Kevin Lewis

January 01, 2019

Like a jar of flies? A study of self-control in an organizational social dilemma with large stakes
Matthew McCarter et al.
PLoS ONE, December 2018

We study the practice of self-control in an organizational social dilemma when the stakes are large, using 47 years of vital census data from 18th century Sweden. From 1750 to 1800, eighty percent of Sweden lived in a simple-structure organization called a bytvång or village commons. The amount of resources a village family received was a function of their size. During this period, crop failures left the population facing starvation. Using autoregressive time-series modeling, we test whether the people of Sweden continued to take steps toward increasing the stress on the commons by marrying and birthing children or practiced self-control. We find evidence that the peasantry – with little education, archaic agricultural practices, strong barriers to abortion and infanticide, and pressures by the Church and State to procreate – were less likely to marry and birth children (in or outside of wedlock) when the quality of the previous year’s harvest was poor compared to when it was bounteous. Post hoc analyses support the idea that the reason behind declining fertility after a famine was human decision rather than human physiology. Our findings are consistent with the idea that human population growth is not a social dilemma called a collective trap – which has been the assumption for 50 years. Rather, human population growth may be an individual dilemma – suggesting that members of simple-structured organizations can unilaterally exercise self-control and manage resources through self-organizing.

The gender division of labour in early modern England
Jane Whittle & Mark Hailwood
Economic History Review, forthcoming

This article presents new evidence of gendered work patterns in the pre‐industrial economy, providing an overview of women's work in early modern England. Evidence of 4,300 work tasks undertaken by particular women and men was collected from three types of court documents (coroners’ reports, church court depositions, and quarter sessions examinations) from five counties in south‐western England (Cornwall, Devon, Hampshire, Somerset, and Wiltshire) between 1500 and 1700. The findings show that women participated in all the main areas of the economy. However, different patterns of gendered work were identified in different parts of the economy: craft work showed a sharp division of labour and agriculture a flexible division of labour, while differences of gender were less pronounced in everyday commerce. Quantitative evidence of early modern housework and care work in England indicates that such work used less time and was less family‐based than is often assumed. Comparisons with gendered work patterns in early modern Germany and Sweden are drawn and show strong similarities to England. In conclusion it is argued that the gender division of labour cannot be explained by a single factor, as different influences were at play in different parts of the economy.

The Countervailing Effects of Competition on Public Goods Provision: When Bargaining Inefficiencies Lead to Bad Outcomes
Jessica Gottlieb & Katrina Kosec
American Political Science Review, forthcoming

Political competition is widely recognized as a mediator of public goods provision through its salutary effect on incumbents’ electoral incentives. We argue that political competition additionally mediates public goods provision by reducing the efficiency of legislative bargaining. These countervailing forces may produce a net negative effect in places with weak parties and low transparency — typical of many young democracies. We provide evidence of a robust negative relationship between political competition and local public goods using panel data from Mali. Tests of mechanisms corroborate our interpretation of this relationship as evidence of legislative bargaining inefficiencies. To explore the generalizability of these findings, we analyze cross-country panel data and show that political competition leads to better (worse) public goods provision under high (low) levels of party system institutionalization. The paper sheds light on why political competition is only selectively beneficial, and underscores the importance of considering both the electoral and legislative arenas.

Great Divergence of the 18th Century?
Andrey Korotayev, Julia Zinkina & Denis Zlodeev
Cliodynamics, Fall 2018, Pages 108–123

The article suggests that the Great Divergence of the 19th century between “the West” and “the East” was preceded by the Great Divergence in the 18th century between the Global North and the Global South. This may be attributed to a new, much higher level of state efficiency in the Global North. The eastern and western regions of the Global North frequently used different methods to make their state apparatuses more efficient, but achieved strikingly similar results during the 18th century. The Great Divergence of the 19th century, remarkably, occurred within the Global North.

