Economic history

Hans-Joachim Voth, 26 May 2020

The Covid crisis has prompted the question of how much mobility a globalised world can and should have. This column, taken from a VoxEU eBook, breaks the question down into two elements: Is a massive restriction of mobility desirable? And is it feasible at all? The free exchange of goods and capital does not have to be restricted; only very few diseases are transmitted by contaminated goods. On the other hand, while the free movement of people also contributes to the advantages of globalisation, it is far less important for production. Severe restrictions may well be desirable and justifiable, bringing to an end a half-century of ever-increasing individual mobility.

Guillaume Chapelle, 20 May 2020

Non-pharmaceutical interventions such as school closures and social distancing were implemented in the US against the spread of the 1918 influenza pandemic. This column explores the effect of these interventions on economic activity and death rates in US cities during and after 1918. The policies lowered the fatality rate during the peak of the pandemic but are associated with a significant rise in the death rate in subsequent years, possibly through reducing herd immunity. Their impact, positive or negative, on the growth of the manufacturing sector in US cities remains an open question.

Sebastian Braun, Nadja Dwenger, 19 May 2020

The procedures for relocating forced migrants differ considerably across countries, and information about how resettlement locations within host countries affect integration outcomes remains scarce. And yet, the number of forced migrants around the world increased dramatically over the last decade and continues to grow. This column studies displaced Germans after WWII and finds they fared poorly when relocated to agrarian regions with high migrant density. The authors recommend that current resettlement policies avoid directing large concentrations of migrants to a limited selection of rural areas.

Alina Kristin Bartscher, Moritz Kuhn, Moritz Schularick, 18 May 2020

Household debt-to-income has quadrupled in the US since WWII. This column presents historical evidence suggesting that debt-to-income ratios have risen most dramatically for middle-class households with low income growth. Middle-class households have increasingly tapped into rising housing wealth to finance spending in excess of income. Home-equity based borrowing accounts for 50% of the increase in US housing debt and turned the middle-class into the epicentre of financial fragility. 

Sascha O. Becker, Erik Hornung, 17 May 2020

The Prussian three-class franchise is a classic example of a system that politically over-represented the economic elite. Contrary to the predominant and simplistic view that the system allowed the landed elites to capture most political rents, this column finds that, conditional on land ownership inequality, MPs from constituencies with a higher vote inequality support more liberal policies, gauging their political orientation from the universe of roll call votes cast in parliament during Prussia’s rapid industrialisation in the second half of the 19th century.

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