In press:

Mobile Money and School Participation: Evidence from Africa

This paper shows that mobile money technology - an electronic wallet service that allows users to deposit, transfer and receive money using their mobile phones - is positively correlated with increased school participation of children in school age. By using data from 4 African countries, we argue that, by reducing transaction costs, and by making it easier and less expensive to receive remittances, mobile money reduces the need for coping strategies that are detrimental to child development, such as withdrawing children from school and sending them to work. We find that mobile money increases the chances of children attending school. This finding is robust to different empirical models. In a nutshell, our results show that 1 million children could start attending school in low-income countries if mobile money was available to all.

With  Francesco Billari. Accepted at Population Research and Policy Review


  1. "Mobile Money and School Participation: Evidence from Africa", 2020. With Francesco Billari.  Accepted at Population Research and Policy Review
  2. "Reliance on scientists and experts during an epidemic: evidence from the COVID-19 outbreak in Italy", 2020.  With  Pietro Battiston and Ridhi Kashyap. Accepted at SSM-Population Health
  3. "The Internetization of International Migration", 2020. With Pesando, L. M., Stranges, M., Kashyap, R., and Billari, F. C. Population and Development Review.
  4. "Leveraging Mobile Phones to Attain Sustainable Development", 2020. With Kashyap, R., Pesando, L.M., Spinelli, S., and Billari, F.C. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [Selected Media Coverage: Yahoo Finance, Social News, Nature Podcast]
  5. "Demographic science aids in understanding the spread and fatality rates of COVID-19", 2020. With  Dowd, JB, Andriano, L, Brazel, DM,  Block, P, Ding, X, Liu, Y & MC Mills. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [Selected Media Coverage: Il post, The Wall Street Journal, Wired, Vanguardia, La Repubblica, Avvenire, Corriere della Sera, We Forum, Daily Mail, The Economist]
  6. "Mobile Phones, Digital Inequality and Fertility: Longitudinal Evidence from Malawi", 2020. With Billari F. and Trinitapoli J..   Demographic Research 
  7. "I’d Lie for You", with Georgia Michailidou, 2019.  European Economic Review 118 (2019): 181-192.
  8. "Firm’s protection against disasters: Are investment and insurance substitutes or complements?" with Attanasi, G., Concina, L., and Kamate, C. Theory and Decision (2018): 1-31
  9. "Lottery-and survey-based risk attitudes linked through a multichoice elicitation task", with Attanasi, G., Georgantzìs, N., and Vigani, D. Theory and Decision 84.3 (2018): 341-372.
  10. "Macroeconomic conditions and well-being: do social interactions matter?" with Colombo, E. and Stanca, L. Applied Economics 50.28 (2018): 3029-3038.
  11. "Macroeconomic conditions and health: Inspecting the transmission mechanism", with Colombo, E. and Stanca, L. Economics & Human Biology 28 (2018): 29-37.
  12. "Connecting alone: Smartphone use, quality of social interactions and well-being", with Stanca L. and Tomasuolo M. Journal of Economic Psychology 63 (2017): 17-26.
  13. "The Less Extreme, the More You Leave. Radical Islam and Willingness to Migrate", with Falco, C. World Development, Volume 88, December 2016, Pages 122-133
  14. "The Effect of Particularism on Corruption: Theory and Empirical Evidence", with Stanca, L. Journal of Economic Psychology, Volume 51, December 2015, Pages 219-235


Battiston, P., Gamba, S., Rotondi, V. (2019) "What does a young cheater look like? An innovative approach" in A. Bucciol and N. Montinari, "Dishonesty in Behavioral Economics", Elsevier.

Pesando, L., Rotondi, V. (2020: forthcoming) "Mobile technology and gender equality" in  Encyclopedia of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Gender Equality.

New projects

Despite the volume of studies leveraging big data to explore socio-demographic phenomena, we still know little about the intersection of digital information and the social problem of intimate partner violence (IPV). This is an important knowledge gap as IPV remains a pressing public-health concern worldwide, with 35% of women having experienced IPV over their lifetime and cases rising dramatically in the wake of global crises such as the current pandemic. This study addresses the question of whether online data from Google Trends and Twitter might help reach these ``hard-to-reach” populations using Italy as a case-study. We ask the following questions: Can digital traces help predict instances of IPV in Italy? Is their predictive power weaker or stronger in the aftermath of crises such as COVID-19? Preliminary results suggest that digital data using selected keywords positively predict actual calls to helplines with their predictive power being stronger in post-crises periods.

