UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Essays in development economics and economic history Vega Acuna, German Antonio


The first chapter evaluates if disrupting the status hierarchy by giving leadership roles to low-income students affects their academic performance. I randomly assign undergraduate students to study groups in one course. In each group, I randomly select one student as the group's coordinator, a symbolic leadership role. With this process, I create groups with similar structures but with different types of coordinators: low-income coordinator (change in status), and non-low-income coordinator (status remains). I find positive effects of the coordinator role on performance only in the low-income group: coordinators increase their course's grade by 0.24 SD and are 35% less likely to fail the course than other low-income students. The coordinator treatment does not change the aspirations of the low-income coordinators, but results on beliefs about their future performance and their number of social ties suggest their status change among their group partners. The second chapter evaluates whether the effects of online classes during COVID-19 in a Peruvian top university differ by income. Prior to the pandemic, low-income scholarship students had a semester GPA of 0.41 SD higher than non-scholarship students. The performance gap decreases by 85% following the switch to online classes in 2020. Baseline grades or place of residence do not drive the results. Instead, non-scholarship students coming from high-status schools get better grades, as they come from higher family incomes, which gives them access to better internet connection and broader social networks within the university. The third chapter evaluates how participation in one conflict affects participation in another. I identify Peruvian districts involved in the "Breña campaign" (1882-1883), a series of heroic events from the last part of the war between Peru and Chile (1879-1884). I show that for districts closer to the "Breña campaign", the probability of events related to the terrorist group Shining Path during 1980-1982 decreased. My channel of persistence goes through locals commemorating the "Breña campaign" events, which affected the strategy Shining Path implemented in 1980-1982. I show some evidence that the geographic distribution of the events of 1980-1982 explains part of the economic benefits for the participants of the "Breña campaign".

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