Research Interests: Political Economy, Labour and Education Economics, Applied Microeconomics.


The Institutional Role of the Italian Mafia: Enforcing Contracts When the State Does Not
▪️ WINNER: Young Economist Award - EEA 2023 ▪️ [Draft]

Italy has one of the slowest civil judicial systems in Europe. At the same time, there exists anecdotal evidence suggesting that informal contract enforcement can be provided by organized crime. I present a simple theoretical framework to explain why citizens may turn to the Mafia for contract enforcement when the State is increasingly unable to fulfil this service. I empirically test the main model prediction using a novel database of Mafiacontrolled areas across Italy between 2014 and 2019. I obtain confidential yearly data from the Superior Council of the Judiciary about the judge’s retirement, which I use as a source of exogenous variation in the State’s enforcement capacity. Results indicate that the Mafia expands its control over the territory when the State weakens its contract enforcement capacity.


Education Expansion, College Choice and Labour Market Success
- joint with Paolo Ghinetti, Simone Moriconi, Costanza Naguib, Michele Pellizzari
▪️ [CEPR Discussion Paper 18712][CESifo Working Paper No. 10842][BSE Working Paper 1419] ▪️ Submitted

We study the choice of acquiring STEM and non-STEM college education using variation induced by the proximity to universities offering different types of programs. We adopt a novel methodology allowing the identification of the distribution of response types and treatment effects in a multiple unordered discrete choice setting (Heckman and Pinto, 2018). The empirical analysis is based on confidential survey data for Italy, combined with administrative information about the founding dates of all Italian universities and faculties. We find that most compliers are women at the margin of choosing STEM education versus not going to college. We simulate the effects of expanding the supply of STEM education and discover that, in addition to substantial effects on employment, the gender disparity in STEM education could potentially decrease by up to 20%.

▪️ Project financed by the Swiss National Research Fund (grant 182228)
▪️ Media coverage: VoxEu column,

The Taxing Challenges of the State: Unveiling the Role of Fiscal & Administrative Capacity in Development
- joint with Esteban Muñoz-Sobrado, Amedeo Piolatto, Antoine Zerbini
▪️ [BSE Working Paper 1432] ▪️ Submitted

During the past two decades, several factors have challenged the stability of national states, adding tensions to the connection between the state and the individual. This paper reviews the literature on state capacity. First, it introduces the origin of the literature and presents the well-established positive correlation between state capacity and economic development. Second, it touches upon fiscal and administrative capacity and conflict. It concludes with a provocative reflection on digital nomads to push the research frontier in analysing the connection between the state and the individual.

The Persistence of the Sicilian Mafia
▪️ Draft coming soon

This paper documents the persistence of the presence of the Sicilian Mafia across centuries and provides evidence for one of the mechanisms at play: Mafia family power. Leveraging investigation reports containing Mafia surnames, I construct a new indicator of the presence of the Mafia and a measure of the turnover of families in power in 2014-2019. I find that the historical presence of the Mafia is responsible for at least 25% of the Mafia in 2019, and decreases short-term family turnover by 56%.