With: Selin Koksal, Luca Maria Pesando, and Asli Ebru Sanliturk

US foreign aid restrictions, maternal and children’s health: Evidence from the "Mexico City Policy"

In this paper, we analyze the link between foreign aid for family planning services and a broad set of health outcomes. More specifically, we document the unequal health consequences of the so-called Mexico City Policy (MCP henceforth). This policy is implemented only when a Republican administration holds US presidency and restricts US funding for non-governmental organizations that provide information on or access to abortion abroad. Previous research has shown that MCP causes large disruptions in family planning services around the world, but its consequences for health outcomes remain largely underexplored. Using country-level data from 162 countries, we show that MCP is associated with higher maternal and neonatal mortality as well as HIV prevalence. These effects are stronger in countries more exposed to US aid shocks and weaker in countries in which girls' enrollment in school is higher. Furthermore, using individual-level data from 23 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, we show that under MCP women have less access to contraception, HIV testing, and in-person family planning services. Our findings highlight the importance of mitigating the harmful effects of MCP by lifting or redesigning MCP.

With: Kerim Can Kavakli

The Paradox of Parenthood and Happiness: Exploring the Role of the Brain

While both the conventional wisdom and the Second Demographic Transition theory suggest that having children is rewarding for individuals and increases their life satisfaction and happiness, the empirical literature across different disciplines has not yet found a clear answer on neither the direction nor the magnitude of the association between childbearing and happiness. Here we explore a possible mechanism that might explain the association between parenthood and happiness: the neuro-anatomical changes occurring to parental brains when transitioning into parenthood and the role played by empathy. After birth and two years afterwards women show
reduced gray matter volumes in regions subserving social cognition and in particular the amygdala, insula, precuneus, superior
temporal and medial prefrontal areas. Also fathers experience changes in their brain, although of smaller size.
These changes also affect affective domains, such as empathy and social emotions. At the same time, the literature documents that emotional distress and the perception of other people's pain activate neural structures (including the anterior cingulate cortex, anterior insula, and the amygdala) that are also involved in the direct experience of pain. As a result, we expect to find a negative relationship between parenting and happiness mediated by an increase in the ability to feel others' pain. We test this hypothesis by leveraging the richness of the UK Biobank Dataset including the collection of genome-wide genetic data and resting and task-based fMRI of around 100000 participants aged 40--69 years old. Through the developed world, the high level of childlessness and the decrease in family size among those having children are timely and pressing policy issues. The fact that, in many although not all industrialized societies, parents report lower levels of happiness than childless adults might possibly fuel the perception that having children is not rewarding thus reducing the desire to become parents. Understanding the reasons behind the usually observed negative correlation between parenthood and happiness is, therefore, crucial.

With: Nicola Barban, Ridhi Kashyap, Carlo Reverberi, and Maria Sironi

Working Papers:

1.     "Safer if Connected? Mobile Technology and Intimate Partner Violence", 2020. With Luca M. Pesando. R&R. 

2.     "Mobile Phones and Attitudes Towards Women’s Participation in Politics: Evidence from Africa", 2021. With Carlotta Varriale, Luca Maria Pesando, and Ridhi Kashyap.  Conditionally accepted at Sociology of Development. This collaborative project was part of the first-year PhD course in Social Statistics held at Bocconi University within the PhD program in Public Policy and Administration (A.Y. 2018-2019).

3.     "Bombs and babies. Terrorism increases fertility in Nigeria", with Michele Rocca, 2019. R&R.

4.     "Investment, Insurance and Weather Shocks: Evidence from a Lab Experiment in Cambodia", 2016. With Chiara Falco, Dough Kong, Valeria Spelta, DEMM Working Paper n 10, University of Milano. R&R.

5.     "The Day after the Bomb: Well-being Effects of Terrorist Attacks in Europe", with Luca Stanca and Emilio Colombo, 2019. R&R.

6.     "Harnessing the Potential of Online Searches for Understanding the Impact of COVID-19 on Intimate Partner Violence in Italy", 2020. With Selin Köksal, Luca M. Pesando, and Ebru Şanlıtürk. Population Center Working Papers (PSC/PARC),  University of Pennsylvania No. 1-12-2021. Under revision.

7.     "US foreign aid restrictions, maternal and children’s health: Evidence from the "Mexico City Policy"", 2020. With Kerim Can Kavakli. Submitted. 

8.     "Lies have long legs. Cheating, public scrutiny and loyalty in teams", 2018. With Pietro Battiston, Simona Gamba, and Matteo Rizzolli, Econometica WP, WP 67. Submitted.

9.    "Overconfidence, Misjudgment, and Market Entry: Experimental Evidence from Panama", 2019. Submitted.

10.  "What exactly is public in a public good game? A lab-in-the-field experiment", 2018. With Pietro Battiston, Simona Gamba, and Matteo Rizzolli. Under revision.

11.  "Mobile money and the labor market: Evidence from developing countries", 2019. With Chiara De Gasperin, and Luca Stanca. DEMS WORKING PAPER SERIES. No. 403 – March 2019. Under revision.

12.  "Impact of Home Gardening on Production and Diet Diversification. Evidence from a Field Experiment in Ethiopia", with Jacopo Bonan and Stefano Pareglio, 2015. WP 312, DEMS University of Milan-Bicocca.