Valeria Zurla

Working Papers

How Should We Design Parental Leave Policies? Evidence from Two Reforms in Italy (Job Market Paper) [New Draft coming soon!]

Selected project for VisitINPS Fellowship on gender inequalities. Recipient of the Policy Impacts Early-Career Scholars Grant. Winner of the "Carlo Dell'Aringa Young Labor Economists Award 2021". 

In the media: Il Bo Live

This paper studies the role of different policy instruments in the design of parental leave policies. Using Italian administrative data on the universe of working mothers, I implement a difference-in-differences design around two unemployment insurance reforms that increased, respectively, the level of benefits and the duration of benefits without offering job protection. I provide novel insights on the trade-offs that mothers face in making leave decisions, the relative value of benefits and job protection, and the incentive costs associated with parental leave policies. Both reforms increased separations from the pre-birth employer and delayed mothers’ return to work. I estimate the costs of changing the generosity of unprotected benefits in terms of earnings, labor force participation, and benefits from other social programs. Taking up unprotected benefits has an enormous cost in terms of foregone earnings for mothers, suggesting that the insurance value of short-term benefits is much higher than the value of job protection. I explore the role of informational frictions and childcare availability in shaping mothers’ leave decisions. I develop a conceptual framework to evaluate the welfare effects of parental leave policies. The analysis demonstrates job protection’s key role in reducing the incentive costs of parental leave policies while showing that mothers highly value insurance in the short term. Increasing the duration of benefits while at the same time extending job protection is welfare improving for mothers.

This paper uses administrative data to analyze the incidence effects of a large EITC program in Italy. I find that firms are an important vector of transmission of incidence: firms very exposed to the tax credit responded to the program by decreasing their employees’ earnings relative to less exposed firms. Evidence suggests that the response was mainly driven by a decrease in the earnings growth rather than by a decrease in earnings level. This finding is consistent with the presence of wage rigidities that prevent firms from directly lowering wages and suggests that the transmission of tax credit incidence from workers to firms happens in a dynamic way.

Does refugee immigration affect the quality of neighborhood amenities? In this paper, we exploit the unique setting provided by the Italian refugee reception system to study the effect of refugees’ inflows on housing prices, the extent to which this response reflects individuals’ preferences for immigration, and perceived neighborhood quality. Using administrative data on the exact location of reception centers and a dynamic event study design, we find that, after the opening of a reception center, areas close to the center experience a relative fall in housing prices of about 1%, mainly driven by an amenity effect. We find that the negative effect is larger in larger cities and decreases with the size of the center and the availability of services to facilitate integration. We test whether opening refugees centers impacts local public spending, which we use to proxy the actual quality of local amenities. We find that after the opening of a reception center, areas close to the center experience a relative fall in expenditure per capita of about 2.4%, largely driven by a reduction in welfare spending. Given this well-established negative effect, are there factors or policy responses that might mitigate it? Our findings suggest that investing in services devoted to the mutual integration of the local and refugee community can be effective.

The Effect of Parental Caregiving on the Fertility Expectations of Adult Children (with Ester Lazzari) [Draft Available Upon Request] [Submitted]

The postponement of parenthood coupled with longer life expectancies is changing the life- course context within which individuals decide whether to become parents. Previous research has highlighted the positive impact of grandparents on their adult children's fertility plans through childcare, but the association between grandparental health and fertility expectations remains unclear. Thus, this paper offers a novel perspective on the issue of family support by investigating how caregiving responsibilities towards elderly parents affect adult children’s decision to have a child. Using a long panel of Australian survey data, we examine whether adult children changed their fertility expectations after becoming care providers to their parents. To address issues of unobserved heterogeneity and selection into parenthood and caregiving, we employ a generalized difference-in-differences model. We find that becoming a parental caregiver leads to a 6% reduction in fertility expectations within the first two years, and this effect intensifies over time. The results are consistent across genders and more pronounced for respondents with only one child. These findings highlight the importance of analysing fertility expectations within the context of the family network and suggest that interventions aimed at reducing the caregiver burden could provide an opportunity to positively influence fertility levels.


Selected Work in Progress

Social Insurance Programs and Preferences for Redistribution: A Bayesian Adaptive Choice Experiment (with Marshall Drake, Neil Thakral, Linh T. Tô)

Recipient of the Policy Impacts Early-Career Scholars Grant.

Breastfeeding, 1950 to 2015: Trends, Selection and Duration (with Martha Bailey and Emily Oster)

We study patterns in maternal breastfeeding in the United States from 1950 to 2015. Our primary innovation is the aggregation of six datasets to provide long-term, nationally representative trends in breastfeeding initiation and persistence over 60 years. These new data show that breastfeeding rates declined from 1950 to the mid-1970s and then increased sharply. Today breastfeeding initiation rates in the U.S. are at a 50-year high. Breastfeeding through 6 months parallels trends in initiation until around the beginning of the 2000s, when initiation rates continued to rise while continuation has plateaued at around 35%. We also explore changes in selection into breastfeeding by socio-economic class and race. Higher socioeconomic status groups increased breastfeeding more quickly in the 1970s, with other groups catching up in the 1980s to the present. However, these groups have not shown the same catch-up in breastfeeding continuation and, as a result, selection in breastfeeding persists. 

The Effect of Physician Migration on Health Outcomes (with Diego Verdugo)

Physician shortages have become a severe problem in many countries, especially in rural areas. Chile has historically suffered from shortages that are reflected in high waiting times and significant costs in terms of lives. In this paper, we ask whether foreign migration can help addressing these shortages by exploiting a sudden and arguably exogenous wave of physician migration from Venezuela to Chile. We build a novel dataset on the universe of physicians working in the public sector in Chile to study the effect of this physician supply shock on health outcomes, health care access and crowd-out of Chilean physicians from the public to the private sector. Using an event study design and an instrumental variable strategy we find that, in hospitals and areas most affected, overall mortality decreases right around the time of the inflow of new physicians by around 0.2 percentage points. We discuss and test different explanations for this result: decreases in waiting times, increases in the availability of specialists and faster diagnoses.

Is Family-Friendly Firm-Friendly? The Costs and Benefits of Family-Friendly Workplaces (with Corinna De Leo and Alessandra Fenizia)

Policy Work and Other Writing