Developing Histories

Kevin Lewis

April 01, 2024

Female education and social change
Mathias Bühler, Leonhard Vollmer & Johannes Wimmer
Journal of Economic Growth, March 2024, Pages 79-119

Does access to education facilitate the emergence of a human capital elite from which social activists, and thus, social change can emerge? Assembling a city-level panel of the political, intellectual, and economic elite throughout German history, we find that the opening of schools providing secondary education for women increased their representation among the human capital elite. These elites challenged the status quo and developed critical ideas that resonated in cities with higher human capital, connecting women to form a social movement. We find no evidence of other city-specific indicators of economic and gender-specific cultural change affecting our results. Differential returns to education are also unrelated to the increasing representation of women among the human capital elite, as the opening of gender-specific schools has no impact on the opposite gender.

Public goods and diversity in democracies and non-democracies
Roxanne Raabe, Christian Sander & Andrea Schneider
Kyklos, forthcoming

This paper analyzes how ethnic diversity affects the provision of public goods in democratic and non-democratic societies when political parties compete for voter support by offering a mix of private and public goods. Our model implies that increasing diversity that leads to more heterogeneous preferences for public goods decreases the provision of public goods in democracies, where political power is distributed equally among citizens, while there is a weaker or no effect in non-democracies, where political power is distributed unequally among citizens. When measuring diversity by ethnic fractionalization and public good provision by either levels of government expenses, expenditures on health, or life expectancy, we indeed observe a negative association between diversity and the provision of public goods in democracies but no or only a weak association in non-democracies.

Risky moms, risky kids? Fertility and crime after the fall of the wall
Arnaud Chevalier & Olivier Marie
Journal of Public Economics, February 2024

Following the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the birth rate halved in East Germany. Using detailed state-cohort-level arrest-data, and a difference in differences strategy, we show that individuals born during this period of socio-economic turmoil were markedly more likely to be arrested than those conceived a few years earlier. This is the case for most crime types and both for boys and girls. Since these children grew-up in the same re-unified German environment, the differences in criminal activity are consistent with negative parental selection. We use individual-level data to highlight risk attitude as a potential mechanism linking maternal fertility decisions and children’s criminal activities. We show that mothers who gave birth between 1991 and 1993 in East Germany have a significantly greater preference for risk, and so do their children. Finally, we provide novel evidence of the strong correlation between high levels of risk preference and criminal participation.

Trends in Intracranial and Cerebral Volumes of Framingham Heart Study Participants Born 1930 to 1970
Charles DeCarli et al.
JAMA Neurology, forthcoming

Design, Setting, and Participants: This cross-sectional study used data from the community-based Framingham Heart Study cohort for participants born in the decades 1930 to 1970. Participants did not have dementia or history of stroke and had magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) obtained from March 18, 1999, to November 15, 2019. The final analysis dataset was created in October 2023.

Results: The main study cohort consisted of 3226 participants with a mean (SD) age of 57.7 (7.8) years at the time of their MRI. A total of 1706 participants were female (53%) and 1520 (47%) were male. The birth decades ranged from the 1930s to 1970s. Significant trends for larger intracranial, hippocampal, and white matter volumes and cortical surface area were associated with progressive birth decades. Comparing the 1930s birth decade to the 1970s accounted for a 6.6% greater volume (1234 mL; 95% CI, 1220-1248, vs 1321 mL; 95% CI, 1301-1341) for ICV, 7.7% greater volume (441.9 mL; 95% CI, 435.2-448.5, vs 476.3 mL; 95% CI, 467.0-485.7) for white matter, 5.7% greater value (6.51 mL; 95% CI, 6.42-6.60, vs 6.89 mL; 95% CI, 6.77-7.02) for hippocampal volume, and a 14.9% greater value (1933 cm2; 95% CI, 1908-1959, vs 2222 cm2; 95% CI, 2186-2259) for cortical surface area. Repeat analysis applied to a subgroup of 1145 individuals of similar age range born in the 1940s (mean [SD] age, 60.0 [2.8] years) and 1950s (mean [SD] age, 59.0 [2.8] years) resulted in similar findings.

