UCL Department of Economics


Barbara Flores Arenas

I am a PhD student in Economics at Univeristy College London. My supervisors are Orazio Attanasio and Aureo De Paula. 

My current research focuses on the role of social interactions on socioeconomic outcomes in developing countries. In particular, I study neighborhoods, as it constitutes a natural form of social interactions, to analyse interdependencies in labour market behavior and welfare participation. The presence of social effects on socioeconomic outcomes is important as it has important policy implications. Effectively, social effects can reinforce the effect of changes in private incentives. Thus, interventions focused on a specific subset of the population can indirectly affect the outcomes of non-treated individuals through the existence endogenous of social effects. 

I received a B.A. degree in Economic Sciences and an M.Sc. degree in Economics from the University of Chile, in 2007 and 2010, respectively, and an M.Res. degree in Economics from the University College London in 2012.

      Primary fields: 

      • Applied Microeconomics
      • Labour Economics
      • Social Interactions

      Secondary fields:

      • Economics of Education
      • Policy Evaluation

      Social interactions among low-income households and female labour force participation


      I use a unique dataset on detailed social networks at neighbourhood level to empirically analyse how social interactions among low-income women affect their labour market behaviour. Specifically, I study neighbourhoods, as they constitute a natural form of social interactions, to quantify the causal social effect of female neighbours’ behaviour on individuals’ decisions regarding participating in the labour force. To do so, I follow the literature on discrete choice with social interactions and extend a standard model of female labour force participation by including in the utility function the choices of other women within the neighbourhood. In order to identify social effects, I implement a novel strategy proposed in the latest literature on social interactions. In particular, I exploit the geographical location of households to identify neighbours of neighbours who are not closest neighbours, and their characteristics are used to construct instruments for the behaviour of closest neighbours. The results indicate the presence of significant and positive endogenous social effects on women’s decision to participate in the labour force. The estimated endogenous social effect in the preferred specification is positive and statistically significant and suggests that an increase of one percentage point in the female labour force participation rate of closest neighbours increases the individual probability of participation in the labour force by 10.5 percent.

      • Orazio Attanasio
      • Aureo De Paula
      • Pedro Carneiro