Essays on three looming policy crises in Latin America




Rojas Álvarez, Alfonso José

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This dissertation is structured as three papers which seek to contribute to the increasing body of literature on three looming crises in Latin America, in topics identified as the core of public policy debates in the region for the upcoming decade. The first paper explores the relationship between levels of air pollution and safety incidents in Medellín, Colombia, during the period 2017-2019. Using an empirical strategy, I find a positive relationship between PM₂.₅ pollution levels and both property and violent daily incidents at the neighborhood level, after accounting for weather and location characteristics. These findings constitute a valuable tool for cost-benefit analysis of the environmental crisis in Colombia that uses an approach focused on its effects on safety that is currently absent in the conversation. In the second paper, on the crisis of chronic disease, using the Mexican Health and Aging Study 2018 we compare total out-of-pocket expenses for physician visits and medication among older adults living with diabetes in Mexico, stratified between urban, semi-urban, and rural localities. We find that although the healthcare safety net program (Seguro Popular) has improved access to care, older Mexicans affiliated with it have far higher out-of-pocket expenditures for medications than those on employer-based plans in all localities. Across all groups, the uninsured bear the highest burden of expenditures, highlighting continued need to address health inequities for the most underserved populations. Finally, the third paper on the rental markets’ crisis, follows the need to increase research on the availability of non-ownership alternatives in the region. It explores the effectiveness of an ease-of-eviction policy in Costa Rica by using household surveys to explore rental volumes before and after changes in regulation, while putting the country’s rental markets in broader perspective compared to OECD countries and their varying levels of eviction restrictions. The salience of these papers is greater today than ever, as Latin American countries face both present and looming policy crises on multiple fronts. Tackling these issues effectively will require a combination of public innovation, rigorous academic research, and interdisciplinary approaches to complex policy challenges.



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