Augusto Ospital

Augusto Ospital

Assistant Professor

LMU Munich, Department of Economics

I am an economist with research interests in trade and spatial economics, environmental economics, and industrial organization.

I am an Assistant Professor at LMU Munich. I received my PhD in Economics from UCLA in 2023.

I co-organize the Online Spatial and Urban Seminar (OSUS).

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Working Papers

Trade Barriers and Market Power: Evidence from Argentina's Discretionary Import Restrictions

Countries are increasingly turning to non-tariff barriers that are hard to measure and often illegal under WTO rules. What are the impacts of these policies, and what do they reveal about market power in international trade? We study a comprehensive system of discretionary import licenses imposed by Argentina, where we observe the universe of transaction-level requests and approval decisions between 2013 and 2015. Approvals varied across firms and products in a manner consistent with the government’s trade and investment objectives, and over time to safeguard the current account. Interacting these sources of variation to construct an instrument, we estimate that stricter restrictions increased the prices paid by importers, a result that runs counter to competitive price-setting behavior. Informed by a model and a classifier-Lasso, the price and quantity responses identify—for each combination of importer, narrow product, and origin—which side (importer or exporter) holds market power. We find that larger importers are more likely to hold market power, and those trading with richer countries are less likely to. The market-power distribution strongly shapes the effects of quantitative restrictions and the magnitude of optimal tariffs. Import prices rose by 4% as a result of Argentina’s import restrictions, but would have risen by 13% (fallen by 8%) had all foreign firms (Argentinian firms) held market power.

Urban Policy and Spatial Exposure to Environmental Risk

In the past two decades, about half of the new homes in the United States were built in environmentally risky areas. Why is new residential development being exposed to such risk? I posit that land-use regulations restricting development in safer areas contribute to this pattern. I study this question in the context of exposure to wildfire risk in the metropolitan area of San Diego, California, where areas unexposed to risk are highly regulated and built out. I estimate a quantitative urban model using detailed spatial data on zoning, density limits, lot size restrictions, wildfire risk, and insurance. In the model, the regulations benefit landowners and reallocate the population to unregulated at-risk areas. These effects depend on estimated disamenities from wildfire risk, insurance access, and the spatial correlations between regulations, wildfire risk, and location amenities. I find that land-use regulations raise city-level rents by an average 28% and explain 7% of the residents living in fire-prone areas. The estimated present-discounted cost of wildfire risk is $14,149 per person, with existing regulations accounting for 10% of that cost. Over the next 40 years, as wildfire risk intensifies, the population grows, and the current land restrictions become more binding, the number of exposed residents will grow by 12%. The results show that institutions that restrain relocating out of harm’s way, such as land-use regulations, can limit adaptation to climate change.