Long-run Impacts of Agricultural Shocks on Educational Attainment: Evidence from the Boll Weevil
Richard Baker, John Blanchette & Katherine Eriksson
NBER Working Paper, December 2018

The boll weevil spread across the Southern United States from 1892 to 1922 having a devastating impact on cotton cultivation. The resulting shift away from this child labor–intensive crop lowered the opportunity cost of attending school, and thus the pest increased school enrollment and attendance. We investigate the insect’s long run affect on educational attainment using a sample of adults in 1940 linked back to themselves in childhood in the county in which they were likely educated. Both whites and blacks who were young (ages 4 to 9) when the boll weevil arrived saw increased educational attainment by 0.25 to 0.35 years. These findings are not driven by concurrent shocks and are not sensitive to linking method or sample selection. Our results demonstrate the potential for conflict between child labor in agriculture and educational attainment.

The shifting natural wealth of nations: The role of market orientation
Rabah Arezki, Frederick van der Ploeg & Frederik Toscani
Journal of Development Economics, forthcoming

This paper explores the effect of market orientation on (known or available) natural resource wealth using a novel dataset of world-wide major hydrocarbon and mineral discoveries. Our empirical estimates based on a large panel of countries show that increased market orientation causes a significant increase in discoveries of natural resources. In a thought experiment where economies in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa remain closed, they would have only achieved one quarter of the actual increase in discoveries they have experienced since the early 1990s. Our results call into question the commonly held view that known or available natural resource endowments are exogenous.

Urbanisation and Agricultural Productivity: Why Did the Splendour of the Italian Cities in the Sixteenth Century Not Lead to Transition?
Bruno Chiarini & Elisabetta Marzano
Kyklos, forthcoming

In this paper, we investigate the relationships among total population, wages and the urban population in the Italian economy during the period 1320‐1870. From the late Middle Ages to the Early Modern age (the Italian Renaissance), the prevailing conditions were those of a poor, mainly agricultural economy with rudimentary technology. However, these centuries witnessed considerable growth of urban centres. The question that drives this paper is why the development of Italian cities in the sixteenth century did not lead to sustained growth. Using a vector autoregression (VAR) model, we provide a picture of a trapped economy in which urbanisation was unable to trigger a persistent process of development because migration to cities had negative consequences for rural marginal productivity. The demand for a young and healthy labour force from the urban sector was not adequately supported by the productivity of the agricultural sector, which suffered from a lack of technological innovation.

Capital Destruction and Economic Growth: The Effects of Sherman's March, 1850-1920
James Feigenbaum, James Lee & Filippo Mezzanotti
NBER Working Paper, December 2018

Using General William Sherman’s 1864–65 military march through Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina during the American Civil War, this paper studies the effect of capital destruction on medium and long-run local economic activity, and the role of financial markets in the recovery process. We match an 1865 US War Department map of Sherman’s march to county-level demographic, agricultural, and manufacturing data from the 1850-1920 US Censuses. We show that the capital destruction induced by the March led to a large contraction in agricultural investment, farming asset prices, and manufacturing activity. Elements of the decline in agriculture persisted through 1920. Using information on local banks and access to credit, we argue that the underdevelopment of financial markets played a role in weakening the recovery.

Scarcity without Leviathan: The Violent Effects of Cocaine Supply Shortages in the Mexican Drug War
Juan Camilo Castillo, Daniel Mejía & Pascual Restrepo
Review of Economics and Statistics, forthcoming

This paper asks whether scarcity increases violence in markets that lack a centralized authority. We construct a model in which, by raising prices, scarcity fosters violence. Guided by our model, we examine this effect in the Mexican cocaine trade. At a monthly frequency, scarcity created by cocaine seizures in Colombia — Mexico’s main cocaine supplier — increases violence in Mexico. The effects are larger in municipalities near the US, with multiple cartels, and with strong support for PAN (the incumbent party). Between 2006 and 2009 the decline in cocaine supply from Colombia could account for 10%-14% of the increase in violence in Mexico.

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