattern is driven by negative information about crisis management. Leveraging a three-wave panel survey and an information-provision experiment in the USA during the COVID-19 crisis, our research reveals that negative perceptions of pandemic management lead to a decline in political trust and a parallel increase in social trust. This dynamic is pronounced among government supporters, who, confronted with COVID-19 challenges, experience a substantial erosion of political trust. Simultaneously, there is a notable rise in social trust within this group. Our analysis suggests that, as government supporters attributed more responsibility for the crisis to their political leader, political trust was supplanted by social trust. Disenchanted voters, feeling let down by institutions, sought support in society. Both the survey and the experiment underscore that societal shocks can prompt individuals to shift from relying on formal institutions to informal ones as a coping strategy. This research contributes a generalizable framework explaining how negative perceptions of crisis management can lead societies to substitute political trust with social trust, advancing our understanding of societal responses to shared threats and adaptive strategies during crises.

Particulate matter and COVID-19 excess deaths: decomposing long-term exposure and short-term effects
Published in “Ecological Economics” 2022
Co-authored with L. Becchetti, G. Beccari, G. Conzo, D. De Santis, F. Salustri
We investigate the time-varying effect of particulate matter (PM) on COVID-19 deaths in Italian municipalities. We find that the lagged moving averages of PM2.5 and PM10 are significantly related to higher excess deceases during the first wave (end February-end May) of the disease, after controlling, among other factors, for time-varying mobility, regional and municipality fixed effects, the nonlinear contagion trend, and lockdown effects. Our findings are confirmed after accounting for potential endogeneity, heterogeneous pandemic dynamics, and spatial correlation through pooled and fixed-effect instrumental variable estimates using municipal and provincial data. In addition, we decompose the overall PM effect and find evidence both that pre-COVID long-term exposure and short-term variation during the pandemic matter. In terms of magnitude, we observe that a 1 µg/mincrease in PM2.5 leads to 20 percent more deaths in Italian municipalities, which is equivalent to a 5.9 percent increase in mortality rate.

Negative media portrayals of immigrants increase ingroup favoritism and hostile physiological and emotional reactions
Published in “Scientific Reports – Nature” 2021
Co-authored with G. Fuochi, L. Anfossi, F. Spaccatini, C. Mosso
Anti-immigration rhetoric in the mass media has intensified over the last two decades, potentially decreasing prosocial behavior and increasing outgroup hostility toward immigrants, and fostering ingroup favoritism toward natives. We aim to understand the effects of negative and positive discourses about immigration on prosociality at different levels of societal ethnic diversity. In two studies (student sample, nationally representative sample), we conduct a survey and a 3X3 between-subject experiment, including money-incentivized behavioral games measuring prosociality. We manipulate media representations of immigrants and the probability of interacting with immigrants (the latter measuring diversity). Results show that negative news affects prosociality as a function of the probability of interacting with immigrants. Negative portrayals increase altruism and trustworthiness in ethnically homogenous settings relative to unknown and ethnically-mixed contexts. These results are stronger for right-wing and high-prejudice respondents. Moreover, negative media portrayals of immigrants increase the testosterone-cortisol ratio, which is a proxy for proneness to social aggression. Negative news also increases outgroup-related perceived health risk, outgroup anxiety and outgroup threat less in ethnically-homogeneous contexts. Overall, negative portrayals of immigrants generate physiological and emotional hostility toward the outgroup, and ingroup favoritism in economic transactions, possibly determining efficiency losses in ethnically-diverse markets, relative to ethnically-homogeneous markets.

