Joaquin Torres García,
paisaje de ciudad,


Working Papers

Indoor Air Quality and Learning: Evidence From a Large Field Study in Primary Schools in the Netherlands (link to SSRN)

with Piet Eichholtz, Nils Kok, and Juan Palacios. (Submitted)

Governments devote a large share of public budgets to construct, repair and modernize school facilities. However, little is known about whether investments in the physical condition of schools translate into student achievements. In this study, we report the results of a large field study, providing quasi-experimental evidence on the implications of poor air quality conditions inside classrooms -- key performance measure of school infrastructure, and a common indicator guiding investments in school facilities. We continuously monitor the air quality conditions (i.e. CO2, coarse particles, temperature, humidity) in the classrooms of 5,550 children over two school years, and link them to their scores in over 37,000 nationally standardized tests. Using a fixed-effects strategy, relying on within-pupil changes in air quality conditions, we find that exposure to poor indoor air quality during the school term preceding the test is associated with significant performance drops. We document that a one standard deviation increase in average daily peak CO2 during the school term leads to a 0.11 standard deviation decrease in test scores. We document changes in teaching time as a potential mechanism of changes in performance. Classes exposed to poor indoor air quality conditions in a given school day tend to have significantly longer breaks, leading to a shorter time in the classroom. Our results add to the ongoing debate on the determinants of student human capital accumulation, highlighting the role of physical capital in affecting learning outcomes.

Induced Earthquakes and House Prices: the Role of Spatial Effects

with J. Paul Elhorst (Forthcoming Journal of Geographical Systems).

This paper contributes to the literature on the explanation of housing prices and the impact of many but small induced earthquakes due to gas extraction in several ways. First, our proposed methodology accounts for both local spatial dependence and common factors, also known as weak and strong cross-sectional dependence, using individual data of more than 200,000 transactions in the three most northern provinces of the Netherlands over the period 1993-2014. Second, the selection of houses within each focal house's submarket is, in contrast to previous studies, not only based on distance and time, but also on their degree of similarity. Third, we accumulate the strength and frequency with which earthquakes affect each focal house before it was sold into one single measure using a seismological model and then subdivide it into different bins so as to be able to account for non-linear effects and to determine a threshold below which earthquakes have no effect. Using these techniques, we are able to investigate the propagation of the detrimental impact of earthquakes on housing prices over space and time without the need to select a reference area in advance, which potentially might also have been affected by earthquakes.

The Economics of Induced Earthquakes

Extracting natural gas from underground fields induces earthquakes around extraction sites, impacting house prices in their surroundings. The mechanisms that are typically described by which tremors affect property values are increasing risk perceptions and property damages. However, there is little evidence of their relative importance to the overall effect. Using detailed data on house transactions in the north of the Netherlands that hosts one of the largest natural gas fields in Europe, I estimate the impact that earthquakes induced by the gas extraction that took place there have had on house prices in the region. I concentrate on distinguishing between the impact attributed to increasing risk perceptions and to damages by exploding two discontinuities in the underground. First, I use the border of the gas field which exogenously increases the probability of feeling the tremors while keeping damages constant. Second, I use the borders of areas that, because of their soil composition, have been found to intensify the shake from earthquakes, exogenously increasing the probability of damages while maintaining the intensity of earthquakes constant. I find that risk perceptions account for a reduction in house prices that ranges between 4% and 7%, while the impact of damages ranges between 6% and 9%. Finally, I look at these effects across time and in particular in relation to compensations paid for damages by the gas extracting firm. I find that the effect of damages has increased in time closely following the increase in the frequency of earthquakes and regardless of the implementation of compensations as there was a lot of uncertainty about how the compensating scheme worked. I propose that the lack of certainty and recurrent nature of these earthquakes reduced the incentives of homeowners to invest in properly maintaining their houses even when being put up for sale.

Compensations and Spillovers

The presence and magnitude of spillovers from recipients to non-recipients of compensations over negative externalities are key for designing efficient regulation. Using detailed data on private compensation settlements, this paper estimates spillover effects from homeowners compensated over induced earthquakes in the Netherlands onto neighbouring, non-compensated homeowners' houses. Using random variation in the time at which first compensations were granted within small postal code areas, I estimate the causal impact of granting these first compensations on the price of subsequent house sales belonging to non-compensated homeowners in the same area. Results suggest that there are positive and significant spillover effects on house prices. Proximity seems to play a significant role as the effect fades and even becomes insignificant for houses sold within increasingly larger areas. Evidence from a border discontinuity design suggest that a possible mechanism is that compensating nearby homeowners reduces uncertainty of newcomers about receiving compensations in the future should the externalities persist. These findings are robust to increasingly restrictive treatment assignments directed at minimizing selection into treatment concerns.

Other, Ongoing Projects
Tied Subsidies and Housing Externalities: Evidence From Earthquakes Repairs (writing stage)

Coming into or Staying in the Nuisance? Evidence From Sorting Behaviour Over Moderate Seismic Risk (writing stage)

Healthy Diet, Physical Activity and Academic Performance: Evidence From the Healthy Schools of the Future Programme (writing stage)

Code Fog: Indoor Pollutants and Cognitive Performance of Computer Science Students (data collection)

Residential Real Estate and Neighbourhood Regeneration (data collection)

Book Chapters

Caffera, M., Plottier C., Durán N. (2013). Producción agropecuaria y cambio climático. Oportunidades para reducir las emisiones en la ganadería uruguaya. In El desafío del desarrollo sustentable en América Latina. Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, SOPLA.

PhD Dissertation

Durán N. (2022). Induced Earthquakes, Compensations, and the Housing Market. University of Groningen.

Other Publications in Spanish

Durán, N., & Souto, G. (2010). Llegando a fin de mes: Un análisis de las preferencias temporales de los uruguayos. Revista de Ciencias Empresariales y Economía, (9), 65-82.

Resumen: En la presente investigación estudiamos las preferencias intertemporales en las decisiones de consumo de una muestra de clientes de la cadena de supermercados Disco. Ajustamos la caída diaria estimada en el consumo de bienes no durables a través de los modelos de descuento intertemporal exponencial y cuasihiperbólico. Obtenemos evidencia de preferencias temporalmente inconsistentes dentro del mes, derivadas de una excesiva preferencia por el consumo presente, lo que no permite su suavizamiento entre períodos de cobro.

Abstract: In this paper, we study the intertemporal preferences of consumption decisions in a sample of clients of Disco supermarkets. We fit the estimated daily decline in the consumption of non-durable goods by applying both exponential and quasi-hyperbolic intertemporal discounting models. We obtain evidence of inconsistent intertemporal preferences within the month, derived from an excessive preference for present consumption, which does not allow for smoothing consumption between income flows.