Unfreedom and Slavery Under Sail: Intercolonial Trade in the British Atlantic, 1698–1766
Hannah Knox Tucker
Business History Review, Winter 2023, Pages 751-778

Using evidence from 25,250 records of vessels entering and clearing the rivers of the Chesapeake Bay, this article demonstrates that intercolonial trading captains and crews significantly reduced the number of days their vessels spent in port in Virginia between 1698 and 1766. This contraction reflected a quantifying ethos in shipping that emerged during the early age of sail as the result of mutually reinforcing legal requirements and management practices. Responding to these productivity pressures, captains embraced practices that limited sailors’ freedom and turned to enslaved sailors to guarantee their maritime labor force. Embracing unfreedom aided captains to realize the dispatch goals that helped guarantee their investors’ returns.

Courts, legislatures, and evolving property rules: Lessons from eminent domain
Robert Fleck & Andrew Hanssen
Explorations in Economic History, forthcoming

This paper examines judicial and legislative modifications to a specific property rule, the benefit offset, which was widely employed by railroad companies during the 19th century as a way to reduce required compensation for land taken through eminent domain. At the beginning of the railroad boom, all states allowed the benefit offset; by the end of the boom, most states had banned it, some via court decisions, others via legislation. Consistent with a simple model in which a court and a legislature act as (imperfect) agents of the public: 1) challenges to the benefit offset generally began with litigation; 2) all states that litigated the offset eventually restricted it, but not always through litigation; 3) where courts chose to allow the offset, legislation restricted it, often with substantial lags; 4) those lags tended to be longer (i.e., more time passed between litigation and subsequent legislation) when the litigation efforts took place early in the track building process (at which time the offset was more likely to be socially valuable); 5) states that never banned the benefit offset were those where landowners were unlikely to have ever been harmed by the practice (principally western states with vast expanses of public and private land). The model and historical evidence illustrate how a system that grants both the court and the legislature the power to alter property rules can establish a beneficial redundancy that increases the value of modifiable property rules.

The Political Economy of Status Competition: Sumptuary Laws in Preindustrial Europe
Desiree Desierto & Mark Koyama
Journal of Economic History, forthcoming

Sumptuary laws that regulated clothing based on social status were an important part of the political economy of premodern states. We introduce a model that captures the notion that consumption by ordinary citizens poses a status threat to ruling elites. Our model predicts a non-monotonic effect of income -- sumptuary legislation initially increases with income, but then falls as income increases further. The initial rise is more likely for states with less extractive institutions, whose ruling elites face a greater status threat from the rising commercial class. We test these predictions using a new dataset of country and city-level sumptuary laws.

Does time heal all wounds? The rise, decline, and long-term impact of forced labor in Spanish America
Leticia Abad & Noel Maurer
Explorations in Economic History, July 2024

For most of human history, free wage labor was uncommon compared to various coercive institutions based on the threat of force. Latin America was no exception to this general rule. A number of scholars argue that past coercive labor institutions explain regional and national divergence within Latin America long after the institutions themselves have disappeared. A review of the literature, however, shows less agreement than is commonly recognized. There is evidence that forced labor on Spanish American mainland collapsed endogenously under its own weight, in which case it may have left few echoes in the present.

North Korean refugees’ implicit bias against South Korea predicts market earnings
Syngjoo Choi et al.
Journal of Development Economics, June 2024

This paper investigates whether experiences of living in a communist regime relate to low market earnings. We recruit North Korean refugees and measure their implicit bias against South Korea by using the Implicit Association Test. Conducting double auction and bilateral bargaining market experiments, we find that North Korean refugees with a larger bias against South Korea have lower expectations about their earning potential, exhibit trading behavior with lower target profits, and earn less profits. These associations are robust to conditioning on correlates of preferences, human capital, and assimilation experiences.

Time on the crossing: Emigrant voyages across the Atlantic, 1853–1913
Timothy Hatton
European Review of Economic History, February 2024, Pages 120–133

I provide a new series of the average duration of emigrant voyages from Liverpool to New York from 1853 to 1913. Time on the crossing fell by 80 percent, from about 40 days to just eight, most of which occurred in the first 2 decades and was associated with the transition from sail to steam. The standard deviation of voyage durations also dramatically decreased. Although average transatlantic fares did not fall, if foregone earnings during the voyage are included, the total cost declined until the early 1900s, and especially so when measured in terms of the number of weeks’ work.


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