I’m a survivor, keep on surviving: Early‐life exposure to conflict and subjective survival probabilities in adult life
Published in “Journal of Population Economics” – 2021
Co-authored with B. Arpino & F. Salustri
Life-course analyses have shown that early-life characteristics predict health and socio- economic status in adult life. This study analyses whether experiencing a traumatic event in childhood, i.e. the Second World War (WW2), affects a novel adulthood outcome, i.e. perceived longevity. We rely on a representative sample of European adults who were differentially exposed to WW2 early in life depending on their date and place of birth. Our results show that exposure to WW2 increases expected longevity, with socio-economic and health characteristics not playing a mediating role neither in childhood nor in adulthood. War exposure also counterbalances the adverse effects of health impairments on subjective survival probabilities, but it does not affect health outcomes per se. This latter fact, jointly with low mortality rates of the cohort under investigation, suggests that selective mortality and post-traumatic stress are not the main drivers of our findings. Our evidence, instead, provides support to the hypothesis that personal growth and life appreciation emerge after traumatic events, thereby leading to optimistic perceptions of longevity among war-exposed respondents. Policy implications are discussed in the light of the importance of perceived survival for predicting future health and economic choices. 

Was Banfield Right? New Insights from a Nationwide Laboratory Experiment
Published in “Journal of Regional Science” – 2021
Co-authored with A. Aassve & F. Mattioli
Since the pioneering study by Banfield (1958), the north-south gap in Italian social capital has been considered by international scholars as an example of how cultural diversity within a country can generate different developmental outcomes. Most studies, however, suffer from limited external validity and measurement error. This paper exploits a new and representative online lab-experiment to assess social-capital patterns in Italy. Unlike previous experiments, we do not inform participants about the geographic origins of their counterparts. This feature allows us to assess the north-south gap in universal, as opposed to parochial, behavior. Results suggest that southerners and northerners do not systematically differ in generalized prosocial preferences. Northerners perform better only in trustworthiness, while they are statistically similar to southerners in many other economic preferences such as cooperation, trust, expected trustworthiness, altruism, and risk tolerance. We also show that the gap in trustworthiness stems from the lower reciprocity of southerners in response to large transfers, and it is characterized by the intergenerational transmission of norms. Possible policy implications are discussed.

Past performance and entry in procurement: An experimental investigation
Published in “Journal of Economic Behaviour and Organization” – 2020
Co-authored with J. Butler, E. Carbone & G. Spagnolo
This paper reports results from a laboratory experiment exploring the relationship between reputation and entry in procurement. There is widespread concern among regulators that favoring suppliers with good past performance, a standard practice in private procurement, may hinder entry by new (smaller or foreign) firms in public procurement markets. Our results suggest that while some reputational mechanisms indeed reduce the frequency of entry, so that the concern is warranted, appropriately designed reputation mechanisms actually stimulate entry. Since quality increases but not prices, our data also suggest that the introduction of reputation may generate large welfare gains for the buyer.

Blessed are the First: The Long-Term Effect of Birth Order on Trust
Published in “Economics and Human Biology” – 2020
Co-authored with R. Zotti
The renewed interest by the economic literature in the effect of birth order on children’s outcomes has neglected trust as a long-term output of familial environment. Acknowledging childhood as a crucial stage of life for the formation of social preferences, we go deeper into the early-life determinants of trust, a widely recognized driver of socio-economic success. We analyze if and how differences in the order of birth predict heterogeneous self-reported trust levels in Britain. We draw hypotheses from psychology, economics and sociology, and test alternative explanations to the association between birth order and trust. Relying on an index measuring birth order independently from sibship size, we find a negative and robust effect of birth order, with laterborns trusting less than their older siblings. This effect is not accounted for by personality traits, strength of family ties, risk aversion and parental inputs. It is only partially explained by complementary human-capital outcomes, and it is robust when we use alternative dependent variables and control for endogenous fertility. Multilevel estimates suggest that trust is mostly driven by within- rather than between-family characteristics. The effect of birth order is eclipsed by education outcomes only for women, while it is counterbalanced by mother’s education for the entire sample, thereby leading to relevant policy implications.

A war is forever: The long-run effects of early exposure to World War II on trust
Published in “European Economic Review” – 2019
Co-authored with F. Salustri 
This paper examines the long-term effect of conflict on trust by using changes in places and timing of combats during World War II. We focus on the pre-school period, an important life stage for the formation of trust and an age where war exposure may persist throughout life. We find robust evidence that individuals exposed to combats in the first six years of life display lower trust and social engagement well into adulthood. In light of the well-known relationship between trust and collective action, our results lend credence to the theory that violent conflict inhibits well-functioning government in long run.

