Class of 1934 Robert Gordon Sproul Distinguished Professor in Agricultural Economics
Sofia Berto Villas-Boas is a professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at U C Berkeley. She holds Class of 1934 Robert Gordon Sproul Chair in Agricultural Economics. Born in Portugal in 1971 she received her Ph.D. in Economics from U. C. Berkeley in May 2002. Her research interests include industrial organization, consumer behavior, food policy, and environmental regulation. Her recent empirical work estimates the effects of policies on consumer behavior, such a bottled water tax, a plastic bag ban, and a soda tax campaign and its implementation. Other published work has focused on the economics behind wholesale price discrimination banning legislation, contractual relationships along a vertical supply chain, and identifying the role of those contracts in explaining pass-through of cost shocks along the supply chain into retail prices that consumers face. She has published in top economics and field journals such as Review of Economic Studies, Rand Journal of Economics, American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Marketing Science, Management Science, and Review of Economics and Statistics.
Work under submission on CUDARE W PP : COVID-19 mandates, mobility and health , and SSRN Link
The recent spread of COVID-19 across the U.S. led to concerted efforts by states to ``flatten the curve" through the adoption of stay-at-home mandates that encourage individuals to reduce travel and maintain social distance. Combining data on changes in travel activity with COVID-19 health outcomes and state policy adoption timing, we characterize nationwide changes in mobility patterns and isolate the portion attributable to statewide mandates. We find evidence of dramatic nationwide declines in mobility prior to adoption of any statewide mandates. Once states adopt a mandate, we estimate further mandate-induced declines between 2.1 and 7.0 percentage points across methods that account for states' differences in travel behavior prior to policy adoption. In addition, we investigate the effects of stay-at-home mandates on changes in COVID-19 health outcomes while controlling for pre-trends and observed pre-treatment mobility patterns. We estimate mandate-induced declines between 0.13 and 0.17 in deaths (5.6 to 6.0 in hospitalizations) per 100 thousand across methods. Across 43 adopting states, this represents 23,366-30,144 fewer deaths (and roughly one million averted hospitalizations) for the months of March and April - which indicates that death rates could have been 42-54% higher had states not adopted statewide policies. We further find evidence that changes in mobility patterns prior to adoption of statewide policies also played a role in reducing COVID-19 mortality and morbidity. Adding in averted deaths due to pre-mandate social distancing behavior, we estimate a total of 48-71,000 averted deaths from COVID-19 for the two-month period. Given that the actual COVID-19 death toll for March and April was 55,922, our estimates suggest that deaths would have been 1.86-2.27 times what they were absent any stay-at-home mandates during this period. These estimates represent a lower bound on the health impacts of stay-at-home policies, as they do not account for spillovers or undercounting of COVID-19 mortality. Our findings indicate that early behavior changes and later statewide policies reduced death rates and helped attenuate the negative consequences of COVID-19. Further, our findings of substantial reductions in mobility prior to state-level policies convey important policy implications for re-opening.
The study's findings imply that the declines in economic activity directly attributable to statewide mandates may be much smaller than previously thought. According to the results, as individuals around the country had already more than halved the quantity of trips taken to non-essential retail and service businesses, much of the lost business and resulting unemployment would have likely still occurred even if states had not adopted their stay-at-home policies. As the mandate-induced reductions amount to onlya small portion of the overall reductions since COVID-19, it is likely that loosening or removing statewide policies on their own will not be sufficient to induce mobility patterns to quickly return to pre-COVID-19 levels. Further policies will be needed to ensure that individuals can resume activity and return to local businesses in a manner that is safe.
Link to NABE Webinar, around minute 22
Stay Home Link
B.A. Economics, Universidade Católica Portuguesa, Lisboa, Portugal, 1994.
Ph.D. Economics, University of California, Berkeley, CA, 2002.
Sample of Recent Publications:
Villas-Boas, Sofia B., Bonnet, Celine, Hilger, James, 2020. Random Utility Models, Wine, and Experts. American Journal of Agricultural Economics, forthcoming. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/ajae.12129?campaign=wol...
Bonnet, C., J. Hilger, and S. B. Villas-Boas, 2020. Reduced form evidence on belief updating under asymmetric information—consumers’ response to wine expert opinions, European Review of Agricultural Economics, Volume 47, Issue 5, December 2020, Pages 1668–1696,
Villas-Boas, S., K. Kiesel, J. Berning, H. Chouinard, J. McCluskey, 2019. “Consumer and Strategic Firm Response to Nutrition Shelf Labels,” American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 102 (2): 458-479.
Taylor, R. S. Kaplan, S. B. Villas-Boas, and K. Jung, 2019. “Soda Wars: Effect of a Soda Tax Election on Soda Purchases.” Economic Inquiry, vol 57 (3):. 1480-1496.
Villas-Boas, S. B., R. Taylor, E. Deakin, 2019. "Effects of Peer Comparisons on Low-Promotability Tasks: Evidence from a University Field Experiment," Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, Volume 158 : 351-366.
Bonnet, C., C. Trachtman, M. VanDop, S. B. Villas-Boas, 2020. ""Food Markets’ Structural Empirical Analysis: A Review of Methods and Topics," European Review of Agricultural Economics, 47 (2): 819–847.
Hallstein, E., J. Hilger, A. Stevens, and S. B. Villa-Boas, 2018. "Measuring Willingness to Pay for Environmental Attributes in Seafood", Environmental and Resource Economics, 73: 307-332. Link: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10640-018-0264-6
Toledo, C. and S. B. Villas-Boas, 2019.“Food Borne Disease Outbreaks, Consumer Purchases and Product Preferences: The Case of the 2010 Salmonella Egg Outbreak in the U.S.”, Applied Economic Perspectives & Policy,Volume 41, Issue 3: 519-541, . https://doi.org/10.1093/aepp/ppy015.
Allain, M-L, C. Chambolle, S. Turolla, and S. B. Villas-Boas, 2017. “The impact of Retail Mergers on Food Prices: Evidence from France”, Journal of Industrial Economics, Volume 65, Issue 3, September:469–509. DOI: 10.1111/joie.12153.
Berck, P, A. Stevens, J, Moe-Lange, and S. B. Villas-Boas, 2016. "Measuring Consumer Responses to a Bottled Water Tax Policy." American Journal of Agricultural Economics 98 (4): 981-996;
Taylor, R. and S. B. Villas-Boas, 2016. "Store Choice among Low Income Households" American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Volume 98, Issue 2: 513-532.
Keep it Causal Blog:
Feb, 2019. About Econometrics, Zion, Nike Stock Prices, co authored with Scott Kaplan.