Fertility and Life Satisfaction in Rural Ethiopia
Published in “Demography” – 2017
Co-authored with G. Fuochi & L. Mencarini
Recently there has been strong interest in the link between fertility and subjective well-being, though the focus has centered on developed countries. For poorer countries, in contrast, the relationship remains rather elusive. Using a well-established panel survey, the Ethiopian Rural Household Survey (ERHS), we investigate the empirical relationship between fertility and life satisfaction in rural Ethiopia, the largest landlocked country in Africa. Consistent with the fertility theories for developing countries and with the socio-demographic characteristics of rural Ethiopia, we hypothesize that this relationship varies by gender and across life stages, being more positive for men and for parents in old age. Indeed, our results suggest that older men benefit the most in terms of life satisfaction from having a large number of children, while the recent birth of a child is detrimental for women’s subjective well-being during reproductive age. Endogeneity issues are addressed by using lagged life satisfaction in OLS regressions, through fixed effect estimation and the use of instrumental variable. 

Disaster, Aid and Preferences: The Long-run Impact of the Tsunami on Giving in Sri Lanka
Published in “World Development” – 2017
Co-authored with L. Becchetti & S. Castriota.
Do natural disasters produce effects on preferences of victims in the long-run? We test the impact of the tsunami shock on generosity of a sample of Sri Lankan affected/unaffected microfinance borrowers seven years after the event. Specifically, we test the effect of the shock at the extensive margin by comparing damaged with non-damaged individuals in terms of giving and expected giving in a dictator game. Moreover, at the intensive margin, we compare the participants based on the amount of damage experienced and recovery aid received. The advantage of this last comparison is that differences in observables between the groups are minimized. We reduce further identification problems by selecting a random sample of damaged and non-damaged borrowers belonging to the same microfinance organization who are, therefore, likely to share some important common traits that are usually unobservable to researchers. We complete our identification strategy with weighted least squares, instrumental variable estimates and a sensitivity analysis on the exogeneity assumption. The main findings of the paper support the hypothesis that the shock affects participants’ preferences in the long-run. First, the tsunami negatively affects generosity at the extensive margin as those who suffered at least one damage give and expect less than those who did not. Second, while large recovery assistance does not directly affect giving and expected giving, it increases especially the latter indirectly, i.e., when interacted with the number of damages. 

Violence, trust, and trustworthiness: evidence from a Nairobi slum
Published in “Oxford Economic Papers” – 2013
Co-authored with L. Becchetti & A. Romeo.
We test with a field experiment in a Nairobi slum whether violence suffered during the 2007 political outbreaks affects trustworthiness when interethnicity becomes salient and participants face opportunism in common pool resource games (CPRGs) between two subsequent trust games (TGs). Our findings do not contradict previous one-shot results but qualify and extend them to a multi-period setting, enriching our understanding of the effects of violence on social preferences. More specifically, the victimized exhibit higher trustworthiness in the first trust game but also a significantly stronger trustworthiness reduction after experiencing opportunism and interethnicity in the CPRG game.

Enhancing Capabilities Through Credit Access: Creditworthiness As a Signal of Trustworthiness Under Asymmetric Information
Published in “Journal of Public Economics” – 2011
Co-authored with L. Becchetti.
Creditworthiness and trustworthiness are almost synonyms because, under asymmetric information, the act of conferring a loan has the indirect effect of signaling the trustworthiness of the borrower. We test the creditworthiness/trustworthiness nexus in an investment game experiment on a sample of participants/non-participants in a microfinance program in Argentina and find that trustors give significantly more to (and believe they will receive more from) microfinance borrowers. The first- and second-order beliefs of trustees are also consistent with this picture. Our findings then show that MF participants appear more trustworthy and this may help microfinance to work. A related consequence is that, if (and only if) borrower’s trustworthiness is not public information, the mere loan provision acts as a reputation enhancing signal increasing the borrower’s attractiveness as a business partner. In such case we have a channel through which a private financial intermediary contributes to the provision of a public good like information, thereby reducing the adverse consequences of market failures on the creation of economic value.

Other publications

Can ♥s Change Minds? Social Media Endorsements and Policy Preferences
Published in “Social Media + Society” – 2023
Co-authored with L. Taylor, J. Morales, M. Samahita & A. Gallice

Excess mortality and protected areas during the COVID-19 pandemic: Evidence from Italian municipalities
Published in “Health policy” – 2022
Co-authored with L. Becchetti, G. Conzo & F. Salustri

Understanding the heterogeneity of adverse COVID-19 outcomes: the role of poor quality of air and lockdown decisions
Published in “Journal of Environmental Management” – 2022
Co-authored with L. Becchetti, G. Conzo & F. Salustri

The hidden cost of humanization: Individuating information reduces prosocial behavior toward in-group members
Published in “Journal of Economic Psychology” – 2021
Co-authored with V. Lee, R. Kranton & S. Huettel

Air quality and COVID-19 adverse outcomes: Divergent views and experimental findings
Published in “Environmental Research” – 2020
Co-authored with L. Becchetti, G. Beccari, G. Conzo, D. De Santis & F. Salustri

Childhood exposure to WW2 and financial risk taking in adult life
Published in “Journal of Economic Psychology” – 2020
Co-authored with D. Bellucci & G. Fuochi

Legal Origins and Corporate Social Responsibility
Published in “Sustainability” – 2020

Voluntary Work, Health and Subjective Wellbeing: a Resource for Active Ageing
Published in “Kyklos” – 2018
Co-authored with L. Becchetti & M. Di Febbraro

Natural Disasters and Social Preferences: The Effect of Tsunami-Memories on Cheating in Sri Lanka
Published in the “Journal of Development Studies” – 2018

Education and Health in Europe
Published in “Applied Economics” – 2018
Co-authored with L. Becchetti & F. Pisani

Preferences for Well-Being and Life Satisfaction
Published in “Social Indicators Research” – 2018
Co-authored with L. Becchetti 

The impact of health expenditure on the number of chronic diseases
Published in “Health Policy” – 2017
Co-authored with L. Becchetti & F. Salustri

Sociability, Altruism and Well-Being
Published in “Cambridge Journal of Economics” – 2017
Co-authored with L. Becchetti & L. Corrado.

The Cultural Foundations of Happiness
Published in “Journal of Economic Psychology” – 2017
Co-authored with A. Aassve, G. Fuochi & L. Mencarini.

Social capital dynamics and collective action: the role of subjective satisfaction
Published in “Environment and Development Economics” – 2016
Co-authored with L. Becchetti & S. Castriota.

The Controversial Effects of Microfinance on Child Schooling: A Retrospective Approach 
Published in “Applied Financial Economics” – 2014
Co-authored with L. Becchetti.

Cooperative membership as a signal of trust and trustworthiness: results from a field experiment 
Published in the “Journal of Development Studies” – 2013
Co-authored with L. Becchetti & S.  Castriota.

Credit Access and Life Satisfaction: Evaluating the Non Monetary Effects of Micro Finance 
Published in “Applied Economics” – 2013
Co-authored with L. Becchetti.

Market Access, Organic Farming and Productivity: the Effects of Fair Trade Affiliation on Thai Farmers Producer Groups 
Published in the “Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics” – 2012
Co-authored with L. Becchetti & G. Gianfreda.

Public disclosure of players’ conduct and Common Resources Harvesting: Experimental Evidence from a Nairobi Slum
Published in “Social Choice and Welfare”  – 2011
Co-authored with L. Becchetti & G. Degli Antoni.

Virtuous Interactions In Removing Exclusion: The Link Between Foreign Market Access and Access to Education
Published in the “Journal of Development Studies” – 2011
Co-authored with L. Becchetti & F. Pisani.

Does Fair Trade Help to Avoid Poverty Traps? The Effect of Fair Trade on Producers’ Income and Schooling Decisions
Published in “Italian Economic Review” – 2011
Co-authored with L. Becchetti, F. Pisani & E. Portale

Follow me on ResearchGate